2011 WSBK Miller Monday Round Up - The Expected Double

Sometimes the pundits are right: the race weekend at Miller Motorsports Park turned out exactly as predicted, with a convincing double victory for Carlos Checa. The Spaniard put in a repeat performance of last year, with the crucial difference that on Monday, he avoided the technical problems that left him stranded by the wayside in both races. Checa was a little slow off the mark in race 1, taking all of 6 laps to take over the lead and run away with the race, the Althea Ducati rider treading carefully in the still chilly and uncertain conditions. Race 2 was a different matter altogether, Checa taking the lead into the first corner and out of sight by the end of the first lap. The Spaniard barely put a foot wrong all weekend, his only mistake being to slip over in the mud while trying to pick up a Ducati flag from a fan to celebrate victory in race 1.

But while Checa's record is impressive - six wins out of ten starts, with two more podiums thrown in for good measure - his 61-point championship lead is down to more than just his own dominance. Number 2 in the championship is Marco Melandri, who had a very mediocre weekend at Miller after a strong outing at Monza. In 3rd place is Max Biaggi, who seems determined to do everything in his power to lose his #1 plate in the most heartbreaking way possible this year.

Miller was no exception: the reigning World Champion crashed out in race 1, coming together with Castrol Honda's Jonathan Rea in an incident which each man blamed on the other. Biaggi accused Rea of crashing into him after he'd passed the Ulsterman, while Rea claimed that Biaggi had chopped across his nose and left him nowhere to go once he had got past on the inside. The phrase Rea chose to describe what happened with the words "I got Simoncelli'd," referring to the crash between Marco Simoncelli and Dani Pedrosa at the Le Mans MotoGP round two weeks' ago. But without footage to confirm what happened, it is hard to apportion blame.

Biaggi redeemed himself in race two, going on to take the podium behind his teammate Leon Camier, but the Italian is now 62 points behind Carlos Checa. Biaggi has had a questionable crash and DNF, a black flag and a ride-through penalty while leading the race so far this season, and we're not even half way through. He is also without a win in 2011, a fact that casts a shadow over every #1 plate, especially when the bike is clearly still competitive. With the World Superbike circus heading to Misano next, a track at which Checa utterly dominated the recent test, Biaggi will need to make haste if he is to find his missing mojo.

With the spotlight on Max Biaggi - for both the right and the wrong reasons - Leon Camier has been able to operate in his teammate's shadow, and it has done the young Briton a world of good. Camier put in a strong performance in race 1 to finish 4th, then followed it up with a stunning race in the second out of the day to end up in 2nd. There was nothing he could do about Checa, he said afterwards, but then again, there was nothing anyone else could do about Camier. Still suffering from glandular fever, Camier is having trouble training and still tires easily. To score a podium under such conditions is impressive, all the more so given the style with which he took it.

Checa's other main rival so far, Marco Melandri, has been far less erratic than Biaggi. Yet the Italian described the Miller event as his "worst weekend in Superbike so far." Given that he still managed to score a 10th and a 6th, things could have been an awful lot worse. Miller was a new track to learn for Melandri, and he was forced to do so under difficult conditions, after the downpour on Sunday, so to come away still head of Biaggi is a bonus.

Melandri's teammate Eugene Laverty is sneaking up behind him, and is just 24 points behind Biaggi, and 25 behind Melandri. A 5th and a 4th might be deemed disappointing after his maiden double last time out at Monza, but it is yet more solid points in the bag for the Irishman.

On the other side of the coin, there are BMW and Castrol Honda. BMW continues to struggle with tire wear, so perfectly illustrated by Troy Corser in race 1 at Miller. Starting strong, the Australian veteran led the race for the first 5 laps, before starting a headlong slide down the ranks to finish in 13th. His teammate Leon Haslam fared much better - though in this case, much better is highly relative - ending the weekend with an 8th and a 13th place finish. But most disappointing of all for the factory BMW Motorrad team was the fact that satellite rider Ayrton Badovini (riding for the BMW Italia team) finished ahead of both factory bikes in both of Monday's race at Miller. This is not why BMW pours the many millions of euros it does into the project, to get beaten by a rider on nominally inferior equipment.

