The oldest generation of WSBK riders showed that experience can achieve success Sunday at Phillip Island, Round 1 of the 2011 World Superbike Championship.
Carlos Checa, 38, dominated both races at the Australian round, taking the privateer Althea Ducati 1198R to the checkered flag first.
Following Checa to the line in both races was 39-year-old Max Biaggi. The reigning champ had his battles cut out for him in both races, but took second twice aboard the Alitalia Aprilia RSV-4.
Taking the final podium spot in Race 1 was BMW Motorrad rider Leon Haslam, and the man entering 2011 World Superbike from MotoGP. Marco Melandri, took third in Race 2 on the Yamaha World Superbike YZF-R1.
Here’s what the riders were saying after Sunday’s opening round of the 2011 World Superbike Championship:
Carlos Checa (Althea Ducati 1198R) says: "The sessions went extremely well and we knew we had good rhythm but you never know what might happen in the raecs, especially if you find a wet track on Sunday morning, as we did today. My strategy was to get ahead and keep pace as I knew my pace was stronger than that of my rivals. In Race 1, once past Laverty, I was able to find a good rhythm. It was a really great race.
"Every so often you have a weekend like that and we were lucky to be able to start the season in such a fantastic way. Race 2 was very similar, I managed the situation and we did it! A really great weekend in which we dominated from start to finish. We were also lucky with the weather; we couldn’t have asked for a better start. I want to thank Ducati and the team for believing in me. Next we head to Donington where we’ll continue to give 100%."
Max Biaggi (Alitalia Aprilia RSV-4) says: "The results today were truly beautiful especially if we think about how we were last year and the year before. It has been no secret that this track has always put us in a difficult place, but this time we worked hard to prepare as best as possible and I can truly say that we succeeded, also considering the fast lap that we earned in both races.
"I must thank my team for this, which was quick to analyze my observations. The two cylinders on this track still maintain a certain advantage, without taking anything away from the extraordinary performance by Carlos Checa. For the first race of the year, I’d say that we’ve gotten off on the right foot. Now we need to keep on working as we are accustomed to."
Leon Camier (Alitalia Aprilia RSV-4) says: "I am truly surprised by the results today especially in Race 2, considering the difficulties this weekend. Before the second race we change the rear tyre and at the start I tried to ride calmly, looking for my pace and avoiding errors. Lap after lap the feeling got better and I climbed my way to sixth place.
"To say I was tired is an understatement, but if I think about the presuppositions I can consider myself quite satisfied. Without this illness things could have gone differently, but it doesn’t matter; now I need to lower my head and get to work – there is still a long season ahead."
Marco Melandri (Yamaha World Superbike Team YZF-R1) says: "I’m pretty happy with the end results of today, although I wasn’t too happy about race one. We’ve been struggling all week with a rear grip issue, which could be seen in race one.
"I think we made a good job before race two, changing our set up to deal with it and we were a little bit more aware of our potential afterwards. The bike was a lot better and I felt a lot more comfortable. It’s nice to be back on the podium! I wanted to challenge Biaggi for second but in the end my body was slower than my mind at the end of the race, it felt a bit dangerous to make some passes so I was happy to settle for third."
Eugene Laverty (Yamaha World Superbike Team YZF-R1) says:"In the first race I had problems with arm pump and had just to sit there, I had the possibility to go third but didn’t want to risk my arms.
"I got it fixed at Clinica, it was just really stiff after five days riding on a Superbike this week! Marco upped the pace in second race; it would have been tough to beat, but there was a definite fourth there for me. Unfortunately two false neutrals killed the race leaving me with one point.
"On the plus side I’m very positive for Donington, we’ve clearly got a very competitive package and under race conditions we can see that our competitors aren’t as fast as the practice sessions suggested."
Jonathan Rea (Castrol Honda CBR1000RR) says: "I’m absolutely drained but I guess pretty satisfied after everything we’ve been through over the last few days. I’m annoyed that I out-braked myself in race one but I had no power in my hands. I passed Nori (Haga) in race two but he came back on a big surge to the leading group and I couldn’t go with him.
"I didn’t have much strength but I knew I could be fitter than anyone at the end of the race to keep the lap times. The bike was working really well and I could stay in the 33s until I caught Fabrizio and Haslam, when I took a bit of a breather just to catch my breath and look at them. I could’ve passed Leon in a few places I think, but I’ve been doing most of my passing around turns seven and eight and decided to save all my energy to pass him there on the last lap.
"If you’d told me when I was lying in hospital on Wednesday that I’d come away from here sixth in the championship, I’d have laughed at you. Big t hanks to the team, who got a physio here to help me between sessions and races to help me relax, and the bike, which never missed a beat this weekend. We still need to find a little bit of speed on the straights because I struggled passing people into turn one, but overall I’m satisfied with what we got from here."
Ruben Xaus (Castrol Honda CBR1000RR) says: "The first race was a disaster so we had to find something for race two and we did. I missed my braking point at turn four on the first lap and lost five places and then got caught with a slower group.
