Former 250cc Grand Prix World Champion Marco Melandri posted his first WSBK win in Race One while defending WSBK Champion Max Biaggi was disqualified from Race Two after missing a ride-through penalty.
The two Italian riders shared some additional drama after the Superpole qualifying. Biaggi blocked Melandri during the second Superpole session, slowing him down enough he missed the third Superpole session. Melandri, who has a history of conflict with Biaggi dating back to a MotoGP race in 2005, responded by returning the favor and blocking Biaggi.
Race direction called in both riders and issued them warnings. Biaggi, who was also accused of blocking Noriyuki Haga during the Superpole 3, was hit with a 3,000 euro (US$4,228) fine.
Race One Highlights
The pre-race theatrics set the stage for a dramatic first race. BMW’s Leon Haslam got off to a fast start, moving into the lead from his second place start on his S1000RR. The British racer led the opening six laps on his home circuit before losing the lead to Effenbert-Liberty Ducati’s Jakob Smrz on lap seven.
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Meanwhile, Melandri overcame his third-row start and began moving his way through the ranks, eventually reaching second place by lap 17 and passing Smrz on lap 22 to take over the lead. Melandri would hold Smrz off to win by 2.455 seconds.
“It has been an awesome race for me, very tough and at the start many guys were very aggressive. I kept my rhythm and when I got on my own I caught (Leon) Camier and some others then it took some time to get to Haslam,” says Melandri. “After that it was only a few laps to go and Kuba (Smrz) was pretty far ahead. I just kept the best pace I could and in the end Smrz’s pace was gone and I passed him. We missed a little bit of top speed but the package was very balanced, we won and I had a lot of fun.”
Althea Ducati’s Carlos Checa, a double winner at the season opener in Australia, edged Haslam on the final lap to take the final podium position.
The race also featured a scary incident on the lap five when Supersonic Ducati rider Maxime Berger’s rear wheel fell off his 1198. The hub snapped off of the spokes, sending the rear wheel rolling in one direction and Berger spinning around in another direction. Fortunately for Berger, the incident occurred at a slow corner and BMW Italy’s Ayrton Badovini’s firm braking around the fallen rider prevented any serious injuries.
Race Two Highlights
Race Two began with Haslam taking another early lead but this time, it only lasted two laps before Checa took control and cruise to an easy victory. Haslam faded further on lap seven as Melandri and Alitalia Aprilia’s Leon Camier began to jostle for second place. The two riders traded places through the race with Melandri crossing the finish line a second and a half ahead of Camier.
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Meanwhile, race officials determined Biaggi had moved early at the start and called for a ride-through penalty. Biaggi, later saying he did not see the signs calling for the penalty.
“I realized that I had moved on the grid,” says Biaggi, who seventh in Race One, “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.”
With three wins in the opening four races, Checa is off to a strong start to the 2011 season, leading Melandri 91-72 at the top of the standings. Thanks to Checa’s win and Smrz’ second-place finish in Race One, Ducati holds a 95-74 advantage over Yamaha in the manufacturers’ standings despite the withdrawal of its factory team from the series.
Despite missing out on the podium with a pair of fourth-place finishes in both Donington Park races, Haslam sits third at 53 points, ahead of Biaggi at 49 and Smrz at 42.
The 2011 WSBK season continues April 17 at the TT Circuit Assen in the Netherlands.