BMW's plight gives the lie to tales of electronics not playing much of a role in World Superbikes. The S1000RR has come to be the machine of choice in many Superstock or Superstock-spec racing series around the world, the bike's power and handling make it a highly competitive package. But in World Superbikes, where controlling traction and engine braking is such a key part of being competitive, BMW's in-house developed electronics package is simply not managing tire wear as well as its competitors, nearly all of whom use the industry-standard Magneti Marelli systems. Until BMW solve this problem, they will fail to make the crucial breakthrough to being title contenders.

Rumors of behind-the-scenes discontent are seeping out of the BMW garage, though given the location they are seeping out to - the Italian press - a pinch or two of salt may be needed. The rumors are hinting that BMW may be getting ready to ditch both Haslam and Corser, in favor of some new blood. The names being dropped as their replacements? Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa. The fact that one of these riders is the reigning champion and the current the champion-in-waiting suggests that somebody - and not necessarily someone from inside the BMW team - has been pulling names out of hats.

If BMW had a bad weekend, for Castrol Honda it was positively disastrous. Ruben Xaus continues to be utterly woeful on the CBR1000RR, managing to crash in both races, though he rejoined to finish in 18th in race 2. Johnny Rea's weekend was little better, crashing out in the incident with Biaggi in race 1, while finishing just 11th in race 2. The Castrol Honda team gambled on choosing Miller as their test circuit, after poor results here last year. They would have got better odds at Vegas, you can't help but feel.

Not much respite for the teams, though, as they now pack up and head to Misano. With Checa on the Ducati, Biaggi on the Aprilia and Melandri on the Yamaha - and both the Althea Ducati and factory Yamaha teams being based in Italy - there should be plenty for the Italians to cheer for.

Total votes: 316
Total votes: 53

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Comments

As the Motocourse article suggests, maybe BMW should be less worried about riders and start taking notes from their satellite team. "Badger" Badovini beat the factory team in both races and I'm positive that  didn't go over very well.

Total votes: 303

running across the track, right in the middle of the racing line??? I thought this was a disaster waiting to happen ....

Although the mountains in the background were gorgeous, I keep wondering what happened to the spectators. It looks like an event run in middle of nowhere with the racers just running around .... do they make any money, the organizers I mean?

BTW, the track has a nice flowing feel to it ...

Total votes: 323

That was rediculous. As well as the muddy run off areas. At times I thought I was looking at a street race from the seventies.

Total votes: 316

Heh this is basically what Utah is all about. Seriously, Joseph Smith (founder of the Mormon religion in the 1800's) basically found a giant swamp, told his people "ok we're building the track here" and the rest is history. I've driven through the state many times, and it always seems like you're driving through a huge valley ringed by mountains (until you get to the desert bordering arizona/nevada)

In my humble opinion, these two races were a bit of a snooze : ( CCheca's a swell guy, but he obliterated everyone!!

Total votes: 301

For me, BMW's problem isn't the riders. Corser managed to get up front. He just couldn't stay there. Not the first time this happened on the BMW. Actually, if they are testing other electronic packages behind the scene and getting similar results, BMW should let it be known. As it stands, it looks like team management is holding the bike back and not the riders.

Total votes: 312

Look at this clip of the highlights from 48 seconds.

This is the view from Max's bike, as you can see from the rider in front he is nowhere near the inside of the corner and he is knocked off by Johnny Rea coming from the inside.

Come on this is not a Simoncelli action by Max, clearly Rea hit him by not making the corner as there is plenty of space on the inside.

Why Max didn't say much against Rea after the crash? He was hit on the head by Rea's bike so he was almost knocked out.

Total votes: 336

You are going to assign guilt from a 2 second onboad clip? If the only thing we had from the Simoncelli-Pedrosa crash was a 2 second clip from Simoncelli's bike, it would look like Pedrosa had punted him.

Total votes: 313

Looks like it possibly was Reas fault, certainly didn't look like Biaggi did a "Simoncelli" anyway as he was running wide on the outside..
But also possible that Biaggi did close Johnny in just before this clip, Rea crashed because of possible contact and had no room to make the corner. The clip we see is possibly Max running wide trying to avoid Rea who was already down? I guess we'll never know...

