Well that was a surprise . . .

SBK Aragon, Spain, 1st July 2012

Words: Laura Bradley, Pics: Simon Bradley

Leon Camier and the Fixi Crescent team are working so hard, but the results just don't seem to be coming at the moment...This track is one of the most beautiful of the European circuits, surrounded by hills and desert and with amazing views and some even better racing due to the sharp turns and fast straights. The weather for the weekend was mostly predicted to be hot, making tyre choices easy but draining the riders much faster and also risking the engines to overheat. However, the Sunday forecast was for rain and massively reduced temperatures, so there was the potential for some real confusion... This weekend also had turn three being named after Carlos Checa, an incredible honour for the Spaniard, we’re sure.

Qualifying’s first session had Melandri going fastest and Salom on the gravel with thirty-six minutes to go. Sykes got second fastest and Salom crashed out. Checa, however, was down in fifteenth place with Hopkins behind him in sixteenth. Biaggi then went fastest with a 1’58.973 with seven minutes to go, but then crashed at turn sixteen, rejoining. Melandri then went fastest again with two minutes to go, doing a time of 1’58.608. This left Melandri on provisional pole, with Biaggi, Sykes, Laverty, Haslam, Badovini, Fabrizio, Davies, Camier, Checa, Giuglano, Hopkins, Caneoa, Rea, Guintoli and Baz making up the first 16 and provisional superpole entry list. The second session started with Sykes dominating and Laverty in second with Biaggi third. Hopkins had to retire with a technical problem whilst Camier set a time for tenth place. Badovini managed to get sixth, and Smrz and Baz then did times for tenth and eleventh. Melandri set the fastest time of the session with just under two minutes to go, with Rea getting ninth and Giugliano eighth. Camier then set a time to get into sixth, with Checa getting third and Haslam fourth, however, Camier was pushed to seventh. This left the top sixteen at the end of the session as Melandri, Sykes, Checa, Haslam, Laverty, Biaggi, Camier, Badovini, Fabrizio, Giugliano, Rea, Guintoli, Davies, Smrz, Zanetti and Baz.

Tom Sykes appears to have taken over from Troy Corser as Mr Superpole. I guess he'll never be short of a watch...So the superpole entry list was Melandri, Sykes, Checa, Haslam, Laverty, Biaggi, Camier, Badovini, Fabrizio, Giugliano, Rea, Guintoli, Davies, Smrz, Zanetti and Baz. Superpole one had Haslam getting the fastest time at first, but Melandri took it from him with Rea slotting into third and Biaggi fourth. Laverty and Giugliano then went faster than Biaggi, with him eventually being pushed down to seventh. Sykes then went into second place, Giugliano ran off track during a lap but still managed to keep his time for sixth place. Zanetti crashed at turn nine with just under three minutes to go but re-joined unhurt. Biaggi took provisional pole for a while and Davies set a time for third place, with Smrz slotting into ninth and Fabrizio into tenth. Camier set a time to go into thirteenth from fourteenth, but still wasn’t in the top twelve for the second session. Chea then took the time for provisional pole, coming out on top at the end of the session and going through to superpole two with Biaggi, Melandri, Davies, Sykes, Guintoli, Haslam, Laverty, Rea, Badovini, Giugliano and Smrz. Fabrizio, Camier, Baz and Zanetti all lost out and took the fourth row on the grid.

Superpole two started with Biaggi setting the fastest time, but Melandri took it straight from him, setting the new best lap for the circuit. Haslam had third and Checa fourth, but Sykes pushed them both down a place by setting a fast enough time to qualify for third. Badovini then set a time to get into eighth place, with Davies going for fourth. At the end of the session this left Melandri on provisional pole with Biaggi, Laverty, Sykes, Davies, Checa, Rea and Haslam going through to superpole three with him. Guintoli, Badovini, Giugliano and Smrz made up the third row of the grid. So the decider started with superpole three, Davies hit the gravel and re-joined but had to pit in. Biaggi took the fastest lap time with over five minutes to go with Laverty in second and Haslam third. Sykes then got the fastest time and pushed them all down a place, once again securing himself a pole position. This left the front row of the grid as Sykes, Biaggi, Laverty and Haslam. The second row was Melandri, Rea, Checa and Davies.

