Max Biaggi stole the show in Misano with two stunning race wins to extend his championship lead to a massive 38.5 points. Racing at the low grip, tight, twisty and bumpy Italian circuit, Biaggi was very much in Ducati territory with the circuit renowned to suit the forgiving and torquey 1200cc V-Twins. But Biaggi clearly wasn’t thinking about that and while his rivals faltered Biaggi produced a rousing display to secure his first wins since the opening round of the championship at Phillip Island way back in February.
It wasn’t a completely straightforward weekend though, as a poor Superpole performance saw Biaggi qualify way down in tenth place and on the third row of the grid. While it clearly wasn’t ideal, there was no real panic in the Aprilia camp on Saturday night and that was down to the meticulous preparation that Biaggi and his team had done in terms of bike set-up and tire choice.
Biaggi had spent his entire weekend working to get the ‘B’ compound tire working, which had a bigger profile and 200mm width instead of the regular 190mm options. While he had to sacrifice some agility when it came to changing direction, the tire gave improved longevity and stability. And the result was a battling ride through the pack in Race 1 and utter domination of Race 2.
Biaggi said: “It’s a fantastic day when you can start from the third row and still win the race. There are not a lot of place to overtake and this is basically a Ducati track. This kind of result doesn’t happen often – it’s a good day. “
Biaggi also spoke about his ability to focus on his own bike, set-up and race strategy even when things aren’t always going right.
“I just look at what I have to do, if I concentrate on other riders and other bikes I will lose focus on what I am doing. For example if I look at my teammate (Eugene Laverty) he out qualified me and this could make me upset but I know I must forget this and concentrate on what I have to do.”
His supreme focus puts him in a commanding position in the standings and with so many other riders capable of running at the front and ultimately taking points off each other, Biaggi is in a strong position as the championship reaches its half-way point.
Having qualified in 16th place after a mistake by his team saw him called into the pit box in the final minutes of Superpole 1, Carlos Checa rode a typically classy race to push Biaggi all the way and claim second place. His end of race pace was particularly impressive and he was expected to be able to fight for the win again in Race 2. But on his way through the field, Checa was hit by Italian Marco Melandri and crashed out of the race. And with that his title hopes suffered another serious blow and he now sits fifth in the standings 60 points adrift of Biaggi.
The star of race one was Checa’s Althea Ducati teammate Davide Giugliano. The WSB rookie looked seriously wild in the opening laps but composed himself and when his rivals tires went off he moved to the front where he led before eventually being overhauled by Checa and Biaggi.
He said: “To be on the podium here in Italy is incredible for me. When I was leading I kept Biaggi and Carlos – two world champions – behind me for six laps and this gave me a lot of satisfaction. I knew they were very close and in the tight corners I could see and hear them and that made me nervous.”
Unfortunately Giugliano could not replicate his result in Race 2 and crashed out at the final turn on Lap 3 chasing Tom Sykes and Biaggi.
It was another good weekend for Honda Superbike man Jonathan Rea who capitalized on his sweet handling CBR1000RR to secure fifth and second place. But it could have been even better for the British rider, who looked set to take the win in Race 1 until his rear tire lost grip with ten laps to go and he slowed dramatically. The reason for the problem was due to a drop in air and track temperature on race day compared to the conditions in qualifying, which forced the team to choose a different tire for the race as their preferred option was far better suited to hotter conditions.
Rea said: “I’m disappointed with the Race 1 result, the lower track temperature caught us out and we hadn’t done a lot of work with the bigger 200 tire, so we went with a tire we knew. I felt that if I could get in front of Sykes I could pull a gap and I did, but then all of a sudden I lost grip and the gap started to come down. I thought everyone would be in the same boat but they weren’t, I tried to manage my tire but it was no use, so to finish in the top five with a tire in that state was ok.”
With increased track temperature in Race 2, Rea was able to use a softer tire that they’d worked with all weekend and although he had no answer to Biaggi, he was able to race hard for the entire 24 laps and keep a determined Leon Haslam behind him.
“I could see from the big screens that Leon was right on me, so I knew I had to ride a faultless race. The bike was handling really well and the traction was really good. I’m happy with the results but I have to admit that given our pace on Saturday I thought Sunday could have been an even better day.”
Leon Haslam was another man that ran into tire problems in Race 1 with the factory BMW man dropping from second to 12th. It was the same for his teammate Marco Melandri whose tire issues were so bad that he was forced to retire when he was lapping close to four seconds off his early race pace. Haslam was able to make amends in Race 2 and battled hard to get his title race back on track after a torrid weekend in Miller Motorsports Park two weeks ago to secure third and his fifth podium of 2012.
Kawasaki rider Tom Sykes set yet another pole position on his ZX-10R making it five out of seven. In Race 1 he suffered with similar tire wear issue to the other four-cylinder machines, but was able to manage it better and finished fourth. His performance in the hotter Race 2 saw him end the day seventh and as a result dropped a position in the overall standings to Rea and is now third.
The next round of the championship takes place at the Aragon Motorland circuit in Spain, but before that the top teams will be testing. Honda will spend two days at Assen this week while Aprilia, BMW, Kawasaki and Suzuki will have two days at Aragon the week before the race.