Anyway, V.Impressive stuff from Carlos, looking like Max did last year, but making it look easier somehow?
I'm a big Biaggi fan so I hope he can start at least finishing both races at every weekend from now on. He needs a bit of luck and consistent wins (with a few doubles thrown in) if he is to catch Carlos. Long way to go yet... Go MAX!

Total votes: 294

This isn't the view from Max's bike, you can clearly see Max's bike (well, his front wheel with its white, green and red colors) for a split-second in the picture. If the camera was mounted on some kind of fishing-rod this may be possible, but I think it may rather have been Rea's on-board.

Total votes: 310

actually, if you stop it at the 51 second mark you will notice the big CASTROL letters flash across the fairings

Total votes: 340

Look again, and use the pause button. You will clearly see Castrol on the fairings and Honda stamped on the front fender of the bike that ran into Biaggi. Unless Rea's bike broke into two pieces, it was Biaggi's onboard.

Total votes: 299

You are right, and I would like to apologize!
That's what you get for being a smart-ass.
My mind somehow mapped white, green and red to Aprilia.

Total votes: 294

had a great weekend made up 4 places in race 1 finishing 6th and 10th in race 2......... Fabrizio made 10 places in race 2, finishing 5th......I wonder what compound tires were being used by all the runners..... also I wonder if team Italia BMW are using the Magneti Marelli system?

Total votes: 335

I can't imagine that BMW would ever allow this.
Also I think without a lot of factory support it would be almost impossible for a team to switch the electronics.
It's not as easy as unplugging the BMW electronics and plugging Magneti Marelli in, it has to be tuned to work with the engine (which is why a spec ECU is hard to realize).

Total votes: 323

Ducati and his Superbike looks impressive ¿how will be the upcoming supersquadrata?, unfortunately for bmw the results didnt come like they wanted, they consume tire too fast.

Whats happening at honda?, the season ins't going well for them.

Surprise is Kawasaki, the new ZX-10R looks great and Sykes riding is showing the potential of the machine.

Total votes: 316

First clip was inconclusive, but this clip is quite clear. Biaggi was ahead of Rea into the turn complex, he ran slightly wide and Rea tried to wedge his bike into a place it wouldn't fit. Rea never leveled with Biaggi he just hit him from behind.

Total votes: 272

I agree that this makes it much more clear that Biaggi wasn't making a desperate move, but just a very wide line then cutting it back tight. But when a rider is in front by 1/4 bike length and they turn in front of the rider behind while reducing their speed, I find it hard to fault the rider behind from hitting them. I don't see Rea as going in out of control. Like Pedrosa, he stands up the bike to hit the brakes, not because he came in too hot. Biaggi had a legitimate line through that turn, where Simo had no exit strategy other than collision and/or off track. If he would have just kept going they would have surely collided but maybe not until they were upright? There was an Effenbert Ducati that came through right after taking the Rea line while another rider was on the outside and they seemed to pull it off.

If 2 riders are racing down a straight and the rider in front by 2 inches swerves and hits the other rider, did other rider hit him from behind?

Total votes: 316

Pedrosa had track position. Simoncelli did a por fuera divebomb, and injured Pedrosa in the process.

Biaggi had track position. Rea tried to sneak a wheel inside of Biaggi, and but Rea knocked Biaggi off from behind. I don't see many similarities between the incidents. Biaggi was ahead into the first part of the complex, and the second part of the complex. There was never a point where Rea had track position.

It seems like Rea is under a lot of pressure to score results for Castrol. I believe Castrol Honda had some new stuff for this round. Rea tried an opportunistic pass with Biaggi and Checa (fastest riders at Miller) directly in front of him. The move failed. He blamed Biaggi.

I don't think it is much more complicated than that.

Total votes: 322

I don't see a desperate move by Rea. He's in a gaggle of riders on the first lap and takes the corner tight as others did. I just find it hard to believe that a rider that cuts another's nose off can expect to continue without contact, regardless if they have the lead.

Total votes: 302