If the opening round of the 2012 World Superbike Championship taught us anything, it's that this looks to be a two-horse race. Assuming no major wrenches are thrown in the works. Aprilia's Max Biaggi and Althea Ducati's Carlos Checa had the pace of everyone else in the field covered. Handily. And each of the early championship-protagonists cruised to victory without having to worry about the other after a couple of off-track excursions.
Saturday’s World Superbike Superpole and World Supersport final qualifying sessions from Philip Island were cancelled after a serious accident in the Australian Supersport race resulted in the death of Australian rider Oscar McIntyre. The 17-year-old collided with fellow racers Luke Burgess and Michael Lockhart on the second lap of the Australian support race and died despite receiving immediate medical treatment at the scene. Because of the seriousness of the accident, the event organizers decided to cancel Superpole.
Press releases from the World Superbike teams after the private test at Phillip Island:
With the 2012 World Superbike season just over two weeks away, preparations are ramping up for the return of racing. As part of those preparations, BMW issued a press release interview with their new Head of Race Operations, Andrea Dosoli. Dosoli came to BMW from Yamaha, along with Marco Melandri, who he had previously worked with at the Hayate team formed when Kawasaki officially pulled out of MotoGP in 2009. In the interview, Dosoli covers a lot of ground, including his impression of BMW's World Superbike effort, his role within the team, his expectations of the BMW S1000RR machine and his hopes for riders Marco Melandri and Leon Haslam.
Below is the text of the interview, issued by BMW:
Interview with Andrea Dosoli: “BMW Motorrad Motorsport has a lot of potential in many areas.”
The BMW press office issued the following press release interview with Marco Melandri. In the interview, Melandri talks about being pleasantly surprised by the BMW, working with new teammate Leon Haslam, and his impressions of the 2012 season. Here's the press release:
BMW Motorrad factory rider Marco Melandri: "I am very confident about the bike."
The BMW World Superbike squad spent two days testing at Valencia, where they worked mainly on electronics strategies and the latest version of the BMW S1000RR engine. Below is the press release issued after the test:
Despite the loss of the factory Yamaha team, the World Superbike series is still in relatively good health, considering the financial crisis. Though the days of 30+ rider grids are gone, grid size has stabilized at around the 22 rider mark, 1 up from last year, while there are still 6 manufacturers present, Aprilia, BMW, Ducati and Kawasaki in an official capacity, Honda unofficially via Ten Kate, and Suzuki absent, with Crescent working with Yoshimura on their own bikes.
The field has seen some changes, though most of the title favorites are staying with the teams they were with in 2011. Carlos Checa remains with Althea Ducati, though the effort expands to include 2011 Superstock champ Davide Giugliano, while Max Biaggi is in the second year of his 2-year contract with Aprilia, and Johnny Rea is staying with the Ten Kate Honda squad. Championship runner up Marco Melandri has been forced to move, joining Leon Haslam at BMW, while his erstwhile teammate Eugene Laverty has been paired with Biaggi in the factory Aprilia squad. The factory Kawasaki rider contingent is cut from 3 to 2, Chris Vermeulen losing his slot, while Tom Sykes remains alongside Joan Lascorz.
Provisional rider entry list for the 2012 World Superbike series:
Press releases from the BMW World Superbike team and the Marc VDS Racing MotoGP team, in which Marc VDS rave about the Kalex, and BMW emphasize that it is their own electronics they have been working on:
The sun is shining and the bikes are out on track at Jerez for three days of testing. The test will see a wide variety of bikes take to the Andalucian asphalt, including the BQR MotoGP team with their FTR-built, Kawasaki-powered CRT bike, Colin Edwards getting his first outing on the BMW Suter CRT bike, a bevy of Moto2 teams including Marc VDS Racing testing the Kalex further, Tech 3 riders Xavier Simeon and Bradley Smith, the Pons and Aspar teams, Maverick Viñales testing the FTR Moto3 bike for the first time, the factory BMW World Superbike squad of Marco Melandri and Leon Haslam, and the Ducati MotoGP test team, with test rider Franco Battaini and the specially drafted in Carlos Checa to help test the Ducati Desmosedici.
