Monday, June 28

MAXIMUM MAX!

By MICHAEL ESDAILE
WITH 10 races remaining in the 2010 HANNspree Superbike World Championship, Aprilia’s Max Biaggi appeared to have one hand already on the trophy after round eight in the summer heat of Misano on Sunday.

Biaggi went into the Misano round leading Alstare Suzuki’s Leon Haslam by 15 points after taking a double win at the US round at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah on May 31. By the end of the weekend he had stretched that to 37 points with another maximum 50 point haul from winning both races on Italy’s Adriatic Coast.

In the first race (see earlier report), Haslam had clutch and electronic problems with his GSX-R1000, struggling home in eighth place but in race two, the Englishman turned on a mighty performance to emerge from the chasing ruck to take his eleventh podium of the season and keep his and Suzuki’s Superbike World Championship hopes alive. With some urgently required engine development from Suzuki, Haslam could still be in the hunt for the world crown. The young Brit has proven very consistent all season, and the only blemish on his 2010 record came when he crashed out of the second race in the USA. That considered, it is amazing Biaggi is ‘only’ 37 points ahead in the title chase, as he has won half the races – eight of 16 – run so far this year.

The heat was on, quite literally, in the second race at Misano, with the track temperature another 7°C hotter at 47°C than it was for the first 24 lap, 101.424 km race.
Biaggi jetted away to another holeshot and again BMW’s Troy Corser dived inside to take the lead, this time at turn three. The pair touched, Biaggi bobbled wide and in a flash Carlos Checa was through on the Althea Ducati 1198R with Xerox Ducati’s Michel Fabrizio a close fourth, with Haslam fighting his way forward in fifth as they ended the first lap.

CORSER TRIES HARD
Corser kept the in-line four cylinder BMW S1000RR out front for the first six laps, working hard to score the German brand’s first Superbike World Championship win. Behind him, Checa was keen to grab his second podium of the weekend, preferably with the win, while Fabrizio desperately wanted to score a much needed win on the factory Ducati. But it turned out Biaggi was biding his time, lowering Checa’s lap record set in the first race on just the third lap as he closed on Fabrizio who in turned seemed glued to the back wheel of Checa’s privateer Ducati.
On the fourth lap, Fabrizio got by Checa, and before they had done another two kilometres, Biaggi had also nipped past Checa. A little further back, fourth placed Haslam was being monstered by Cal Crutchlow, who had lowered Biaggi’s lap record as he made his way forward on the Sterilgarda Yamaha.

In another lap, Checa had been bundled back to sixth while up front, Fabrizio was looking for a way past Corser’s BMW. He found it on the seventh lap, with Biaggi getting ahead of the BMW as well, then setting his sights on the factory Ducati man in the lead. The two Italians then engaged in a corner-to-corner duel which Biaggi won, took the lead and proceeded to edge away as Fabrizio came into range for Haslam to mount an attack as the race reached the halfway point.
By then Biaggi had stretched to a 2.5 second lead while Haslam resorted to a late braking move to get by the Xerox Ducati, which was just as fast on the Misano straights as the Alstare Suzuki.
By now Corser’s hopes of giving BMW a win had been dashed, and it was all he could do to even keep a podium position on his radar. He had elected to use the same rear Pirelli as he had in race one, the so-called C-compound, no doubt believing it would work better in the hotter conditions of race two. In fact, it proved not as good as in race one.

SOFTER IS BETTER
Biaggi, on the other hand, went with the new softer A-compound he had used in the first race, and this proved to be a winner. Haslam too went with the A-compound for race two.
By the time Haslam made it into second, Biaggi was gone – 3.8 seconds out in front and still clicking off 1m 36 lap times. Haslam tried all he knew, but made no impression on the fleeing Biaggi, who stretched his lead lap by lap until at one point he was more than eight seconds ahead, a huge lead in Superbike racing.

By holding onto second place, Haslam limited the damage in his championship chase but he had the Sterilgarda Yamaha of Cal Crutchlow on his tail, until Fabrizio removed the pressure by getting the factory Ducati ahead of the Yamaha once more.

With the chequered flag in sight, Biaggi eased off to wave to the crowd but Corser made a mistake and ran off the track, rejoining to finish tenth. He was running fifth at the time.
While Biaggi celebrated his 39th birthday by throwing his gloves, then his Suomy helmet to his fans in the grand stand, the Sterilgarda Yamaha team was left winless once again. Incredibly, the team that dominated the second half of the 2009 season and ended up winning the championship has yet to score a race win this year. Texan Ben Spies is certainly missed, and the two Brits – Crutchlow and Toseland – are clearly not up to the job, although Crutchlow came away with the lap record, 1m 36.546s.
Signaling that as far as he is concerned the championship is far from over, Haslam vowed to come back fighting at Brno in the Czech Republic on July 11.
“After the issues we’ve had this weekend (to do with the clutch and electronics) I thought that eigth in race one was probably the best we’d get this weekend,” Haslam admitted. “But, all credit to the team because they went back to a setting that we used in USA and South Africa. The bike was much better in the second race.
"Race two felt like normal and the bike felt a million times better than race one, but I’ve got so many blisters on my hands because I was trying so hard.
“I took a lap or two too long to pass Troy (Corser) and Michel (Fabrizio) in the second race and by then Max was too far ahead to catch. Max is riding well and the Aprilia is currently the package to beat but I’m confident that, as long as we all work hard, we can beat him. We do all our own development work and it’s because of all the hard work, that we are competitive.
“If Suzuki Japan wanted to give us some more help, it would be much appreciated and it would be a great benefit to us all. In the meantime, I’m going to keeping fighting for more and podiums. That was my aim before the season began, and it’s still the same now.”