World Superbike Aragon Insider 2012

July 2, 2012
Peter Thomas
Contributing Editor|Articles|Articles RSS

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

Marco Melandri  33  and Max Biaggi  3  split wins at Aragon.
Melandri and Biaggi split wins at Aragon and the BMW rider now sits second overall.

Having won the previous two races at Misano, Max Biaggi travelled to the Aragon circuit in a positive frame of mind. His Aprilia clearly works well at the fast Spanish circuit and so does he. And like his rival BMW, Kawasaki and Suzuki teams, he’d also benefited from two days testing the week before the race.

From the start of the weekend, Biaggi, who celebrated his 41st birthday on June 26, was in blistering form. Usually he makes a slow start on a Friday and builds his speed to a climax on Sunday, but this time around he looked ready to race from the opening free practice session.

By the end of practice and qualifying he was one of the clear favorites with only Marco Melandri, Tom Sykes and Eugene Laverty showing anything like the pace needed to beat him.

But like the two races held in 2011, it turned into a Biaggi and Melandri show. After dropping early front runner Laverty, Biaggi and Melandri went head to head and after a tough battle the Aprilia man won his third race in a row to extend his lead in the championship standings.

“It was a very tough race and anything could have happened,” said Biaggi. “Braking for the hairpin is where you could win or lose the race. I was able to not make any mistakes and get the 25 points. It was a race where there were two different bikes, two different riders and we were doing the same lap times and with the same top speed – it was very close.

“When I race focus is everything. I clear my mind and put my head down. This year the championship is very tough, you must be totally concentrated and fully motivated, which is what I am. “

Tom Sykes  66  and Ayrton Badovini  86  at Aragon.
Tom Sykes (66) and Ayrton Badovini (86) went down in Race 1 after Badovini pushed wildly through a turn.

While Biaggi was clearly highly satisfied to have won again, Melandri could not hide his disappointment, but compared to Tom Sykes he had nothing to complain about. The Kawasaki man, who took his sixth pole out of eight attempts at Aragon looked set for an impressive third-place podium after his team appeared to have eradicated the end of race tire issues they’d been experiencing. But with just over half a lap to go, Sykes was hit by a wild riding Ayrton Badovini and taken out of the race.

Sykes said: “It was a crazy move and I didn’t know anything about it until I was on the floor. Luckily I got away from the bike but I did give my heel a good bash as I crashed. I’m really annoyed because it’s not a place to pass and it’s also given my team a lot of work to do because the bike is wrecked.”

In fact Sykes’ ZX-10R was un-salvageable and his team was forced to bring out their rolling chassis and build up a completely new bike for Race 2. The man to profit from the Sykes/Badovini incident was local hero Carlos Checa. Despite having been off the pace all weekend Checa, who was over 10 mph slower down the log straight than the majority of his rivals, picked up third place and 16 championship points.

If Race 1 was tense , Race 2 turned into a classic with Laverty and then Chaz Davies taking the fight to Biaggi and Melandri. For Laverty it was a welcome return to form after suffering three torrid rounds at Donington, Miller and Misano. The 25-year-old’s Aprilia team had identified an electronics issue which was robbing him of vital power on the exit of the corner and with this fixed he was a contender once again, leading the race and pushing Melandri and Biaggi all the way.

Eugene Laverty  58   Chaz Davies  19  Max Biaggi  3  and Marco Melandri  33  battled hard for podium position in Race 2.
Eugene Laverty (58), Chaz Davies (19), Max Biaggi (3) and Marco Melandri (33) battled hard for podium position in Race 2 with Biaggi falling short in fourth-place.

In many ways Laverty wasn’t a big surprise, the big shock came in the form of former AMA man Chaz Davies, who reeled in Melandri, Biaggi and Laverty to the tune of three seconds before attacking them during the final five laps of the race.

In what was a brilliant race just 0.177s separated Laverty, Davies, Melandri and Biaggi as they crossed the line on Lap 17. The final three laps saw constant changes of position and on the final lap Laverty looked set to secure his first win for Aprilia in 2012. But Melandri had other ideas and clearly wasn’t prepared to be denied another victory and made a decisive move to win the race.

Behind him Davies got the better of Biaggi to secure his first WSB podium of his rookie year.
He said: “It feels good, it was a tough race, but I like them like that. We’ve made some good steps with the bike but we’ve still got work to do. It took a lot of effort and concentration to catch the guys at the front, but I kept chipping away and when I got to them it was quite easy. There’s no doubt that the bike suits this track it’s fast which helps and Aprilia have given us a lot of help. It’s a good result.”

Away from the racing itself, the rumor mill started with lots of speculation on who will ride where in 2013. The hot topics, although far from being confirmed, include MotoGP men Andrea Dovisioso and Randy de Puniet sniffing around the WSB paddock for factory rides. Max Biaggi is out of contract with Aprilia, Laverty is on a one plus one year deal and Jonathan Rea is also a free agent. Checa is far from confirmed at Ducati, in fact the only rider with a two-year deal is Marco Melandri, but there were even rumors in Spain that the full factory BMW team might not be here next year.

It’s official – the silly season has begun.