Phillip Island Superbike: Round 1 Review

Phillip Island WSBK Results

When Ducati pulled all factory efforts from the World Superbike Championship for 2011, the Althea team quickly became the one that would carry the Italian manufacturer’s name.

And from the looks of all the action at Phillip Island from the very first day of free practice, the Althea Ducati Superbike team has started off strong. With the Spaniard Carlos Checa aboard the 1198R, Ducati has shown its strength regardless of a factory backing.

The 38-year-old Checa dominated every session leading up to Sunday’s World Superbike race, and topped off the impressive performances with double wins at Phillip Island. Ducati has the most Superbike wins at Phillip Island, and Checa, who also won Race 2 in 2010 WSBK, added to this record.

Another experienced rider who will turn 40 this year, Max Biaggi, took second in both World Superbike races aboard the Alitalia Aprilia RSV-4. Taking third in Race 1 was BMW Motorrad S1000RR rider Leon Haslam, and Marco Melandri on the Yamaha Factory YZF-R1 in Race 2.

Race 1

On a drying Phillip Island circuit, Biaggi and Checa got great starts, both side-by-side into turn on 1. But the Yamaha Factory YZF-R1 rider Eugene Laverty took the lead.

By mid lap, Checa was in second, followed by the reigning World Superbike champ Biaggi. Haslam, who took race 1 in 2010 WSBK, was in fourth.

Laverty led the first two of 22 laps in his first ever-WSBK race, but Checa took over command at Honda Corner, taking the lead from the rookie Yamaha rider. Biaggi soon slipped into second place.

Checa immediately began opening a gap on Biaggi. With 17 to go in the first round of 2011 World Superbike, Laverty lost third to Haslam. The two Brits battled, and Haslam retained the spot.

With 13 laps to go, Melandri passed Laverty for fourth position. On the next lap, Laverty lost another position, allowing Castrol Honda rider Jonathan Rea to grab fifth.

With 11 to go, Melandri passed Haslam for third. The two battled as Checa already had an over five second lead on Biaggi.

Haslam then passed Melandri with five to go, regaining his third-place position. Although heavily challenged, Haslam kept the BMW superbike ahead of Melandri’s Yamaha, taking the final podium spot behind Biaggi and race-winner Checa.

Race 2

When Race 2 at Phillip Island World Superbike got underway, it was Haslam who showed the true speed of the BMW S1000RR, taking the holeshot. The Brit got out front before turn 1, followed by Checa, Laverty and Melandri. Biaggi didn’t get off the line good, starting back in seventh.

Before the end of Lap 1, Checa took the lead, but was heavily challenged by Haslam, who regained first. The two battled, and by the middle of the second lap, Checa was again in the lead, never to be challenged again.

As the two Yamahas of Laverty and Melandri battled for third with Corser, the Italian Biaggi began picking off riders like a true champion, in fifth by the end of the second lap.

At the end of lap four, Biaggi passed Melandri at the line. The Roman emperor then passed Corser, and Melandri follows, but Corser comes right back. A few turns later Biaggi is back through, now chasing down the man in third, Melandri, and second-place rider Haslam.

With 16 to go, Melandri squeezed through Haslam for second, followed by Biaggi. With Checa already well over two seconds ahead of the field, the battle begins for second place between Biaggi and Melandri.

On the next lap, Biaggi passed Melandri on the front straight, showing the awesome power of the Aprilia RSV-4. But the Italian went wide into turn one, giving second back to Melandri. The same exact thing happens with 14 to go, and the order remains. Meanwhile, Corser loses is fifth-place position after missing a brake marker.

With 13 to go, Biaggi passed Marco on the straightaway, and held it into turn one as Checa is out by 3.6 seconds. In the back, Yamaha’s Eugene Laverty ran off the track, losing fifth place, but gets safety back on track at the back of the pack.

As the World Superbike race hit the midway point, Pata Aprilia rider Noriyuki Haga, Haslam and Suzuki Alstare rider Michel Fabrizio are in sixth, fifth and fourth, respectively. As these three run alone, Jonathan Rea also runs alone, but is getting quicker by the lap aboard his Castrol Honda CBR1000RR.

With eight laps to go, Melandri passes Biaggi, but the Aprilia rider regains his position on the straightaway. Behind, Halsam is in fourth, followed by Haga, Fabrizio and Rea. Haga soon makes a mistake, allowing Fabrizio and Rea to pass.

Biaggi and Melandri would swap positions until the end when Biaggi edged out Melandri by three-tenths of a second at the line. AnotherSuperbike battle decided by three-tenths of a second was for fourth position, as Rea beat Haslam to the line.

Carlos Checa (Althea Ducati 1198R Superbike) says: "The sessions went extremely well and we knew we had good rhythm but you never know what might happen in the races, 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 percent."

Max Biaggi (Alitalia Aprilia RSV-4 Superbike) says: "The results today were truly beautiful – commented Max Biaggi – 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 Haslam (BMW Motorrad S1000RR Superbike) 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."

Marco Melandri (Yamaha Factory YZF-R1 Superbike) 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."

World Superbike continues in a month’s time for Round 2 of 13 at Donington in the UK.