Yamaha factory rider Eugene Laverty earned his first two career WSBK victories in just his seventh and eighth career races in the class. Meanwhile, Aprilia Alitalia’s Max Biaggi continues to his erratic season, with a ride-through penalty while in the lead costing him a Race Two victory.
Race One Highlights
Biaggi’s weekend started off on a positive note with a Superpole win, putting a racer other than Althea Ducati’s Carlos Checa on the pole for the first time this season. Race One started with Biaggi battling with Laverty and his Yamaha teammate Marco Melandri while the BMW Motorrad duo of Leon Haslam and Troy Corser also running in the lead group.
Laverty was in front for most of the race, losing the lead to Biaggi very briefly on lap six before recapturing the advantage. Laverty went on to finish 1.575 seconds ahead of Biaggi for his first career WSBK win on the Yamaha team’s home track.
“That was a great race, definitely not one of the easiest but I enjoyed it nonetheless,” says Laverty. “I just kept pushing to the top and my first win couldn’t have come at a better place, the Yamaha team is based at Lesmo and everyone’s here to celebrate!”
Haslam edged Melandri and finished another 1.5 seconds behind Biaggi for the final podium position, his second since joining the BMW factory team.
“To be honest, in race one I didn’t get the best of starts,” says Haslam. “I also made a few mistakes in the early laps, which meant I had some work to do to catch the leading bunch. Still I felt like I had the pace to run with the leading guys. Max and I held each other up slightly, which saw Eugene get away at the front, but on the whole I was happy with the race and the bike.”
Race Two Highlights
The second race began with a crash on the first chicane that occurred when Checa made contact with Jonathan Rea, sending the Castrol Honda rider sliding with Haslam and Effenbert-Liberty Ducati’s Jakob Smrz getting caught in the mess.
The lead group of Biaggi, Melandri, Aprilia’s Leon Camier and BMW’s Troy Corser were out of the chicane when the crash occurred and quickly established some distance from the pack. Over the first few laps, it was the Aprilia duo of Biaggi and Camier leading the way until a mistake braking into turn 6 of lap eight sent Camier sliding off the track and out of the race.
Further disaster struck Aprilia on the first chicane on lap 11. The difficult first chicane had caused problems in the past, most notably on the first lap, so race organizers created a straight-line run-off area to make that section safer. Riders were allowed to go straight up to three times in a race if they could not brake enough to make it through the chicane, provided they re-enter the race from inside a narrow lane marked by two white lines. The rule was explained to riders in a briefing but, according to Paolo Ciabatti, WSBK general manager, Biaggi had missed the briefing. That proved costly as Biaggi was forced to take the straight route on lap 11 but failed to re-enter the track from within the painted laneway.
Biaggi was leading the race by over five seconds and the mistake gave him an advantage of just a couple tenths of a second, but Biaggi was assessed a ride-through penalty that dropped him from the lead to 12th place. Biaggi was able to make up some a few positions but had to settle for an eighth-place finish.
“At the moment I am feeling only great disappointment, for me and for the entire team. We prepared to the best of our ability and I think we showed that on the track,” says Biaggi. “I have to accept this severe decision, blaming myself for not having been shrewd enough not to have touched that line. Now we have to regroup and focus on the next races. There is still a long season ahead.”
Biaggi’s costly mistake handed the race to the Yamaha duo of Melandri and Laverty. The two teammates battled for the lead over the final five laps until Melandri ran wide on the final lap, allowing Laverty to squeeze past to take the win.
“In the last corner I struggled with the gears and the rear tire locked causing me to go slightly wide,” says Melandri. “I’m really pleased to be on the podium and I really enjoyed riding the track. We have gained some important points but I’d like to get more next time!”
Alstare Suzuki’s Michel Fabrizio beat PATA Aprilia’s Noriyuki Haga to the line to claim the final podium position. The weekend however belonged to Laverty who benefited from costly mistakes from Biaggi and Melandri to take the double.
“I can’t believe I got a double victory today. I came here aiming for a podium and now I’m coming away with two incredible race wins. It’s fantastic,” says Laverty.
Checa continues to lead the championship race with 145 points. Melandri squeezes past Biaggi to move into second with 118 points to Biaggi’s 117. Despite dropping to third place, Biaggi managed to gain ground on Checa, cutting his deficit from 43 points to just 28 points.
The series now moves across the Atlantic to Salt Lake City, Utah, for the May 30 Miller Motorsports Park round.