The World Superbike races at the beautiful revamped Silverstone circuit in the U.K. were the scene for a couple of records July 31. Ducati got its 300th (and 301st) WSB victory, and Carlos Checa ran his 100th WSB event.
As it happened, the two records dove-tailed nicely, as Checa ran away with both races for the double win, his ninth and 10th victories of the season.
It was also a good race for Yamaha, as Eugene Laverty and team-mate Marco Melandri followed the Spaniard ace home in both races. While Checa and Laverty were mostly unchallenged up front, the scrap for the last podium spot was hot, particularly in the second race when any of half a dozen riders could have collected third.
Checa’s 50 points for the day vaulted him farther ahead in the series standings, but perhaps even more important, second-placed Max Biaggi and his Aprilia had a very bad weekend. Biaggi crashed heavily in practice, then again in Superpole, and in Race 1 was nowhere, finishing 11th.
He said he had clutch problems and a bent brake lever from an incident early in the race.
While he came back strong in Race 2, one of the candidates for the last podium spot, his least-favourite countryman (at least currently), Melandri hung on to keep Biaggi off the box and down on series points.
Checa was over the moon, especially considering that before the race opinion was pretty unanimous that his Ducati would struggle against the four-cylinder bikes on the fast Silverstone circuit.
In both cases, however, he grabbed the lead from fast-starting Laverty before 1/3 distance and motored to comfortable wins, although the way his bike was sliding around it was obvious he was working hard for it.
“It was a wonderful day. I didn’t believe that it would be possible to win here, but we managed to do it twice over! To achieve the 300th win for Ducati is an important result and we are all very happy to have been able to repeat this in race two.” He then ominously (for his rivals) mentioned that the next four races were on tracks he liked better and that should be better-suited to the Ducati.
Hard-luck guy of the day had to be Biaggi’s Alitalia Aprilia team-mate Leon Camier. The Brit had a rough season with lots of bad luck plus a nasty viral infection that’s still not cleared up, but this weekend he was ready to take third in the first race when something failed on the bike on the last lap and he drifted back to finish 15th.
In the second race he was again ready to grab third, but his tires went off enough that Biaggi got past him for fourth and neither one could catch Melandri.
It was good to see American John Hopkins back in international competition. Riding for the Crescent Suzuki series in the U.K. this season, Hopper is near the top of the BSB standings and got a wild-card ride in the WSB event, shocking everyone by taking fastest qualifying lap and then collecting the Superpole competition as well. A fifth and a seventh in the two races don’t describe how close he was on the pace; there’s already talk of him being in WSB full-time next year.
The series takes a long summer break now, reconvening at Germany’s Nurburgring circuit September 4. Checa’s got a 62-point lead with only four events (eight races) left, but he’s trying not to talk championship; oddly, for all his years as a top-ranked pro racer, he’s never won a series title.
World Championship Point Standings (after 18 of 26 races):
1. Carlos Checa, Spain, Althea Ducati, 343 points;
2. Max Biaggi, Italy, Alitalia Aprilia, 281;
3. Marco Melandri, Italy, Yamaha Factory Racing, 272;
4. Eugene Laverty, U.K., Yamaha Factory Racing, 208;
5. Leon Haslam, U.K., BMW Motorrad Motorsport, 158;
6. Leon Camier, U.K., Alitalia Aprilia,146;
7. Michel Fabrizio, Italy, Alstare Suzuki, 141;
8. Ayrton Badovini, Italy, BMW Motorrad Italia, 118;
9. Sylvain Guintoli, France, Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati, 109;
10. Noriyuki Haga, Japaan, Pata Aprilia, 99.