The First shall be Last

Tom Sykes chases Carlos Checa in Imola action. Photo: WSBK

Not last, exactly, but it was a tough introduction to world-level racing for Saskatoon’s Brett McCormick.

The 2011 Canadian Superbike champ managed two 16th places in his first-ever World Superbike races – not bad results, actually, considering he’d never seen the bike or the track (Imola, in Italy) before. And he beat at least one world champion, so he can’t be all that displeased with his results! Plus, he got as high as 10th in the first race, so “The Kid” really did pretty well in his first-ever WSB event.

At the sharp end of the grid, Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes from Yorkshire took the pole position and led the first half of both races, but as in Australia tire wear slowed him in both, and Carlos Checa, the 2011 defending champion on his Althea Ducati, made smooth passes in both the races to take double wins by healthy margins, looking very comfortable in doing so.

Brett McCormick's new colours for 2012.

That gave the Spanish veteran three out of four wins for the season so far and the lead in the title chase – of course, it’s very early days yet for that.

The remainder of the top four were the same in both races – Sykes gamely held on for second in both, although he was hard-pressed in race two, and BMW’s Leon Haslam captured third both times, BMW’s first double podium. Aprilia’s Biaggi took two fourths – in the second race he was breathing down Haslam’s neck but the Brit hung on despite still having various bits of hardware in his leg and foot from his huge accident in Australia only a month ago.

Checa said, “Another incredible day, one more that I will never forget … it’s always great to win in Italy and I thank the spectators with whom I share these great emotions.”

Max Biaggi will need better results, if Aprilia is going to reclaim their spot at the top of the WSBK series.

While it was a good day for Ducati, Kawasaki, and BMW, the rest of the entrants couldn’t have been overly pleased. Aprilia managed those two fourths with Max Biaggi, and his team-mate Eugene Laverty got a fifth and sixth, but that isn’t the kind of result that’s going to bring them back the title they won with Biaggi in 2010.

The Dutch-based Honda Ten Kate team had a lacklustre weekend as well, lead rider Jonathon Rea stuggling hard to collect a ninth and fifth after a couple of off-track excursions and obviously down on horsepower, while his team-mate, 2010 250 cc World Champion Hiroshi Ayoyama could only manage an 18th and a 22nd (DNF).

The Crescent Suzuki team was even worse off. American John Hopkins, returning after a serious hand injury in Australia, could only manage a 13th and a 24th (DNF), while 2009 British superbike champion Leon Camier had a horrible weekend, knocked off the track in the first race and riding hard to collect eighth in the second. A poor qualifying hurt Camier’s chances; his lap times would probably have put him about sixth in both races if he’d gotten the starts he needed and avoided the first-race spill.

Next race April 22, Assen, The Netherlands.
Standings after two of 14 events (four of 28 races)
1. Carlos Checa, Spain, Althea Ducati, 75 points
2. Max Biaggi, Italy,  Aprilia Racing Team, 71
3. Tom Sykes, U.K., Kawasaki Racing Team, 69
4. Leon Haslam, U.K., BMW Motorrad Motorsport, 47
5. Marco Melandri, Italy, BMW Motorrad Motorsport, 46
6. Jonathon Rea, U.K., Castrol Ten Kate Honda, 40
7. Jakub Smrz, Czech Republic, Effenbert Liberty Racing Ducati, 30
8. Eugene Laverty, U.K., Aprilia Racing Team, 29;
9. Sylvain Guintoli, France, Effenbert Liberty Racing Ducati, 21
10. Maxime Berger, France, Effenbert Liberty Racing Ducati, 20.

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