Blink and it's changed . . . again

SBK portimao, portugal 23rd September 2012

Words: Laura Bradley, Pics: Becci Stubbs

Marco Melandri's excellent start to the weekend failed to provide results...Portimao is a track which we were unsure that we would even get to this year, the company which owns the circuit having come into money trouble and a lot of work having to be done on the track itself. It is always an emotional one for us to visit, as the Craig Jones tribute brings back memories of what we lost. However, the track is amazing and always brings us brilliant racing and, usually, brilliant weather to go with it.

The first qualifying session went without a hitch, with Melandri finishing on top in the blazing sunshine with Laverty Sykes and Rea finishing off the provisional front row. Suzuki continued to show how they can compete with Camier qualifying in fifth behind Haslam and Biaggi and Checa followed in seventh and eighth. Fabrizio, Davies, Badovini, Guintoli, Baz, Salom, Giugliano and Zanetti finished the top sixteen for the first session. The second session was still sunny with the weatherman promising more of the same all weekend. Again we had Melandri dominating throughout with Haslam, Baz and Laverty finishing the top four with twelve minutes to go. Biaggi, however, took the opportunity to take the top spot with two minutes to go, causing Melandri to come straight out again. Sykes also managed to beat Melandri’s time, leaving the final sixteen and the superpole entry list as Biaggi, Sykes, Melandri, Haslam, Laverty, Baz, Rea, Camier, Giugliano, Checa, Fabrizio, Guintoli, Davies, Salom, Badovini and McCormick. Badovini, Melandri and Baiocco all had turns on the gravel in the free practice session before superpole, with Hopkins crashing at turn three and re-joining the session. Other than that, everything ran smoothly.

Tom Sykes is getting a enormous collection of Tissot Superpole watches...Superpole One started off with Laverty taking the fastest time with Biaggi, Haslam and Melandri finishing off the top four, Sykes, however, took the fastest time with five minutes to go, doing a lap in 1’42.635. Guintoli managed to place in sixth place but was then pushed down to seventh when Davies set the fastest lap with a 1’42.635. Salom then had a technical problem with less than a minute to go, ending his chances in sixteenth place. This left the end results as Davies, Sykes, Laverty, Biaggi, Haslam, Melandri, Guintoli, Checa, Rea, Giugliano, Camier and Baz all going through to the second Superpole session and McCormick, Badovini, Fabrizio and Salom all being knocked out, with a very unhappy Team Pedercini bike being wheeled back into the pit lane. Superpole Two got under way and Melandri started off with the fastest time with Biaggi in second and Haslam third. Rea then beat Haslam’s time, pushing Giugliano down to sixth. Camier, however, was still to pit out with 7.45 minutes to go. Laverty beat Melandri’s time and then Checa went fastest with a time of 1’41.691. Sykes was not happy with that, so set a new best lap of 1’41.691 and went into the top spot. Camier set a time to make it into seventh with three minutes to go, but then Haslam set a time for seventh, pushing Camier to eighth. Davies then got into fifth, pushing Camier out of the top eight. Sykes finished fastest with Checa, Laverty, Melandri, Davies, Biaggi, Rea and Haslam joining him in the third superpole. Camier, Giugliano, Guintoli and Baz all didn’t make the final cut. Superpole Three and Sykes started with the fastest time and kept it that way, Checa took second, Laverty third and Melandri fourth. Biaggi set a time for fifth with five minutes to go and the places stayed the same for the rest of the session. So, Sykes took pole position with Checa, Laverty and Melandri finishing off the front row. Biaggi, Haslam, Rea and Davies made the second row.

