The World Superbike circus certainly lived up to its reputation for superb action at the 25th anniversary of the series’ inception, held at Donington Park in the U.K. May 13.
While perhaps calling the racing up front reminiscent of a chain-saw fight in a bar is a bit over the top, it’s a pretty close description of the slam-bang action that’s more commonly seen in the Moto 2 group of psychotics … and it’s highly entertaining.
It was the best of days and the worst of days for BMW. After three years of trying the Motorrad team finally got its first victory with a 1-2 in the first race, Marco Melandri leading local hero Leon Haslam home ahead of gritty Yorkshire Kawasaki rider Tom Sykes, who’d taken pole and led much of the race. Then disaster struck in Race 2.
In race 1, only a mistake from Haslam in the last couple of laps, when he ran off but stayed up through a gravel trap and returned to action, lost the Brit a win at his home track. Home because he lives nearby, and home because his dad “Rocket Ron” Haslam has run a race school there for years, where Leon’s been both student and teacher.
Up until Haslam’s run-off, he, Melandri, Sykes, and Aprilia’s Max Biaggi were locked in a titanic duel, any of them easily capable of winning. When Haslam went off, Sykes had to slow and Biaggi was also forced wide, ending a wild conflict.
The second race was even more dramatic. The same foursome got away, joined by Honda’s Jonathon Rea who nibbled away at their lead and caught up by about 2/3 distance. Rea was on a mission, out-jamming even Melandri on the brakes (a damn good trick, that) and touching fairings with both the BMW rider and Sykes more than once. He ran wide four laps from the end and looked out of it, but …
The last few laps were insane, with constant passes and pushing. Remarkably, Rea caught back up, shoved his way past Sykes and Biaggi, and was right on Haslam’s tail, who in turn was ready to re-pass his team-mate for BMW’s second win of the day and Haslam’s first of the year.
Then at the last corner of the last lap, Rea tried a Hail Mary pass inside Haslam who was trying to get Melandri. Both Haslam and Melandri went a bit wide, Rea touched Haslam as the Brit cut back down, and Haslam crashed, his bike skittering out and also taking down his team-mate Melandri.
The Irishman stayed up to take the victory. He looked a bit embarrassed after the race, but said, “In the last corner there were five guys out there wanting to win a race, most of all Melandri came from a long way back on Leon to create a gap that I went for, me and Leon touched and I’m really sorry that he crashed. But more importantly we’ve won.” Now there’s a real racer talking …
Biaggi held on for second, while the impressive Sykes and his revitalized Kawasaki took another third. The cheerful Yorkshireman said, “Yet again we got the holeshot and led for a number of laps, but I … made one mistake and all the other guys came past at a rate of knots … I had the best seat in the house for the last couple of laps, but for me five minus two equals a podium so I’m very happy!”
Series leader going into the weekend, Carlos Checa, had a dreadful weekend, managing only a sixth in the first race and crashing out in the second on the first lap when he ran into the back of Eugene Laverty’s Aprilia. His Althea Ducati team-mate Davide Giugliano got caught up in the mess as well, Checa out at once and Giugliano having to retire within a few laps with a technical problem.
World Superbike at its best – everyone’s looking forward to the next race at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah May 28.
WSB Standings after 10 of 28 races (five of 14 events)
1. Max Biaggi, Italy, Aprilia Racing Team, 128.5 points
2. Tom Sykes, U.K., Kawasaki Racing Team, 123.5
3. Jonathon Rea, U.K., Ten Kate Castrol Honda, 108
4. Carlos Checa, Spain, Althea Ducati, 105.5
5. Marco Melandri, Italy, BMW Motorrad Motorsport, 97.5
6. Leon Haslam, U.K., BMW Motorrad Motorsport, 89
7. Sylvain Guintoli, France, Effenbert Liberty Racing Ducati, 85
8. Eugene Laverty, U.K., Aprilia Racing Team, 65
9. Davide Giugliano, Italy, Althea Ducati, 50
10. Jakub Smrz, Czech Republic, Effenbert Libery Racing Ducati, 44.5