Carlos Checa just missed winning the championship at Imola, but the Spaniard’s celebration is inevitable as he head’s to Magny Cours with a 97-point advantage.
Carlos Checa arrived in Imola with the 2011 World Superbike crown within reach. As the double race winner from last year the Spaniard was expected to secure more wins at the Italian track – even though he needed to out-score closest rival Marco Melandri by 26 points.
Having selected a harder rear tire than the majority of his rivals for Race 1, Checa was fast. But the Spaniard’s speed didn’t come until the closing stages of the race, by which time he was too far from the leaders and had to settle for third place. With Melandri struggling with serious chatter issues in the race he slumped to eighth, meaning Checa extended his lead even further.
And if Race 1 was intriguing, Race 2 was pure theater. Throughout the 21-lap race there were so many changes that you needed a mathematician to predict the final point standings. On some laps Melandri was only a few points behind – meaning Checa would have to wait until next week’s race in Magny Cours, and on other laps Checa had done well enough to be crowned world champion. But at the checkered flag, despite Checa winning, Melandri had recovered well from an off-track excursion to secure sixth and prevent Checa and his passionate Ducati fans’ spontaneous celebration.
Now, Checa leads Melandri by a massive 97 points with four races and a maximum of 100 points still available. Melandri would have to win all four races with Checa scoring less than three points to change the inevitable outcome.
“Mathematically I have to wait, but for sure the feeling of victory is there,” Checa said. “We did a great year and the championship will arrive in Magny Cours. The races today were good, for sure I felt the pressure but I was able to ride well without nerves. There were some points that I thought I
Jonathan Rea: “We’re not fighting for the championship, and when we came to Imola we were prepared to sacrifice this weekend in aid of development. We expected it to be difficult but the new system has made it easier.”
should settle for the position I was in, especially when I was fighting with Tom Sykes in Race 1. It was one of my best battles, especially on the last lap and I decided that I did not want to win the title without giving it my best. Now I want to go to Magny Cours, do my best and enjoy the weekend. Even with the pressure of the title I want to focus on my job and earn a great result for my team. If I can fight for the win then I will be happy.”
Checa’s weekend would have been simpler without the surprise and impressive pace of both Castrol Honda’s Jonathan Rea and Pata Aprilia’s Noriyuki Haga. Rea arrived in Misano with new ride-by-wire electronics on his CBR1000RR. Having completed one day of testing with the new system last week in Misano, Rea arrived committed to using the new system but expecting to have to sacrifice the weekend’s results. But from the opening session the 25-year-old was fast and, helped by the newly resurfaced track, found everything to his liking. Throughout qualifying he looked to be one of only a few men capable of running with Checa in the races, and in the opening race he fought his way to the front and rode away from his rivals before being caught by a fiercely determined Haga with nine laps to go. Rea managed to keep his nerve and hold his line to notch his and Honda’s second win of 2011.
“We’re not fighting for the championship, and when we came to Imola we were prepared to sacrifice this weekend in aid of development,” said Rea. “We expected it to be difficult but the new system has made it easier – especially on corner entry.
“In the first race Haga kept me really honest. Because it was Nori I was expecting a lunge because of the kind of guy that he is. I knew he was there so I just tried to stay calm and with three laps to go I dug deep, pushed hard and was able to keep him behind me.”
In the second race, Rea looked set for a dream double win. He had a commanding lead over Checa in second, but with five laps to go he suddenly slowed as his bike intermittently lost all power. The cause was later diagnosed as a battery terminal connection which caused the bike to cut out.
Noriyuki Haga added more success to his record at Imola with two second-place finishes at the Italian track.
“I had a lead of 3.4 seconds and there were six laps, which meant Checa had to take 0.5-seconds a lap out of me and there was no chance of that,” said Rea. “I was doing my pace and it was comfortable and if he’d got close I could have responded.
“I’m devastated not to win but all in all it’s been a great weekend all round and there’s big motivation back in the camp now.”
It was also a welcome return for Noriyuki Haga, who secured two second-place finishes onboard his Pata Aprilia. The Japanese rider arrived in Imola, a circuit that he regards as his home race as he lives in Milan, full of confidence after his strong performance and near race win at Nurburgring last time out. Having qualified on the front row, Haga didn’t make the most of his position at the start, but his race pace was impressive, allowing him to charge through the field and fight for the win – especially in Race 1.
“We had a new engine which maybe had a little bit more top speed, but less power at the bottom,” said Haga. “I like this track, it suits me and the bike and the new surface helped me because the bike did not chatter so much.”
Factory Aprilia rider Leon Camier had another weekend that epitomized his entire season. After a disaster in Race 1 where he ran off track and was plagued with massive chatter and finished 15th, he bounced back in spectacular fashion to secure third place – his fourth podium of the season.
Yamaha ParkinGo teammates Chaz Davies (above) and Luca Scassa (below) had a tough day in Italy with both riders suffering mechanical failures.
In World Supersport ParkinGO Yamaha man Chaz Davies looked all set to wrap up the World Supersport crown two rounds early. Having qualified on the front row, the former AMA Supersport star led into the first corner and steadily eased away from his rivals. By Lap 8 he enjoyed a 4.8-second lead and six laps later his dominance continued, with the 24-year-old a massive 10 seconds ahead. But with just 15 miles between him and championship glory his R6 engine let go in a big way as he blasted past the pits.
“It’s devastating but it just goes to show that until the race is finished it’s not over,” Davies said. “I was cruising, the lap time was coming easy and there was no warning before the engine let go.”
A Yamaha insider revealed that Davies’ engine problem was caused by a con rod failure. The ParkinGO Yamaha team’s day was made even worse by the fact that Davies’ teammate, Luca Scassa, was also forced to retire from second position after he suffered a ride-by-wire sensor failure.
Away from the racing the expected flurry of rider signings for 2012 failed to materialize, which was mainly due to Yamaha’s future participation in the series being unknown. In terms of riders, Marco Melandri is the key. His preference is to stay with Yamaha, but time is running out and he is believed to be in advanced talks with the BMW Motorrad team to partner British rider Leon Haslam. Melandri’s teammate, Eugene Laverty, is another man in demand given his seriously impressive rookie WSB season. The Irishman has been linked to Aprilia, Honda and BMW.
With just days until the WSB circus reconvenes at Magny Cours in France this weekend, headway is expected in the rider market.