double Checa

SBK Silverstone, Great Britain, 30th July 2011

Words: Laura Bradley, Pics: Simon bradley & Richard handley

Mark Aitcheson took over the mantle of "The man to beat on a  Kawasaki" on Saturday afternoon... Silverstone isn’t how we all remember it anymore, the old paddock and pit lane still exists but is now occupied by minor teams and support series, whereas the main paddock is now what looks like an airport. The garages are all twice the size and polished to extremes, the pit lane has an extra park-like walk to the actual fence where the boards will be held out for riders and it’s not raining...what is this circuit and what have they done with the old one?

The weather forecast for this weekend is interesting, with there being a mixture of either light rain (Friday and Sunday) and then bright sunshine on the Saturday we should be getting some interesting results, seeing as the dry riders will qualify higher on the grid and the wet riders may have more success in the races. If it stays as hot then there will be big grip problems, as the track will melt the tyres as they’re racing. All these elements thrown together make it quite unpredictable as to who’s going to get the podium this weekend – even though it will most likely be one of the British boys.

Checa reigned top of qualifying practice one and Hopkins in practice two, so with nobody crashing that left the results as Hopkins, Checa, Guintoli, Berger, Melandri, Camier, Fabrizio, Haslam, Haga, Laverty, Sykes, Aitchison, Smrz, Toseland, Biaggi and Badovini all qualifying for superpole, with Corser, Lowes, Lascorz, Rolfo, Lai and Kirkham missing the boat. That's pretty impressive, bearing in mind that John Hopkins is a wildcard rider from the British championship and, being new there this year, isn't exactly familiar with the British circuits yet.

However, Tom Sykes then crashed in the free practice before superpole, giving himself a slight concussion and a badly sprained ankle, this meant he was not able to do Superpole and it was doubtful that he'd be fit for the race the next morning.

John Hopkins showed everyone the way in Superpole. Which was a bit embarrassing, really...Superpole one saw the start to another bad weekend in Britain for Biaggi as he crashed at turn three after losing the back end, but he re-joined and managed to gain time on his lap. Badovini also crashed at turn three, but also set a fast enough time to qualify for superpole two. So, after superpole one it was Laverty, Fabrizio, Checa, Haslam, Haga Melandri, Biaggi and Hopkins making up the front two rows. Smrz, Toseland, Berger and obviously Sykes didn’t qualify for the second session.

Superpole two saw a disappointing result for Haslam, as BMW had done some previous testing and made some positive changes but he still didn’t manage to qualify for the top eight with it. Aitchison, Biaggi and Badovini and joined him with not qualifying for superpole three.

Superpole three is where people suddenly seemed to start falling off, Guintoli crashed early in and, despite knowing he was not a pole contender anymore, still ran back to collect some of his bike off the track to not affect others. That’s what we think is good sportsmanship - the man is definitely the real deal. Haga also crashed at turn six, he was fine but it ruined his chances for pole as well. Hopkins rode at an amazing pace and, to everybody’s surprise, managed to get pole position on the Samsung Crescent Suzuki. Laverty came in second with Camier third and Checa rounding off the front row. Guintoli, Melandri, Fabrizio and Haga made upthe second row of the grid. It was announced on the Sunday that Tom Sykes would not be racing due to his crash, so those who didn’t qualify for superpole all moved up a place on the grid.

Race One lap one saw Laverty take the lead into the first corner, Hopkins followed with Checa in third. Camier fooled us all by running onto the gravel around turn three, but re-joined the race to work his way back up the pack. Fabrizio crashed and had to retire as Haga appeared from nowhere and started trying to overtake Hopkins after passing Checa. By lap two Checa was already battling Haga to take third place back, as Camier set the fastest lap of the race and showed his ability to catch up to those leading the race. Haga and Checa kept battling for third, but Haga eventually managed to break free and overtake Hopkins into second place. Hopkins then ran slightly wide on lap four, leaving Checa enough room to dive down the inside and start chasing Haga again. Checa managed to overtake Haga on the inside in the space of a lap, getting into second place and starting to chase Laverty. Melandri also joined in on the chase as he overtook Hopkins to start chasing Haga. Haslam rounded off the top pack in sixth place.

The first lap of Race 2, and Checa is in a hurry. But that Yamaha is quick...Checa started looking to overtake Laverty into first place on lap six, whilst Camier overtook Haslam and started to chase Melandri. Alex Lowes had a nasty highside on turn twelve, getting up but limping away (we’ve since heard he’s fine and hasn’t broken anything). Again, within the space of a lap, Checa had succeeded in overtaking into first place and Camier also succeeded in passing Melandri. Hopkins soon overtook Haga to remind us that he can compete with the big boys, and Camier went to do the same, with Haga’s efforts to block leading him to run wide into the next corner and leave the door open to be overtaken by Melandri and Haslam as well. Way down to the bottom runners, Toseland seemed to be struggling as Rolfo overtook him, his aim was to finish two races so fingers were crossed.