Race day dawned distinctly cool. By no means cold, but way cooler than the previous few days, with a very stiff breeze. So stiff, in fact, that Chaz Davies saw two hundred and eight miles per hour down the back straight with a tailwind. Which made for some hasty revision of braking markers as well as some head scratching for the log suffering tyre technicians. The threatened rain stayed away though, in spite of some pretty threatening clouds.

The final turn of race 1 and Melandri makes one of his famous lunges down the inside. You'll have to read to find out what happened...Race One started with Sykes taking the lead from the first corner, Rea took Smrz out going into the first corner with Guintoli having to run wide due to the crash. Rea re-joined. Laverty started in second place with Biaggi third. Melandri started looking to overtake Biaggi, and Laverty overtook Sykes coming over the line and into the first corner of the second lap. We were told at the start of lap two that Smrz had been taken to the medical centre, he didn’t race in the second race but we have now been informed that he is OK.

Biaggi went on to overtake Sykes in the same place as Laverty did coming into lap three, Davies started looking to overtake Giugliano into sixth place, Checa also overtook with Badovini and Haslam following. Biaggi was lapping so quickly that he then set the new lap record and overtook Laverty by lap four. Melandri also overtook Sykes and Laverty into second place. Laverty started to chase Melandri back for second place, overtaking and keeping it whilst Checa started chasing Sykes. Melandri, however, was determined and soon overtook Laverty back into second. Salom retired from the race and entered the pits on lap six, whilst Biaggi started to pull a lead of 1.2 seconds on Melandri. Giugliano overtook Haslam into eighth place by lap seven, with Melandri now had a 1.9 second gap on Laverty and was catching Biaggi. Davies and Badovini had both caught up with Checa by this point, with Badovini overtaking Davies. By lap nine the gap between Melandri and Laverty had increased to 3.8 seconds, with the rest of the top seven being extremely close, Melandri had also now caught up with Biaggi. Haslam overtook Giugliano into eighth place on lap ten, with Fabrizio also working his way up into tenth place. Badovini overtook Checa into fifth place with Sykes overtaking Laverty into third, Checa had taken fifth back by the end of lap eleven. The gap between Melandri and Laverty kept increasing, being 6.7 seconds by lap twelve. On this lap Davies also managed to overtake Badovini into sixth place, and Mercado crashed at turn thirteen. Melandri went on to overtake Biaggi coming through the penultimate chicane. Badovini overtook Davies and Checa again to get back into fifth place, with Haslam also getting back into ninth through overtaking Giugliano again. Biaggi overtook Melandri back into first, barging him out of the way and making him have to steer out to avoid collision. Badovini and Checa then went on to overtake Laverty into fourth and fifth, with Melandri struggling in an effort to overtake Biaggi again but being blocked. Davies then went on to overtake Laverty. By lap fifteen Melandri managed t overtake Biaggi again coming into the start/finish straight. Biaggi overtook Melandri into the first corner of lap seventeen, but Melandri took first back into the next corner. The gap between then and third was now 8.5 seconds. Haslam overtook Fabrizio into eighth place on lap eighteen, with Camier also working his way slowly up into twelfth place. On the penultimate lap Biaggi went to overtake going into the first corner, getting incredibly close but not succeeding. However, Biaggi took first place going around the outside of the first corner in the final lap. Sykes and Badovini crashed out at turn four, leaving third and fourth place and giving Checa a podium. Biaggi managed to hold Melandri off and won the race. This left the top ten as Biaggi, Melandri, Checa, Davies, Laverty, Fabrizio, Haslam, Giugliano, Camier and Berger.

