Sunday, February 26

A FIRST FOR MAX!

By MICHAEL ESDAILE
Incredible as it may seem, in ten Superbike World Championship starts at Australia’s Phillip Island circuit, Massimiliano Biaggi had never won a race.

That changed on Sunday when the former ‘Roman Emperor’ turned ‘Corsair’ (pirate) convincingly won the first race in the 2012 Superbike World Championship.

Biaggi’s task was made much easier when defending champion Carlos Checa, the man everyone tipped as favourite for the win, high-sided from his Althea Ducati toward the end of the sixth lap.

Checa had moved from fourth to second on the first lap then took the lead from pole-sitter Tom Sykes (Kawasaki ZX-10R) on the third lap. Biaggi then nipped past Sykes and took up the chase and was right behind the booming V-twin when it snapped sideways on the entry to Gardner Straight, tossing Checa over the top.

He picked himself out of the gravel and walked away while marshals removed his bike from trackside and transported it back to the paddock.

Biaggi then had a three and a half second gap over the chasing pack, initially led by Sykes, then Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli (Team Effenbert Liberty Racing Ducati 1098R), before Italian Marco Melandri (BMW S10000RR took the runner-up spot away with five laps to go.

Out front Biaggi steadily padded his lead until he had an almost eight second buffer, then maintained the gap through the mid-part of the race before easing off slightly toward the end.

Behind podium placemen Melandri and Guintoli, Sykes brought the ZX-10R home fourth ahead of the second Team Effenbert Liberty Racing Ducati of Jakub Smrz, while Michel Fabrizio (BMW Motorrad Italia Gold Bet S10000RR) got the better of Honda World Superbike Team man Jonathan Rea for sixth after a tense battle over the second half of the race.

Rea’s Honda team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama turned in a heady ride, moving steadily up through the field to finish four seconds behind Rea after completing the opening lap in 16th place.

Crescent Suzuki’s Leon Camier was a steady ninth in a battle with Fabrizio but ran off at Turn 10 (MG Corner) after a bump with Checa’s young Althea Ducati team-mate Davide Giugliano.

From there Camier struggled and eventually finished his Suzuki debut out of the points in 17th place while Giugliano went on to annex ninth, 10 seconds ahead of Team Pedercini Kawasaki man Brian Staring.

Leon Haslam, riding with a screw in his right ankle as a result of a similar high-side to Checa’s in Turn 12 in testing the weekend before, brought his BMW S1000RR home in 12th place for four points.

While Biaggi rode a faultless race on the V4 factory Aprilia, new team-mate Eugene Laverty retired with three laps to go. The Irishman had sustained an injury to his right hand in testing, then crashed in the first qualifying session, hurting it again. He also ran off the track in the Saturday afternoon practice session. In the race he had worked his way from 11th to tenth, and then eighth, before running off the track in Turn 6 (Siberia). When he got the factory Aprilia out of the gravel, he was 20th. He rode four more laps, then pulled in.

Full results:http://sbk.perugiatiming.com/pdf_frame.asp?p_Anno=2012&p_Round=ROUND&p_Manifestazione=1&p_Gara=01