For the Moto2 riders, this is mainly a welcome continuation of the test at Valencia. The teams lost two days of testing to the weather at Valencia, leaving them with a lot still to do. Scott Redding was an early crasher on Wednesday morning, taking a tumble at Turn 7, from which he walked away unscathed. The crash was caught on video by the onboard camera installed by the Marc VDS Racing team on Redding's Kalex.
It has been clear for some time that 2012 would bring a major shake up in World Superbikes. With Yamaha announcing their withdrawal from the series and Althea looking doubtful of continuing, all the way up until Sunday afternoon at Portimao, it has been very difficult to sketch the outlines of a rider line up for next season. But after the hectic round of negoiating at the final round of the 2011 season in Portimao, at least part of the equation has become clear, and a relatively healthy-looking WSBK grid is starting to take shape.
It took some last-minute haggling - and the direct intervention of Ducati Corse CEO Claudio Domenicali - to get the situation straight, but on Sunday afternoon, between race 1 and race 2, the future of the Althea Ducati squad was assured. The situation was helped by the threat of losing the #1 plate of newly-crowned World Champion Carlos Checa to BMW, where he had been offered a seat in the BMW Italia team wth factory support, but Checa and Althea team boss Genesio Bevilacqua wanted to extend the partnership which has proven so successful this year. The Althea team will be expanded to two riders, with Superstock 1000 champion Davide Giugliano slotting alongside Checa.
2011 Phillip Island MotoGP Friday Round Up - On Bumps, Speed And The Lack Of It, And WSBK Silly Season
Phillip Island is the best circuit in the world, according to just about everyone in the MotoGP paddock. At least, that's what they thought yesterday, before they actually rode the circuit, and found out that the recent visits by the Australian GT series and the V8 Supercars have torn the track up and left bumps everywhere.
The verdict was unanimous, but as ever, Casey Stoner phrased it the best. "This year, the track's terrible," he told reporters. "It's always been a little bit bumpy into Turn 1, but this year, they're a lot more aggressive than they were in the past, and I'm not too happy with the condition of the track. I don't know what they've been racing around here, but it's made the track a lot worse." So bad was the surface that Jorge Lorenzo said he and the other riders would bring the subject up in the Safety Commission on Friday night, and ask for the track to be repaved.
After Yamaha announced that they would cease factory support for their World Superbike team, the team's two riders, Marco Melandri and Eugene Laverty, became two of the hottest properties on the World Superbike rider market. Interest was especially keen for Melandri, the former MotoGP winner making a huge impact on his first foray into the World Superbike series, the Italian having switched to WSBK after leaving MotoGP at the end of 2010.
Melandri had offers of factory rides from both Aprilia and BMW, but the prospect of being stuck alongside his arch rival Max Biaggi, in the certain knowledge that he would be the number two rider in the Aprilia garage persuaded Melandri to head to the German manufacturer alongside Leon Haslam. There is still plenty of work to do at BMW - the homemade electronics system is notoriously complex to set up causing problems with tire wear - but if Melandri can help get that sorted using his experience of MotoGP-level electronics (still a couple of years' ahead of the systems used in WSBK) then BMW may finally be able to make the breakthrough to regular wins that they have been looking for. The BMW S1000RR provides an outstanding basis to be competitive, and the aim is for Melandri and Haslam to help the factory make the next step.
The official press release announcing Melandri's signing appears below:
Days like Sunday at Imola always remind me of what Nicky Hayden says after particularly poor qualifying sessions: "That's why we line up on Sunday; you never know what's gonna happen." Two championships were up for grabs at Imola on Sunday; one looked a dead cert to be wrapped up by Sunday night, while the most likely scenario for the other is that the race would still be open after the second World Superbike race.
It didn't quite work out that way. Sure, Carlos Checa and Chaz Davies are still the hot favorites for the World Superbike and World Supersport titles, but the dreaded "events" got in the way of seeing a double coronation in Italy. Every Sunday brings a surprise, and this Sunday was no exception.