Portimao, on Portugal's Algarve, is one of the newer circuits on the calendar and certainly one of the best. It's been described many times in earlier race reports and we're about to do a circuit guide as well, so I'll just say that it's fast, technical and extremely challenging. As a result you tend to get bunched riders and good tight racing. There are also a few corners which seem to cause more problems than others, so there's usually a fair bit of drama as well.
The entire Iberian peninsula is currently enjoying, if that's the right word, an unprecedented dry spell. So despite it being mid October and well on the way to winter, we sat and sweltered in blazing sunshine and temperatures that would have the tabloids dragging out their clichés were we to see them in a British summer.
Checa reigned the top spot for the first qualifying session with Laverty in second. Guintoli set the third fastest lap with Rea fourth, Biaggi fifth, Lascorz sixth, Sykes seventh, Melandri eighth, Haga ninth, Smrz tenth, Badovini eleventh, Aitchison twelfth, Haslam thirteenth, Camier fourteenth, Corser fifteenth and Berger sixteenth.
Rea, however, managed to get the fastest lap in the second timed session with Checa in 2nd followed by Melandri, Haslam, Giugliano (rewarded with a wild-card entry on a second Althea Ducati after winning the Superstock 1000 championship for the team at Magny Cours), Smrz, Sykes, Laverty, Lascorz, Aitchison, Camier, Badovini, Haga, Berger and Fabrizio. This knocked Biaggi, Corser, Muggeridge, Fores, Waters and Barragan out of the superpole battle. Hold on. Muggeridge? Yes, Muggas was back for one round on the second Castrol Honda, and it was nice to see him as well.
Superpole One started badly for Aitchison as he crashed out and lost his chance for pole position. Melandri managed to set the fastest time with Checa, Rea, Haslam, Guintoli, Smrz, Sykes, Laverty, Lascorz, Camier, Badovini and Haga going through to Superpole Two, while Berger, Fabrizio, Giugliano and Aitchison got the rest of the afternoon off.
Superpole Two had Laverty in the top spot with Checa second and Guintoli third with Rea finishing off the provisional front row. Smrz, Haga, Lascorz and Melandri finished off the top eight, knocking out Badovini, Sykes, Haslam and Camier
So, finally, Superpole Three...Rea held pole position with Checa in second, Laverty third and Melandri fourth, making the front row of the grid. Guintoli followed in fifth, Smrz sixth, Lascorz seventh and Haga finished off the second row in eighth.
Race One started with Rea taking the lead from the first corner with Melandri in second and Guintoli third. Guintoli obviously had a point to make, as he quickly went on to overtake Melandri into second. Haslam started to climb his way up the pack as he overtook Biaggi into eighth place, but Guintoli wasn’t ready to relax and soon stole the limelight, taking the lead from Rea. Camier’s race started in disaster as on lap three he ran straight on into a corner, staying on the bike but rejoining at the very back of the race. Laverty also had a huge wobble and, whilst managing to save himself from crashing, ran off track and ended up in twentieth. Haslam overtook Sykes on lap four, giving us some hope that not all the British riders will be coming out of the top ten.
On lap five Corser ran straight off the circuit and lost twelfth place and ending up in thirteenth, which wasn’t much of a loss but not the ideal thing for him on his retiring round.
Something had obviously gone wrong for Laverty, as he pitted in on lap six, while Guintoli started to make a gap from Rea as Biaggi overtook Sykes. Haga soon entered into the top ten as he overtook Berger on lap eight and Smrz overtook Corser into thirteenth. Haslam and Biaggi started to battle for sixth half way through the lap, and Haslam managed to hold it. Melandri also had a moment but managed to stay up and in third place.
Haslam was overtaken by Biaggi and Sykes going into the first corner of lap nine, leaving him in eighth place. Camier, however, had managed to build his way up to eighteenth from twenty-second. Also, at this point, Checa had managed to catch up to Melandri and started looking to overtake into third place. Sykes had a huge moment going down-hill on lap eleven with his back wheel coming off the ground, but managed to hold it. Camier had now worked his way up to seventeenth and was then fifteenth by the next lap whilst Checa overtook Melandri. Rea started struggling to keep the pace on lap thirteen and, as Haslam overtooks Sykes, Checa went to overtake Rea but didn’t succeed until the next corner, taking second place.