An unusual situation. Biaggi bringing uo the rear of this group on the last lap...Race two was far warmer, though the wind hadn't dropped at all. had Biaggi taking the lead from the first corner with Sykes slotting into second and Laverty third. Laverty overtook Sykes and Biaggi into first place, with Melandri and Haslam overtaking Sykes into third and fourth. Checa started off in ninth behind Davies and Rea, with Davies overtaking Rea into seventh place by lap three. Biaggi overtook Laverty into first place by lap four, but Laverty took him back on the next corner when he ran wide. On lap five Hopkins had to retire with a technical problem on turn sixteen, Biaggi went to overtake Laverty again, leaving the Irishman to battle through the final chicane to stay as close behind as possible. Melandri then overtook Laverty on lap six, with Checa getting ahead of Rea into eighth place. Davies had gone on to overtake Giugliano and Sykes into fifth place by the end of this lap. Davies and Sykes then overtook Haslam, with Checa in seventh ahead of Giugliano by lap eight. Laverty overtook Melandri back into second on this lap, with Checa going to overtake Haslam but getting cut off. Haslam overtook Sykes but was too hard on the throttle, running wide and getting back onto the track just in time to end up where he was. He overtook Sykes again but Sykes took his place straight back, leaving Checa then overtake Haslam on lap nine. Davies had now started to pull a gap from the rest of the pack, chasing hard after the top three, who were losing time as Melandri and Laverty were still battling. Laverty then overtook Biaggi into first place in lap ten, with Baz retiring and entering the pits in lap eleven. Checa went on to overtake Sykes, but ran wide to allow Sykes back through and almost ended up behind Haslam too, but blocked him off. Melandri then overtook Biaggi into second place on lap twelve, with Rea overtaking Giugliano into eight place and going on to follow Haslam and overtake Checa.

Checa overtook Rea on lap fourteen, but by the end of the lap Rea was back in front of him, and Melandri also overtook Laverty coming into lap fifteen. Badovini overtook Giugliano into ninth on lap fifteen, whilst Biaggi started to chase Laverty for second, getting him as they went into the first corner of lap sixteen. Biaggi went on to try and overtake Melandri and they both ran wide, leaving Laverty to get back into first and Davies managing to overtake the both of them into second place and starting to challenge Laverty first the top step on the podium. The race ended for Camier on lap eighteen as he had to retire and enter the pits. Melandri went to overtake Davies on this lap, but ran too hard on the throttle and went wide. Melandri managed to get head and back into second on lap nineteen, though, with Davies trying to get it back but being blocked off. Melandri then went on to overtake Laverty on the final lap, with Laverty going to take it back but being blocked off. Biaggi overtook Davies but Davies took third place, Biaggi went to overtake again but was blocked off. They all crossed the line incredibly close, with there being 0.0 seconds between Melandri and Laverty and then 0.0 seconds between Davies and Biaggi, but Melandri won the race with Laverty in second and Davies getting his first World Superbikes podium in third. Biaggi, Rea, Haslam, Checa, Sykes, Badovini and Giugliano made up the rest of the top ten.

So that was it, another weekend of excitement. The next round is on the 22nd of July in Brno, we’ll see you there. We’d also like to commend Sam Lowes on his second, and equally well deserved, World Supersport win of the season. Oh, and congratulations and good luck to Jonathan Rea and Tatia, who are getting married next Saturday.

Chaz Davies definitely gets man of the match from us. A fantastic ride froma  smashing bloke...Race One

1 Max Biaggi (Aprilia)
2 Marco Melandri (BMW)
3 Carlos Checa (Ducati)
4 Chaz Davies (Aprilia)
5 Eugene Laverty (Aprilia)
6 Michel Fabrizio (BMW)
7 Leon Haslam (BMW)
8 Davide Giugliano (Ducati)
9 Leon Camier (Suzuki)
10 Maxime Berger (Ducati)

Race Two

1 Marco Melandri (BMW)
2 Eugene Laverty (Aprilia)
3 Chaz Davies (Aprilia)
4 Max Biaggi (Aprilia)
5 Jonathan Rea (Honda)
6 Leon Haslam (BMW)
7 Carlos Checa (Ducati)
8 Tom Sykes (Kawasaki)
9 Ayrton Badovini (BMW)
10 Davide Giugliano (Ducati)

Championship Standing after eight rounds:

1 Max Biaggi 248.5
2 Marco Melandri 200.5
3 Jonathan Rea 183
4 Carlos Checa 175.5
5 Tom Sykes 172.5
6 Leon Haslam 142
7 Eugene Laverty 126
8 Sylvain Guintoli 110
9 Davide Giugliano 94
10 Chaz Davies 78



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