2011 World Superbike
The return of the 2011 World Superbike Championship to Donington brought about some intense competition, and a few upsets.
As for the competition, Yamaha Racing’s Marco Melandri displayed both patience and skill during Race 1, taking the checkered flag from Effenbert Liberty Ducati rider Jakub Smrz and the man who doubled at Phillip Island, Althea Ducati’s Carlos Checa.
In Race 2, Checa regained his domiance, winning over Melandri and Alitalia Aprilia’s Leon Camier.
But the upsets began before the race. First, BMW Motorrad Italia’s James Toseland injured his wrist during private practice a few weeks ago, not able to start Round 2 of World Superbike.
Chris Vermeulen was also slated to return aboard the Kawasaki Racing Team ZX-10R, but stopped after a few laps in practice.
Then there was the Max Biaggi incident. First, the reigning champion struggled aboard his Aprilia RSV4 in Race 1, finishing seventh. But it was Race 2 that was very upsetting for the Italian; Biaggi jumped the start, and failed to complete his ride-through penalty, disqualifying him.
For a full review of the Donington Round of 2011 World Superbike, click here.
After Sunday’s racing completed, here’s what the riders were saying.
Carlos Checa (Althea Ducati 1198R) says: “In Race 1 I was struggling at the start, I didn’t have feeling with the rear tire and as a result I lost a lot of positions. But I have to say it was one of the most exciting races of my career, so many riders touching, crashing, everything! After the first laps I was able to build up a good rhythm and start moving up through the pack one rider at a time.
“It wasn’t easy but I pushed hard and then two laps from the end I realized that I could maybe get past Haslam too for third. I’m really happy because I didn’t think I’d get from 11th on lap one to the podium. We made the decision to use the hard tire solution for the race and even thought we paid for this at the start it turned out to be the right decision in the end.
“We opted for the softer tire in race two; we knew it would be very high performing although a bit less so towards the end of the race. It remained pretty consistent but towards the end I had to change my riding a little to manage the situation. My strategy was to get to the front, built up a bit of a lead and then manage that lead and today everything worked perfectly. It was great to win at Phillip Island but today meant even more to me. A lot of people may remember what happened to me here many years ago; that day I lost something here but today I can say that I found it again.”
Marco Melandri (Yamaha World Superbike Team YZF-R1) says: “I had a great win in race one. I was just behind a very aggressive bunch of riders so I had to work hard to keep my rhythm and push through. I managed to close in on Smrz with five laps to go and take my first win. Race two was a little more difficult.
“I was suffering from a head cold and lost concentration a little mid way. I am very pleased to be on the podium again. We have been working very hard in preparation for today’s races and we did very well, I had a lot of fun and I think we proved that we have a very good package. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season. Thanks to Yamaha, my team and my sponsors.”
Eugene Laverty (Yamaha World Superbike Team YZF-R1) says: “Not a good day today. The race one crash was bizarre; I don’t really know what happened. I almost crashed in the corner before and lost a little bit of confidence afterwards. Race two started well but I had to push really hard. We still haven’t found the right settings for me; we need to fine tune to suit my riding style. I know I’ve got potential, so do the bike and the team, we just need to work hard to combine it all.”
Max Biaggi (Alitalia Aprilia RSV4) says: “I realised that I had moved on the grid, so I was well aware that my race had been compromised. I tried to push right away to recover, but I lost my concentration because of that mistake, losing several positions.
“Unfortunately I didn’t see the boards – when you’re in the pack that can happen. I’m extremely sorry for the Team, two results below expectations that must not ruin the good that has been done thus far. To the contrary, this is the time when we need to be united, learning even from these bad days. The season is long, we’ll have the opportunity to make amends.”
Leon Camier (Alitalia Aprilia RSV4) says: “It was truly a good weekend for me, after the rough start in Australia. It’s hard after doing so much preparation during the winter not be in the best conditions then for the start of the season.
“Fortunately I was feeling well right from the start here. I worked well with my Team to prepare for these two races and the results prove it. It was a shame that in Race 2 a small problem with the brakes kept me from making a play for it with Marco Melandri, but that doesn’t ruin the joy of third place. I’d like to thank my Team, obviously, as well as my good friend Keith Code who helped me out a lot.”
Michel Fabrizio (Suzuki Alstare GSX-R1000) says: “Today was a bit mixed, but I was happy with my performance in race two and I really enjoyed all the fights I had in that one. It’s just a shame about the first race.
“I’m not exactly sure what happened. All I know was that suddenly I had no rear grip at all going into Coppice. I went into the gravel, but managed not to crash. I thought there was something wrong with the rear tire, so I pitted and changed the rear to a medium. My first lap was in the 1:30s and the second was pretty good also, but the third was way off the pace. From then, it got worse. I was dead last with no chance of catching anybody and, because I didn’t feel safe carrying on, I pulled into the pits. When we looked at the rear tyre, it was completely destroyed.
“I didn’t make the best of starts in race two and when you are on the third row of the grid, good starts are needed. I was 14th at the end of the first lap and then I began to fight my way up. I improved my position lap-by-lap and had some great battles with Xaus, Biaggi, Corser and Smrz.
“At the end, Rea was not far ahead of me and I thought I could catch him, but I ran out of laps and finished seventh, which is not so bad from the third row of the grid. Who knows what might have happened if I had managed to get off the line better, but I was happy enough with my performance.”
Ayrton Badovini (BMW Motorrad Italia S1000RR) says: “I am very pleased with the progress the team has made, although we know that we still have a lot of work to do, especially with regard to the lap times and start.