Smrz retired on lap nine due to bike problems, and Biaggi showed he was struggling as he kept running wide at corners and was in thirteenth place, soon to be twelfth as Haga then had a fast crash which sadly left him out of the race despite being a top runner. Camier then overtook Hopkins to take third place and started to chase Laverty. Mark Aitchison then crashed on turn six of lap eleven, completely wrecking his bike while, at the other end of the field, Camier was taking more and more time off his laps and starting to catch up with first and second place. Melandri then started to chase Camier as he overtook Hopkins on lap twelve. Castrol Honda had a bad first race, as Lai (their replacement for their original replacement, Karl Muggeridge) crashed on unlucky lap thirteen, as Toseland overtook Rolfo again. Haslam soon started showing that the BMW has improved as he overtook Hopkins and started to chase Melandri.

Disaster struck on lap fifteen as, despite doing so well and obviously being able to win the race, Camier’s bike lost power with an electrical problem, and he dropped right down to the back of the pack, but still didn’t give up and stayed on to finish the race in fifteenth place to pick up the final point and deafening cheers from the grandstands every time he came round. Lascorz, however, had managed to work his way up from fifteenth on the grid to seventh, showing that he can sometimes run with the top competitors. This left the end results as Checa winning the race by a landslide followed by Laverty, Melandri, Haslam, Hopkins, Guintoli, Lascorz, Berger, Corser and Badovini. 

Race Two started with four riders running off the first corner and into the gravel, Toseland, Lascorz, Rolfo and Lowes. They all re-joined at the back of the pack as Laverty, once again, took the lead from the first corner followed by Checa and Camier. Camier was hot on Checa’s heels and overtook at the start of the second lap, literally touching fairings as they went around the corner. Checa tried to take second back, but Camier pushed straight past him again. Haga went into the gravel and sadly had to retire from the race on lap three, despite his efforts in race one. Hopkins also overtook Melandri and managed to keep fourth place. Biaggi started to race again and chased Melandri in hope for fifth place, overtaking him on the inside only for Melandri to take him straight back and block the rest of Biaggi’s attempts.

"He's behind you!" we called. A lap or two later, though..."Oh no he isn't!"Camier sadly was not able to keep second, as Checa overtook on lap six, leaving Hopkins to slowly edge in on the Englishman. Checa soon went on to overtake Laverty into first place. Lascorz had to end the race on lap eight, as he had a technical problem at turn sixteen, a result of his first lap collision. Lowes also pitted in on this lap, as Biaggi overtook Hopkins and started chasing his team mate. Hopkins, however, wasn’t going to settle for that and overtook Biaggi again on lap ten, blocking all further attempts that Biaggi made. Whilst Checa and Laverty pulled a gap ahead from the rest of the pack, Melandri barged past Biaggi in a rather boisterous overtake, going on to overtake Hopkins by lap thirteen. Corser pitted in whilst Smrz and Fabrizio fought for eighth place. Unluckily for Hopkins, Biaggi soon managed to overtake him soon after Melandri and went on to fight for fourth place with his paddock rival. Melandri had caught up and overtaken Camier by lap fifteen, who seemed to be struggling and losing speed due to his tyres but still blocked Biaggi’s attempt for an overtake and stayed with Melandri for a while. Sadly, Camier’s tyres didn’t hold out and Biaggi managed to overtake on lap seventeen. So the chequered flag saw Carlos Checa doing the double followed by Laverty, Melandri, Biaggi, Camier, Guintoli, Hopkins, Haslam, Fabrizio and Badovini.

So, some mixed results and mixed reactions from this weekend’s racing, sadly we didn’t get to hear the British National anthem on the podium but there’s still four races to go, and we’ll be at the Nurburgring for the next round giving you all the news no matter what happens. As far a sthe championship is concerned, with a clear sixty two point lead it looks pretty certain that Carlos Checa will lift his first Superbike title this year. Ironic considering that it's also the first year that there hasn't been an official factory team...

Editor's note. We did get to hear the British National Anthem as Chaz Davies rode an impeccable race in World Supersport to take the win and make his title challenge even stronger. Sadly we were deprived of an all Brit podium as Sam Lowes crashed out on the first lap and Gino Rea crashed on the last after having fought hos way back up to fourth place from the eighth slot he ended up in after getting caught in Lowes' misfortune.


Chaz Davies scored another excellent win in Supersport to keep the locals happy...


Race One

1 Carlos Checa (Ducati)
2 Eugene Laverty (Yamaha)
3 Marco Melandri (Yamaha)
4 Leon Haslam (BMW)
5 John Hopkins (Suzuki)
6 Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati)
7 Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki)
8 Maxime Berger (Ducati)
9 Troy Corser (BMW)
10 Ayrton Badovini (BMW)

Race Two

1 Carlos Checa (Ducati)
2 Eugene Laverty (Yamaha)
3 Marco Melandri (Yamaha)
4 Max Biaggi (Aprilia)
5 Leon Camier (Aprilia)
6 Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati)
7 John Hopkins (Suzuki)
8 Leon Haslam (BMW)
9 Michel Fabrizio (Suzuki)
10 Ayrton Badovini (BMW)

Championship Standing after nine rounds:

1 Carlos Checa 343
2 Max Biaggi 281
3 Marco Melandri 272
4 Eugene Laverty 208
5 Leon Haslam 158
6 Leon Camier 146
7 Michel Fabrizio 141
8 Ayrton Badovini 118
9 Sylvain Guintoli 109
10 Noriuki Haga 99



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