World Superbike Assen Insider 2011

April 18, 2011
Peter Thomas
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Our World Superbike man on the scene, Thomas is like a ghost, slipping quietly in and out of the media center, digging for dirt, getting the facts and providing us the inside scoop on the World Superbike series

Ducatis Carlos Checa posted strong results in Assen after taking a difficult win ahead of Aprilias Max Biaggi in Race 2.
Ducati’s Carlos Checa posted strong results in Assen after taking a difficult win ahead of Aprilia’s Max Biaggi in Race 2.

Carlos Checa left Assen on Sunday night having achieved pretty much what has become expected from the Althea Ducati rider. Another podium in Race 1 before making a brave but calculated tire choice to secure the victory in Race 2 – his fourth win from six starts.

While Checa’s third-place podium finish in Race 2 came easily in the end, he had to fight for the victory with a resurgent Max Biaggi riding the Alitalia Aprilia. The result of his day’s work was 41 points out of a possible 50 and extending his lead in the overall championship standings to a commanding 43 points.

Checa said: “In the first race using the harder tire like everyone else I believed that I could make a difference at the end of the race and I wasn’t worried being behind a little at the beginning. My pace was good but I didn’t have an answer to Biaggi and Rea.

“In Race 2 using the softer tire was a gamble, but I’d done laps on it in testing and with the higher track temperature (9 degrees) I decided to use it. I was worried for the end of the race which is when I tried to make a break, but Biaggi was always right there. I made a mistake at the chicane and Biaggi came past but I could see that he had less grip than me. I was able to make the pass and stay in front.”

Castrol Hondas Jonathan Rea experienced his first at Assen during Race 1 since Nurburgring in September of 2010.  
Castrol Honda’s Jonathan Rea (#4) experienced his first win since Nurburgring in September of 2010.

The other race win came right on cue from Castrol Honda rider Jonathan Rea. The 23-year-old from Northern Ireland has had a tough season to date, with a best finish of fifth and his win and subsequent third in Race 2 has put him back in the mix in the championship standings.

Rea arrived at the track with both pressure to perform and expectation to deliver having won both races at the circuit last season. After a slow start, Rea soon got into his stride and after pushing his way to the front past Melandri, Biaggi and Checa he set the pace for the remaining 18 laps. Biaggi was never far away, generally less than half a second, but Rea never allowed him to even attempt a pass.

The win, his first since Nurburgring in September 2010, clearly meant a lot and he showed it with a host of stand-up wheelies on his cool down lap before standing on the seat of his bike to salute the crowd in the winner’s enclosure.

Rea said: “We really needed that result. If I’d lost more points this weekend it would have been a disaster, but instead I’ve moved up to fourth and the next round is at Monza which should be good for us. In the second race I knew I was going to have to fight more so we tried to make the bike better and we did. I was running a great pace at the start of the race but then a few laps in and my front tire was finished.

After a crash earlier in the day  Aprilias Max Biaggi scored sixth on the grid during Superpole.
After a difficult round at Donington, Aprilia’s Max Biaggi returned to good form by taking back-to-back podiums.

“I’m happy, I want to enjoy things. When things weren’t going that well on Friday I wasn’t throwing my helmet around the garage I tried to stay calm and remain methodical.”

Max Biaggi was another man that arrived at Assen with big pressure after his poor performance both on and off track at Donington Park three weeks ago. His second place result in both races, and 40 points, not only proved he is back to his best but also escalated him up to second in the championship ahead of bitter rival Marco Melandri.

Said the defending champion: “It was a difficult weekend especially after my practice crash which destroyed my bike. From Race 1 to Race 2 we had another problem but I was able to start the race with my bike number one. But it’s the little details that can make you nervous. The bike felt different and I was nervous at the start but I made a good start. For sure I had to try hard but this is a very positive result for us and it is very important for the championship.”

BMWs Troy Corser and Leon Haslam suffered difficult races at Assen where they had to start from the third row.
Troy Corser (above) and Leon Haslam (below No. 91) suffered difficult races in Assen where they had to start from the third row.Leon Haslam crashed out in Race 1 and was clipped afterwards by Liberty Racings Jakub Smrz.

It was not such a good day for BMW men Leon Haslam and Troy Corser. After looking strong in qualifying their strategy unraveled when both dropped to the third row of the grid in Superpole. Haslam suffered a bizarre crash in Race 1 and was subsequently clipped by Effenbert Ducati rider Jakub Smrz. He remounted to finish 12th before claiming a hard-earned fifth in Race 2 by somehow managing to keep a string of riders behind him until the checkered flag.

While both the riders and BMW maintain they are making progress with the S1000RR it is still suffering from the long term problem of being too aggressive and hard to manage over the full duration of a race. Haslam’s teammate, Corser, looked particularly fast in practice but left Assen with just ten points after finishing a strong sixth in Race 1 and crashing out of Race 2.

Marco Melandri was another man to crash in Race 2 and as a result failed to maintain second in his impressive championship campaign. Although he qualified on the second row the Italian didn’t have the pace he enjoyed at Donington. In Race 1 he had to work hard for his fourth place and in Race 2 he looked capable of running with the leaders, but after catching Rea, lost ground before crashing out of fourth on lap 17. His loss was Checa, Biaggi and Rea’s gain. Checa extended his overall lead after Melandri dropped from second to third in the standings behind Biaggi and now just six points ahead of Rea.

The World Supersport race took three attempts to finish after the race was stopped twice with two serious injuries. Front row qualifier Sam Lowes suffered a heavy high side in the first start he was knocked unconscious and was taken to hospital with concussion and a broken left collar bone. In the second start Alexandra Lundh and Marko Jerman tangled exiting the chicane on to the start finish straight. Lundh was

Yamahas Marco Melandri failed to live up to the pace he set at Donington and finished fourth before crashing out in Race 2.
Marco Melandri failed to live up to the pace he set at Donington and finished fourth before crashing out in Race 2.

then hit by a rider and was diagnosed with a broken wrist.

The man at the front in every start was ParkinGo Yamaha rider Chaz Davies who secured his first race win since Daytona 2008. With championship leader Luca Scassa crashing out the championship points table is very close with just five points separating Scassa, Motocard Kawasaki rider Broc Parkes and Davies.

The next round of the championship takes place at Monza on 6th to 8th May before the series heads to Miller Motorsports Park for the USA round on 29th to 31st May.

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