The World Superbike
paddock heads to Portugal this weekend for the 13th and final round of the season. With both World Superbike and Supersport titles in the bag, you might expect a letdown at the Autodromo Internacional Algarve.
OK, Carlos Checa has hoisted the 2011 World Superbike Championship trophy over his head already, but we've got one more weekend of racing to go. The major battle in the final standings is between Eugene Laverty and Max Biaggi for third place, with two points all that separates the two riders.
But riders are still battling for seats next year and finishing higher in the final standings is a better bargaining chip when trying to land a ride. There’s still a lot of pride on the line as well, and Portimao will challenge riders with its combination of blind corner entries, elevation changes and fast sweepers.
Althea Ducati’s Carlos Checa
was a dominant force this season, winning 14 races and six poles. Checa put an exclamation point on the season in the last round at Magny Cours by posting a double victory. After 19 years of paying his dues racing everything from 125cc to MotoGP, Checa said “This is the best moment of my career and the best moment of my life.”
Marco Melandri, who has a firm grip on second in the Championship point standings with a 77-point lead over teammate Eugene Laverty, was rewarded for his efforts this year with his team’s announcement they were pulling out of World Superbike in 2012. Melandri remedied the situation this week by announcing he will be joining the BMW
Motorrad Motorsport team next year, joining Leon Haslam as the second BMW factory rider. Marco rode two aggressive races at Magny Cours, fighting up from mid-pack to score a pair of second place finishes.
"We tested in Portimao at the beginning of the year, shortly after having shoulder surgery. The weather was bad on the second day so in the end I didn't have very much track time to get comfortable with the layout. It seems like a technical and a difficult circuit, but I really like it. I hope it doesn't rain this weekend so I can make the most of Friday and Saturday to learn my lines so I can be strong enough to fight for a win on Sunday,” Melandri said in team PR.
Laverty, meanwhile, is battling with 2012 WSBK champion Max Biaggi for the third spot in the final standings with two points separating the duo. Biaggi is back in action after missing the last couple rounds due to a broken bone in his foot, allowing Laverty to jump past him in the standings. Laverty will have his hands full holding on to third place though because Biaggi has shown he can win at Portimao after doubling up there last year. Ironically, reports buzzing around the internet place the two riders on the same squad next year riding for the Aprilia
Alitalia Racing team.
Max Biaggi isn't 100% yet after breaking a bone in his foot but will man up to compete in the final WSBK races of the season at Portimao.
“I really hoped to get back onto the track quickly,” said Biaggi, “This is the first time in my career that I've missed races. Obviously my condition is not at 100%, but the desire to get onto the track in Portimao is very strong.”
BMW Motorrad Motorsports’ Haslam had a strong outing in the last round, finishing third and fourth in the two French races. Haslam has earned a trip to the podium three times this year and raced well at Portimao in 2010, securing two second place finishes, albeit for Suzuki.
’s Jonathan Rea will be looking to put the disappointments of Magny Cours behind him. Rea was sitting on pole but crashed out of the first race then suffered an ignition sensor failure which shut down his bike in Race Two. Rea has two race wins to his credit this season, but missed eight races due to injury. The Northern Irishman will be helping refine the relatively new ride-by-wire throttle system on his Honda this weekend, hopefully not at the expense of costing him a potential podium again.
Alstare Suzuki’s Michel Fabrizio has faded down the stretch after flashing signs of promise earlier in the season, but Fabrizio actually won at Portimao two years ago racing for Ducati. Suzuki will be represented by an additional team this weekend as Yoshimura Suzuki will be fielding one rider at Portimao, Australian Josh Waters, who has ridden as a wild card in WSBK at both the Phillip Island and Miller Motorsports Park rounds.
The injured list for this weekend’s race includes Castrol Honda’s second rider, Ruben Xaus, who will be replaced by WSBK veteran Karl Muggeridge. Kawasaki Perdercini rider Roberto Rolfo is also out after a bicycling accident last week resulted in a broken kneecap for the Italian rider.
World Supersport Portimao Preview 2011
Chaz Davies secured the 2011 World Supersport title for his ParkinGO Yamaha team in the last round at Magny Cours.
Chaz Davies may have sealed up the title in the last round at Magny Cours but that doesn’t mean the World Supersport paddock won’t be racing hard this weekend as they battle for the top step on the podium and try to up their placement in the final standings.
ParkinGO Yamaha’s Davies earned the title in France, but three riders are within eight points of one another in the battle for second. Hannspree Ten Kate Honda’s Fabien Foret currently sits in second with 144 points, but Kawasaki’s Broc Parkes and David Salom are both within striking distance at 136 points. Parkes ranks a bit higher than Salom courtesy of his win at Misano.
Parkalgar Honda’s Sam Lowes is mathematically still in the hunt, but his chances are contingent of all three of the riders in front of him having horrible outings at Portimao. Lowes has been on the podium steps six times this season to keep himself in the hunt but the elusive first victory has so far eluded him.