Carlos Checa celebrates the double at Miller. The Spaniard arrives at Misano after total domination in Round 5 and now enjoys a sizable 61-point advantage in the championship.
The World Superbike series rolls into Misano for Round 6 of the 2011 championship with Carlos Checa in total control of the title chase. The San Marino circuit, located on the Adriatic Coast, promises warm weather for Checa and company, as the Spaniard’s SBK rivals look to chip away at his massive lead in the points.
About this time last year, Checa was mountain biking and rock climbing in Moab trying to burn off steam after a pair of hard luck mechanical DNF results at Miller Motorsports Park. This time around Checa heads to Misano having exerted total dominance at Miller, nabbing the double victory and more than doubling his championship points lead to 61. King Carlos netted a 2-5 result at the Italian circuit in 2010, and is guaranteed to retain first in the points no matter the fate of his Althea Ducati this weekend. The only question is how far his competitors can manage to close the gap, if at all.
The factory Yamahas will be on the prowl with what has to be the strongest-ever all-rookie squad in SBK. Eugene Laverty and Marco Melandri are both leading contenders for the steps at every race, with the Irishman having the better run of late. Laverty’s last trip to Italia fetched a surprising double victory at Monza, followed by strong top-fives at Miller. As for Supermarco, Miller was a learning experience, his first-ever visit to Utah culminating in a 10-6 result. Melandri will be looking for his second victory of the season on Sunday, the Italian battled his teammate for wins the last time SBK paid a visit to The Boot.
One man looking to take the biggest bite out of Checa’s lead is reigning champion Max Biaggi. The Emperor remains winless in 2011, his title defense marred with set-backs at nearly every round. A black flag DQ at Donington and ride-thru penalty snatching away victory at Monza have been the lowlights thus far, but add to the list a Race 1 DNF crashout at Miller. Biaggi recovered for a third-place finish in Race 2 at MMP, despite being banged up from the first-race crash, but even with the podium result he lost considerable ground in Round 5. Max figures to be pressing hard to turn things around this weekend at a circuit he scored the double at in 2010. But before dealing with Checa, Biaggi will have to deal with his own upstart teammate, Leon Camier. The Englishman appeared the only man capable of challenging Checa at Miller and flat out beat Baiggi in Race 2. Yet Camier is bruised and battered as well, with a gimp left wrist following a Superpole high-side in Utah.
Castrol Honda’s Jonny Rea grabbed his first-ever SBK win at Misano in ’09. Can the Irishman return to form this Sunday?
The aforementioned Biaggi DNF at Miller raised the ire of the second rider involved in the first-lap incident, Castrol Honda’s Jonathan Rea. The Irishman cried “Simoncelli” on Biaggi’s maneuver, which Rea reckons left him no choice but to stand up the CBR and barrel into the Italian. Rea himself is a former winner at Misano, though the streaky Honda ace has had ups and downs at the Italian circuit. Victory in 2009, his first-ever in SBK, is countered by a 13-12 Misano byline in 2010. Which Rea will show up off the Adriatic this year remains to be seen, as the Castrol Honda’s fortunes have been hit or miss this year depending on the circuit. As for teammate Ruben Xaus, the Spaniard brandished the dreaded double DNF at Miller – recalling the wild form that wadded more than a few S1000RR during his two-year tenure with BMW.
Speaking of which… Das Motorrad company had a fairly horrid Round 5 in Utah. Leon Haslam scored an 8-13 result and has seen his title-winning fortunes dim when compared with his position mid-season in 2010. While the title is a distant hope for the Brit at this point, snagging that first-ever BMW SBK victory seems a far more manageable task. That’s unless veteran rider Troy Corser beats him to it, the former champ managing to lead the opening laps of Race 1 at Miller and snaring the first-ever BMW podium at Misano in 2010. At the very least the factory duo will look to put BMW Italia’s Ayrton Badovini in his place after the 2010 STK champ showed them up at Miller as the highest placed Beemer in both races (7-9).
Finally the Kawasaki contingent returns to full strength at Misano, with the oft-injured Chris Vermeulen back in action. The Aussie returns from shoulder injury this time, joining Tom Sykes and Joan Lascorz in their attempt to develop the new ZX-10R into a reputable SBK weapon. As it stands Sykes has been delivering some of the better scraps out on the track, the bad news being this is often only to claw his way out of the double-digit finishing order.
An all-Ducati podium may not be in the cards at Misano, but Sylvain Guintoli and Jakub Smrz had a banner day at Miller.
The front-runners also need to account for the trio of Michel Fabrizio, Jakub Smrz and Sylvain Guintoli. The former was running his Alstare Suzuki at a top-five pace at Miller, despite being laid up with the flu and getting banged up in a Race 1 DNF crash courtesy of Ruben Xaus. As for Smrz and Guintoli, the Effenbert-Liberty Ducati duo stormed onto the Race 1 Miller steps alongside Checa. The Czech team has proven it must be taken serious, particularly at any circuit that favors the Ducati.
ParkinGo Yamaha’s Luca Scassa has to be kicking himself (or is it Team Manager Lucio Nicastro doing the kicking…) after being disqualified for the upcoming Supersport race at Misano. The Italian rider and current co-points leader had been at the Italian circuit earlier for an apparent riding school appearance. The bone-headed gaffe garnered an immediate DQ and now opens the way for teammate and fellow points leader, Chaz Davies, to build a points cushion.
The factory Yamahas have been untouchable thus far with Scassa and Davies splitting the four rounds with a pair of victories apiece, but Kawasaki riders Broc Parkes and David Slolum will look to cut into the R6 dominance. Also on the prowl on Sunday are Honda riders Fabien Foret (Ten Kate Honda) and the most successful of the CBR challengers, Dane Robbin Harms, racing for the Harms Benjan Racing Team.