World Superbike Miller Insider 2011

May 31, 2011
Bart Madson
By Bart Madson
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Bashing away at the MotoUSA keyboard for nine years now, Madson lends his scribbling and editorial input on everything from bike reviews to industry analysis and motorcycle racing reports.

Carlos Checa set the pace on the opening day at Miller.
After suffering two mechanical problems on his Ducati 1098R during practice, Checa’s success at Miller was in doubt.

The return of World Superbike to Miller Motorsports Park in 2011 could have been titled “The Carlos Checa Show.” The Spaniard arrived at Miller with a 27-point lead in the championship, an advantage that more than doubled when the Althea Ducati rider claimed the double on Monday. The Utah circuit has proven particularly favorable to Checa, who dominated throughout the weekend at Miller. And yet, Checa’s wins on Sunday were far from certain.

The layout of the MMP track not only suits Checa’s personal tastes, it also caters to the favorable attributes of his Ducati Twin. Ironic then that the biggest question mark for Checa’s success, right up to the very end, was his own Althea Ducati 1098R. The bike spoiled 2010 when two separate mechanical issues forced Checa to retire from both races while enjoying a comfortable lead. (Read more on Checa’s thoughts about Miller and his 2010 woes in our Carlos Checa Interview: Miller 2011)

The fickle nature of the Althea Ducati manifested once again in the first practice session, ran during Saturday morning to accommodate the unique MMP schedule, which features the SBK doubleheader on Monday (Memorial Day holiday). As expected Checa led his rivals on the opening practice timesheet but the 1098R sidelined the effort with engine troubles not once, but twice. Said Checa after his first day: “I really like this track, but the bike doesn’t so much! We had some problems that we solved and I hope for tomorrow everything is going to be fine.”

Inexplicably the Althea Ducati ended up off track in the mud on the cool down victory lap.
After winning Race 1 Checa crashed out on his victory lap and was forced to hitch a ride with James Toseland.

The mechanical issues on Saturday cast doubts over the remainder of the weekend, even after snagging Superpole. Doubts were not alleviated entirely until he cruised to a Race 1 victory. Inexplicably, the Althea Ducati did fail in Race 1, however, crashing on the cool-down victory lap into the trackside dirt, which has saturated into slimy mud courtesy of the unseasonably wet weather (much of the state is under flood warnings). Covered in mud, the Race 1 winner hitched a ride on the back of James Toseland’s BMW Italia S1000R for paddock celebrations.

A trio of Ducati riders toasted champagne on the Race 1 podium, with the Effenbert-Liberty duo of Jakub Smrz and Sylvain Guintoli taking second and third. The curvy nature of the MMP circuit seems to favor the power traits of the Twin, with the Ducati lapping fastest, despite being notably slowest in top speeds down the start-finish straights – unable to breach 300 kmph (186 mph), while the Aprilia and Yamaha were consistently able to reach top speeds of 312-315 kmph (194-196 mph).

The second race was a processional for Checa, leading from flag-to-flag unchallenged. Opting to forgo another mud bath, Checa went with a more traditional wheelie/burnout celebration strategy for Race 2. When asked about what he thought of the bike and Miller during the Race 2 press conference, Checa smiled and got the Utah crowd laughing when he quipped: “Last year it didn’t like it so much, but this year it seems okay.”

The factory Aprilia team rebounded from a mistake-ridden Race 1 to score podiums in Race 2. Leon Camier was the fastest of the RSV4 duo, the Englishman in top form on Sunday despite starting the races from the third-row courtesy of a high-side in Superpole. The former British Superbike champ charged up from 11th to fourth in Race 1. But Camier might have pressed one of the Ducati’s off the rostrum had a mid-race runoff not demoted him to seventh, forcing him to claw back through traffic.

Leon Camier was fast in the dry and wet at Miller during qualifying practice.
Leon Camier matched his best finish in WSB placing second during Race 2 despite injuring his left wrist in Superpole.

The second-place finish in Race 2 matches Camier’s best ever result in SBK, having done exactly the same thing last year at Miller. The second-year Aprilia rider’s 4-2 MMP byline was made the more impressive considering he injured his left wrist during the aforementioned high-side. Camier was able to race courtesy of a pain injection, with suspected ligament damage to be further examined back in Europe.

Asked if he could’ve fought for the win had his fitness been 100%, the rider said: “Possibly, for sure this hasn’t helped at all, but to be honest Carlos has been a little bit stronger all weekend. In the rain I was quickest in two of the sessions, which was good, but then I had the crash. It’s frustrating really.” And as to why Checa has everyone’s number at MMP, Camier reckons: “Carlos is obviously a very, very good rider. I think the type of corners [at Miller] suits the bike really well, a lot of braking and turning in. Also on the gas the bike turns really well on the throttle. And that’s where he’s really strong.”

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