Aprilia's Max Biaggi posted two strong performances during an exciting first round in Australia to open the 2012 season.
’s Max Biaggi
came out of the opening round of the 2012 World Superbike
Championship at Phillip Island with the early advantage. The Italian posted a win and second-place podium finish in two dramatic races. The first race saw defending champ Carlos Checa
crash out of the opening laps with a nasty high-side. The Spaniard returned to good form in the second race, however, winning by more than five seconds ahead of Biaggi. Marco Melandri
also posted an impressive first outing, taking second in Race 1 with his new BMW
after starting from 13th on the grid. Supermarco leaves Phillip Island second in points after taking sixth in Race 2, with Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes
rounding out the overall podium in Australia with 4-3 scores.
In the first race Sykes got off to a good start from pole position to lead the field throughout the first two laps. By the end of the first lap Checa and Biaggi were scrapping for second ahead of Castrol Honda
’s Jonathan Rea
. After winning his duel with Biaggi, Checa moved into the lead on the third lap in front of Sykes, Biaggi, Rea and Liberty Racing’s Sylvain Guintoli. Sykes soon came under pressure from Guintoli as Checa suffered a huge highside on Lap 5 after losing grip. The incident moved Biaggi into the lead and the Italian began laying down some of the fastest laps of the contest to create a gap. By this point Rea had also gotten past Sykes for second while it started to rain.
Italian Marco Melandri gave BMW its best result in World Superbike after finishing second in Race 1.
Irishman Eugene Laverty
was running just outside the top-10 when he slid into the gravel at Turn 6. More rain started to pummel the circuit as Biaggi continued leading the field at the halfway mark ahead of Sykes, Guintoli, BMW’s Marco Melandri and Liberty Racing’s Jakub Smrz. Meanwhile BMW’s Leon Haslam
was back in 11th despite riding with multiple injuries. In the final laps Guintoli moved into runner-up position ahead of Sykes as Melandri continued to charge toward the front in third.
On Lap 17 Melandri finally passed Guintoli for second. Up front Biaggi never dropped he guard until the finish line, crossing more than seven seconds ahead of Melandri.
“It was a very nice race, at the start with Carlos battling for the lead,” said Biaggi. “Then suddenly he high-sided. When I was behind him a big stone hit my windscreen and then it started to do a little shower in one corner. So I had to stayed focused towards the end and with three laps to go my front tire was sliding. But it’s a great result, it’s a new team with new people, my motivation is very high, the team did a great job.”
Despite getting a bad start on the grid following the cancellation of Superpole, Melandri made significant progress during the 22-lap encounter to finish in second. The Italian’s pivotal passes on top riders proves he’ll be a threat this year on the BMW S1000RR.
“I’m so happy with the result and happy to give BMW their best result,” said Melandri. “I didn’t think it was possible before the race. I knew we were struggling more in practice than in the race but I have never made a long-run so far in the season so I wasn’t sure. The team has been working awesome and in the race the rear tire did a really good job.”
Phillip Island Race 1 Results:
1. Max Biaggi (Aprilia)
Kawasaki's Tom Sykes put his Ninja ZX-10R inside the top-five in both races and leaves Australia third in points.
2. Marco Melandri (BMW)
3. Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati)
4. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki)
5. Jakub Smrz (Ducati)
6. Michel Fabrizio (BMW)
7. Jonathan Rea (Honda)
8. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda)
9. Davide Giugliano (Ducati)
10. Bryan Staring (Kawasaki)
11. Lorenzo Zanetti (Ducati)
12. Leon Haslam (BMW)
13. Maxime Berger (Ducati)
14. David Salom (Kawasaki)
15. Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki)
DNF Eugene Laverty (Aprilia)
DNF Ayrton Badovini (BMW)
DNF Carlos Checa (Ducati)
DNF Raffaele de Rosa (Honda)
In the second contest Sykes got another good jump on the field to lead during the first few laps. Checa remained right behind the leader followed by Rea, Haslam, Guintoli and Red Devils Roma’s Niccolo Canepa. In the opening lap Biaggi went off the track but managed to stay upright to
Carlos Checa took an early lead and never gave it up in Race 2. He now trails Biaggi by 20 points in the championship.
restart from dead last.
“Tom [Sykes] is a difficult man to pass,” said Biaggi. “He touched my brake lever, which turned up so lucky I stayed on the bike. I cut all the way through Turn 1, jumped into Turn 2 and said ‘OK, let’s go!’. I was very motivated.”
Just five laps later the winner of Race 1 was back in point-scoring position with Checa being the only faster rider on the track. Fabrizio was one of the first riders claimed in the second race after losing the front end at Turn 4 on Lap 4. On Lap 5 Checa darted into the lead ahead of Rea - who had been leading for just two laps.
Biaggi continued making up tremendous ground by moving into the top-six at the halfway point. At that point Kawasaki
’s Joan Lascorz also lost the front end while battling with Sykes for fourth. Just two laps later Biaggi overtook both Haslam and Melandri to move into fourth as Checa still led out front. Biaggi would continue to make major passes on Sykes and Rea in the final laps to fight his way up to second as Checa claimed the checkers more than five seconds ahead.
“I’m really satisfied, even more so after the crash in Race 1,” said Checa. “I’m OK now after winning, I think it’s the best anti-inflammatory I can take today! The team worked hard many days in Australia preparing for the race and to leave this country and track with a crash was not the best result. It wasn’t easy in Race 2, I was pushing hard but I did not know where Biaggi was and I knew he had a strong pace to catch me. Shame about the crash but we are happy here to be winning!”
Meanwhile Sykes finished behind Biaggi in third after making a pass on Rea during the final lap.
“Today the high winds definitely affected us more than the other guys, but other than that it’s a very strong weekend for myself and Kawasaki to come away with a third and fourth at what is not one of our best circuits,” said Sykes. “It’s all very promising, now we’re looking forward to Europe and hopefully I can stay strong there.”
Phillip Island Race 2 Results:
1. Carlos Checa (Ducati)
2. Max Biaggi (Aprilia)
Honda's Jonathan Rea lost a podium finish to Tom Sykes in the final corner of Race 2. He is currently fifth in points.
Only four days after surgery to fix his broken tibia BMW's Leon Haslam scored fifth place in Race 2.
3. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki)
4. Jonathan Rea (Honda)
5. Leon Haslam (BMW)
6. Marco Melandri (BMW)
7. Maxime Berger (Ducati)
8. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia)
9. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda)
10. Niccolo Canepa (Ducati)
11. Jakub Smrz (Ducati)
12. Leon Camier (Suzuki)
13. Davide Giugliano (Ducati)
14. Lorenzo Zanetti (Ducati)
15. Josh Brookes (Suzuki)
DNF Ayrton Badovini (BMW)
DNF Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki)
DNF Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati)
DNF David Salom (Kawasaki)
DNF Michel Fabrizio (BMW)
DNF Mark Aitchison (BMW)
2012 World Superbike Championship Points:
1. Max Biaggi, 45
2. Marco Melandri, 30
3. Tom Sykes, 29
4. Carlos Checa, 25
5. Jonathan Rea, 22
6. Sylvain Guintoli, 16
7. Jakub Smrz, 16
8. Leon Haslam, 15
9. Hiroshi Aoyama, 15
10. Maxime Berger, 12