A trifle damp, and more than a trifle unpredictable...Race day showed that weathermen can be as unreliable as a politician's promise, no better demonstrated by the fact that Race One was declared wet and started eventfully as Melandri took the lead from the first corner with Checa overtaking him and Laverty also doing so. Rea then also overtook Melandri as Laverty went on to overtake Checa, with Rea attempting to follow suit but getting cut off. Rea, however, was not giving up and overtook Checa coming through the next corner. Biaggi overtook Melandri, and whilst trying to take fourth place back Melandri crashed, knocking Davies off with Giugliano also getting caught up. Giugliano badly bruised his left ankle and right hand, and Davies ended up caught in the middle of the track having to dodge out of the way of the other riders. (As he later said on twitter, he’d love to meet Bruce Forsyth if anyone wants to send his entry tape in!) So by lap two the standings were Laverty, Rea, Checa, Biaggi, Sykes, Camier and Guintoli. Haslam’s tyre choice of an intermediate rear tyre meant that by lap three he was in twentieth and twenty-five seconds off pace, meanwhile Biaggi overtook Checa into third place. Biaggi then overtook Rea coming into the first corner of lap four. By lap five Haslam was almost a minute away from nineteenth place. Guintoli and McCormick both overtook Camier into sixth and seventh by lap six as Baz dropped down to twelfth place, all of the top four were very close together and Guintoli and McCormick then went on to overtake Sykes whilst Biaggi and Rea both overtook Laverty. On lap seven on turn thirteen Brignola crashed and spilt oil everywhere, resulting in the race being red flagged. The restart was also declared wet, and Biaggi took the lead from the first corner with Rea in second and Laverty third. Sykes overtook Laverty and Rea into second place and Haslam was penalised for a jump start. Checa started getting hot on Rea’s tail after overtaking Laverty and being followed by McCormick and Guintoli. Sykes overtook Biaggi going over the line into lap four, with Guintoli having overtaken Checa into fourth. Haslam pitted in, and McCormick started to battle with Rea whilst Guintoli sat comfortably in third. McCormick then overtook Rea into fourth and went to attempt and overtake Checa but was cut off. Salom also pitted in on lap five. On lap six Biaggi ran wide and off track, Guintoli managed to get in front of him. Sykes now had a comfortable lead, leaving Biaggi, Checa and McCormick all to battle for third. By lap eight Sykes has a two point two second lead, Checa overtook Biaggi and Haslam had pitted back out and was one lap behind. Sykes ‘ lead carried on increasing whilst McCormick got closer and close to Biaggi, Checa also starting to catch up with Guintoli. On lap ten McCormick overtook Biaggi, with Checa doing the fastest laps consistently. Checa overtook Guintoli into second on lap eleven. Sykes’ lead then started to decrease as Checa started to catch up to him, with Guintoli trying to catch Checa. Biaggi overtook McCormick into fourth again. Guintoli lost his chase on Checa by lap thirteen, with Checa getting closer and closer to Sykes in first place. Haslam then took the fastest lap of the race on lap sixteen with a time of 1’56.887 but was still in nineteenth place. So the chequered flag went out and Sykes finished the race in first with Checa in second and Guintoli third. Biaggi, McCormick, Rea, Baz, Aoyama, Badovini and Fabrizio completing the top ten.

Brillaint rides by both Guintoli and Camier, marred only by a rare mechanical failure on the Suzuki that kept Camier off the podium...Race Two was dry with Laverty taking the lead from the first corner with Sykes in second and Biaggi third. Checa took fourth place but Davies and Rea got in front of him. Melandri, having been taken to hospital for a scan on his kidneys after his crash in race one, did not start this race. Davies then overtook Biaggi. Davies went on to overtake Sykes into second place as Camier worked from eleventh to eighth with McCormick behind him in ninth. On lap three Sykes’ bike started to smoke and he was black flagged due to a technical problem, whilst Camier overtook Baz. Haslam pitted in on lap four. Davies crashed out from second place on turn eleven of lap five, walking away unhurt. Camier was now fifth and challenging Guintoli for fourth. Rea overtook Biaggi going over the line into lap eight and Camier overtook Guintoli on this lap. Giugliano pitted in due to the pain of his bruises, and Baiocco followed suit two laps later, leaving seventeen riders racing. Badovini and Checa both overtook Baz on lap eleven, with Checa overtaking Badovini into sixth place. Aoyama pitted in on lap fourteen. Biaggi was so close to Camier on lap sixteen, and by lap nineteen Biaggi ran slightly wide, Camier went to fill the gap but they collided tyres, leaving Biaggi still ahead and both of them, thankfully, still on the bike. Camier, however, managed to overtake Biaggi on lap twenty-one, but Biaggi overtook him back, they swap again and then again but Camier then missed a gear, ran wide and lost his chase on his former team mate. Guintoli also managed to overtake Camier before the Englishman's already misbehaving gearbox locked up on the last lap, ending his podium hopes. Laverty won the race with Rea second and Biaggi third. Guintoli, Checa, Badovini, Baz, Fabrizio, McCormick and Lanzi finished the top ten.

It's a short two week wait until the final round of the season at Magny Cours. Mathematically, any of the tp three could still lift the title, and with the way that both Melandri and Biaggi have vied with each other to throw away commanding leads at any opportunity Tom Sykes may well be our best hope for a title for a while...

A good day for Aprilia...but why does Biaggi aways look so cross?Race One

1 Tom Sykes (Kawasaki)
2 Carlos Checa (Ducati)
3 Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati)
4 Max Biaggi (Aprilia)
5 Brett McCormick (Ducati)
6 Jonathan Rea (Honda)
7 Loris Baz (Kawasaki)
8 Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda)
9 Ayrton Badovini (BMW)
10 Michel Fabrizio (BMW)

Race Two

1 Eugene Laverty (Aprilia)
2 Jonathan Rea (Honda)
3 Max Biaggi (Aprilia)
4 Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati)
5 Carlos Checa (Ducati)
6 Ayrton Badovini (BMW)
7 Loris Baz (Kawasaki)
8 Michel Fabrizio (BMW)
9 Brett McCormick (Ducati)
10 Lorenzo Lanzi (Ducati)

Championship Standing after thirteen rounds:

1 Max Biaggi 347
2 Tom Sykes 316.5
3 Marco Melandri 308.5
4 Carlos Checa 278.5
5 Jonathan Rea 255.5
6 Eugene Laverty 241.5
7 Leon Haslam 189
8 Sylvain Guintoli 172.5
9 Chaz Davies 156.5
10 Michel Fabrizio 133.5



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