"I worked hard to get the places back but used up the tyres’ performance too much in the first laps. With a few laps to go they were finished but I think I could have finished higher. No complaints though – I didn’t expect this position after race one, after which we changed the bike completely.
"We’ve had some problems on the bike this weekend but I think we’re speaking the same language now. In the end it’s been good: we finished both races with no bad consequences and learned a lot, so I’m going to Donington with a big smile on my face."
Michel Fabrizio (Suzuki Alstare GSX-R1000) says: "I am happy and I am not so happy. I am happy because I was able to fight with the top guys in both races and that is a great boost to my confidence.
"I didn’t know exactly what to expect in my first race with Team Suzuki Alstare and it was good to be able to battle for the podium in the first race. Maybe if I had made a good start in that race, I might have ended up on the podium.
"Instead, I found myself 11th at the end of lap one and then had to fight through the pack and that’s not easy because there are so many good riders and good bikes. It took some time, but I was up to seventh at half-race distance and then up to fifth after 15 laps.
"That’s when I was in a three way fight with Laverty, Melandri and Haslam and it was a lot of fun racing with them. Just when I thought I might be able to make a charge, my tires started to go off and I couldn’t push as hard as I wanted. I kept attacking as hard as I could, but couldn’t get past any of them, so finished sixth.
"I used the same bike for race two and the same type of tyre and only made some small adjustments, but I started getting chattering almost right from the start. It was not an easy race by any means, but I tried to ride as hard as I could without crashing. I kept pushing wherever possible, but it wasn’t possible to push hard enough to get another top-six result. I am not so happy with eighth, but overall I think we should be pleased with our performance today. We know the season is going to be very hard this year – probably more than previous years – and to begin with good results is a great start."
Leon Haslam (BMW Motorrad S1000RR) says: "As a team we have made huge steps forward from two weeks ago. We still have some issues that need looking at in more detail to ensure we can become regular podium finishers, but on the whole we should be happy with the two races.
"The first race was great; we encountered some issues in race, two but still managed to finish in the top five, so we are definitely happy. A huge credit goes to the team for their efforts this weekend, but we now have to sit down and work out in detail how we plan to make that next step forward."
Troy Corser (BMW Motorrad S1000RR) says: "We started the race well, I felt good on the bike, but sadly I found a false neutral going into Honda corner and I went off the track. I rejoined down the field and then really struggled for grip.
"As the race progressed the tire became really worn and I was losing traction everywhere, I simply couldn’t do the times I wanted. We have identified some points that need addressing before Donington Park, but certainly I am looking forward to the rest of the season."
James Toseland (BMW Motorrad Italia S1000RR) says: "Honestly I feel sorry to be only fifteenth. The team did a great job but we have effectively only had two days testing. Given Leon Haslam’s result today we have confidence in the bike’s potential."
Ayrton Badovini (BMW Motorrad Italia S1000RR) says: "We are not there yet and on slick tires make it worse for us. With race tyres there is a smaller gap from the rest and this gives me a bit ‘of hope for tomorrow. We understand the right direction and we still have some things to try tomorrow."
Bryan Staring (Team Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R) says: "The first race was good as I managed to enter into the championship points. I had fun fighting with the other riders and riding for the full distance. For the second race we changed the bike a little, but even though I had a good feeling, this was the most I could do today. These races were good training for me, considering my year ahead in Superstock. Thank you very much to all my team who has worked so hard this weekend."
Roberto Rolfo (Team Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R) says: "Today I’m really very happy because in both races I reached the points zone and that was my target in these two first races of the season with the Pedercini team. Starting from Saturday’s qualifying I found a good feeling with my Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R and today my pace was really very fast.
"Unfortunately my second start was not so good because I was forced to brake roughly to avoid Badovini and I lost the first group of riders. I’m satisfied also with my lap times. I really want to thank my entire team because they worked very hard over the whole weekend to prepare my bike in the best possible way. They did a great job and I hope to give them some more satisfaction during the season."
Mark Aitchison (Team Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R) says: "I really enjoyed my first Superbike races today. In the first race I experienced a problem with the rear brake and as I entered into Honda corner I could not stop the bike and I ran off the circuit. Fortunately I managed to rejoin and finish. In the second race I really enjoyed myself.
"I found a good rhythm and feeling with the bike, but after approximately ten or twelve laps I felt a big decrease in performance from the rear tire. In any case I’m very satisfied with the weekend our team had here. We have collected a lot of data and we’ll use these for our future races. Thank you to my team for all their hard work."
Maxime Berger (Supersonic Ducati 1198R) says: "It was an incredible experience. I think I learned more in these two races than in the entire Championship last year. Especially in race two, having chosen a soft rubber, I drove very fast in the first laps, but then, gradually worn the tire and I needed to work hard not to crash.
"In race one, unfortunately, I exit the track twice because of the humidity at some places. Luckily I did not fall. After all, I am satisfied with my first Superbike races because physically I’m feeling very well even after racing two races of 22 laps in a single day. Now we have to continue on this way and work hard with my team. I want to thank them for the great job they did here at Phillip Island."