Haga then went on to overtake Sykes into eighth place on lap fourteen, and on lap fifteen Badovini and Berger had both overtaken Sykes into ninth and tenth as the Kawasaki faded from its initial promise. Berger then passed Badovini and then Haga and Haslam into seventh place. Badovini also went on to overtake Haga on lap seventeen, as did Sykes, Smrz and Fabrizio on lap eighteen. Lascorz overtook Melandri after Melandri ran wide and briefly off the track on lap nineteen, leaving Biaggi and Melandri to battle for fifth place and bringing the handbags at dawn for the second time in the weekend. Biaggi, however, managed to overtake Melandri and Camier overtook Corser into fourteenth place on lap twenty. Sykes also overtook Haslam as Checa finally swept past Guintoli as if he was stood still to take the lead. Does this man have no concept of taking it easy?
Camier and Corser both went on to overtake Haga on lap twenty-one while Biaggi began to catch Lascorz, overtaking him as they crossed the line into the final lap. So the chequered flag went out with Checa winning followed by Guintoli, Rea, Biaggi, Lascorz, Melandri, Berger, Sykes, Haslam and Smrz.
Race Two and the final race of World Superbikes 2011 started with Rea, once again, taking the lead into the first corner with Melandri second and Laverty third. Checa took fourth and Haslam ran wide going slightly off track, putting him back into seventeenth. Laverty overtook Melandri into second and then Rea into first on lap two, but they all remained very close together. Badovini overtook Camier into seventh place on lap three, as Rea and Melandri started to battle for second, with Melandri briefly overtaking Rea but being passed straight back as they went neck and neck around the final corner, but Melandri managed to stay in front as they pulled away. Biaggi ran briefly off track on lap three, but managed to hold eleventh place.
Badovini overtook Haga on lap four, as did Camier and Lascorz. Rea also took second place back from Melandri on lap five, as Biaggi also overtook Haga into ninth place. On lap seven Melandri overtook Rea again, as Camier passed Badovini going over the line into sixth place. Haslam had worked his way back up to sixteenth as Biaggi caught up with Lascorz and began chasing, overtaking him going over the line into lap eight. Biaggi then went on to overtake Badovini, leaving the standings as Laverty, Melandri, Rea, Checa, Guintoli, Camier, Biaggi, Badovini, Lascorz and Haga. By lap twelve Sykes had overtaken Haga into tenth place, and Lascorz finally mugged Badovini on lap thirteen. Both Haga and Smrz overtook Sykes into tenth and eleventh place on lap seventeen, while Corser was overtaken by Berger into thirteenth place. Sykes race ended on lap eighteen as mechanical problems meant he had to pit in, and Melandri overtook Laverty into the lead on lap twenty. Rea also managed to overtake Laverty but ran wide, allowing Laverty to pass him back and Checa to almost get in front, but Rea managed to get back on the track in the nick of time and slam the door. After regrouping, Rea managed to overtake Laverty again on lap twenty-one but Laverty outdragged him down the long main straight to slide past. Berger overtook Haga into tenth place on the last lap of the race, and Rea and Laverty battled again but Laverty remained in front. This left Melandri to cross the line in first place, followed by Laverty, Rea, Checa, Guintoli, Camier, Biaggi, Lascorz, Badovini and Berger.
And that’s it, 2011 over! We hope you all have a good winter without too many withdrawal symptoms from racing, and we’ll see you in February for, as usual, all the reports of everything that happens!
1 Carlos Checa (Ducati)
2 Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati)
3 Jonathan Rea (Honda)
4 Max Biaggi (Aprilia)
5 Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki)
6 Marco Melandri (Yamaha)
7 Maxime Berger (Ducati)
8 Tom Sykes (Kawasaki)
9 Leon Haslam (BMW)
10 Jakub Smrz (Ducati)
1 Marco Melandri (Yamaha)
2 Eugene Laverty (Yamaha)
3 Jonathan Rea (Honda)
4 Carlos Checa (Ducati)
5 Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati)
6 Leon Camier (Aprilia)
7 Max Biaggi (Aprilia)
8 Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki)
9 Ayrton Badovini (BMW)
10 Maxime Berger (Ducati)
after thirteen rounds:
1 Carlos Checa 505 (2011 World Superbike Champion)
2 Marco Melandri 395
3 Max Biaggi 303
4 Eugene Laverty 303
5 Leon Haslam 224
6 Sylvain Guintoli 210
7 Leon Camier 208
8 Noriuki Haga 176
9 Jonathan Rea 170
10 Ayrton Badovini 165
PS. Congratulations to Jed Metcher on taking the Superstock 600 title. Smashing bloke who should go far.