“In race 1 we had a number of problems but in race 2, thanks to the changes made, I kept a very fast race pace, even managing to get under 1’30” a few laps from the end. I thank the team for its support and continued belief in me. I hope James returns soon because it’s hard work and I need his input.”
Jonathan Rea (Castrol Honda CBR1000RR) says: “We got through the weekend OK but five and six is not what we came here for and, by my own standards, “OK” is not good enough. I’ve tried my best all weekend but I got duffed up a bit in race one and maybe could’ve finished a bit higher.
“In race two, I didn’t make any mistakes and rode as well as I could so it was frustrating when the other guys came past. They seemed to be able to ride away from me quite easily while I was on the maximum.
“We tried to use the softer tire during the weekend but it tore u p after ten or 12 laps so I’m not sure if it would have made any difference. We’ve got some work to do, I think – especially on the electronics side of things to get driveability off slower corners.
“Luckily for us, Assen hasn’t got the stop-go slower section that we have here, so I’m looking forward to getting there for a bit of flow. At the end of the day we were sort of ‘on par’ here, but we need to be better than that, especially at this stage in the season. We don’t want the guys at the front to be opening this much of a gap, so we need to be on it from the next round.”
Ruben Xaus (Castrol Honda CBR1000RR) says: “We went for the harder tire in race one for safety reasons but I’m not a big lover of hard tires and I don’t really have enough experience with the bike yet. It was also really cold and I was struggling for a good feeling with the front brake and the gas.
“We’ve come fro m Australia, where it was much warmer, I had a month off the bike, and then we come here where it’s been cold, so it’s not been easy. I just wanted to learn in race one and get some points. In race two I went with the A tire, the one I like that allows me to play a bit more with the bike. I didn’t have such a good start and I think if I could have gone with Lascorz maybe seventh would be my position. I saw Jonathan with five laps to go and wanted to get behind him to have the two Castrol Hondas coming in together.
“But the tire was by then destroyed and I got passed by three or four riders, so I had to just keep the tire together to get home. At the end of this weekend I have had four races, four finishes with points and I’m getting closer to the top guys and my team-mate, so I will take that happily to Assen.”
Leon Haslam (BMW Motorrad S1000RR) says: “It has again been a hard fought weekend for us, but we have definitely made clear improvements from Australia. In race 1 we had some issues, which were similar to those I experienced in Phillip Island, so we made some changes for the second race and it was a real improvement, especially in the second half. I made a mistake in the early laps of race 2, which dropped me back a number of places, but I was happy I was able to fight back and finish strong. We will now work hard to be ready for Assen.”
Troy Corser (BMW Motorrad S1000RR) says: “We have improved the bike in some areas since Phillip Island, which is good, but we are still encountering some issues that we need to address. We are struggling with too much spin from the rear tire, and it’s making it hard to set consistent times. The bike felt more settled and easier to ride with the changes we have made, but we are still having issues. We have a test coming up so hopefully we can make some good progress there and be ready for Assen.”
Maxime Berger (Supersonic Ducati 1198R) says: “I’m disappointed and incredulous. I never had to stop twice for so two strange reasons. The ring broke and I was lucky because he broke into a slow corner.
“I found myself on the ground without knowing what happened. In race two after the start, the clutch started to give me problems, until he completely stopped me after the first lap. The tests went well; I had a good feeling with the Ducati and a pace that would allow me to win my first championship points. But we must not fall. The team did a great job here at Donington and with their help I am sure the results will come in the coming races.”
Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki Racing Team ZX-10R) says: “Things were better in the second race than the first. I made a change for the second race and from the beginning the bike was very easy and the tyre did not want to spin so much. The team did a good job so I am very happy to take a fifth place.
“It was also easier for me to ride in the second race, despite my old shoulder injury, because my physical trainer worked on it, loosened it up and I had no arm pump in race two. There has obviously been a big improvement since Australia. Two races in the points and a top five, not a bad end to the weekend.”
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team ZX-10R) says: “Not what I was expecting going into the day after a front row start. I was quietly confident of coming away with top three or top four results. Race one was going to plan but I had a bit of an issue and it was mainly my mistake that I had a crash at the Esses while lying fourth on lap 18.
“I was still looking forward to race two, but I had to use the spare bike, which wasn’t in the script. Things did not go to plan again but I got tipped into on lap one, and didn’t really have anywhere to go, lost some ground and I finished 12th. I look forward to Assen now and I think we have done good positive work this weekend in any case.”
Roberto Rolfo (Team Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R) says: “Of course I’m not satisfied with my results today even though I collected three points for the championship. In race one it was really very difficult for me to ride my bike with worn tires. I was not able to keep up my race pace and I lost contact with the riders in front of me.
“For race two we decided to make extensive changes to the bike and because of this decision the first laps of the second race were very difficult too. I lost some time understanding how best to control my Kawasaki, but then from mid-race I was able to increase my pace and I think it was a good solution. We’ll start working on this new set up at the next round in Assen. I want to thank my whole team. They are doing a fantastic job especially considering the short time we’ve had.”
Mark Aitchison (Team Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R) says: “Today was a day that has been very difficult. In both races we experimented with slightly different geometry setting to find a better direction and feeling, but unfortunately we have not found the best solution at this point. During the weekend it was important for us to test some new solution and to collect valuable data for the future races. I enjoyed my second race and look forward to improving our position for the upcoming races in Assen. I would like to thank my team for working so hard over the entire weekend.”