2011 WSBK Aragon Sunday Round Up - Momentum Shifts

There is a rather pleasing symmetry to Max Biaggi's victory in race two at Aragon: it meant that Biaggi's win rate in the first half of the season was 0%, but is 100% in the second half of the season. Of course, the second half of the 2011 World Superbike season is exactly one race old - the 13-round WSBK season has 26 races, and race two was the 14th race of the season - rather flattering his 100% win rate, but that won't diminish the psychological impact of the reigning champion's first win this season coming right in the middle of the season.

Biaggi can rightly regard this as a turning point; after a long season where nothing has gone his way, finally everything worked out for the Alitalia Aprilia rider. Most of all, Biaggi finally managed to ride a perfect race, free of the errors that have been so costly so far this season. Even in race 1, Biaggi managed to fritter away the lead, running wide in the final hairpin with just 5 laps left to go and gifting Marco Melandri the win, Biaggi finally succumbing to the pressure which Melandri had so exquisitely applied. But in race two, Biaggi turned the tables on the Yamaha man, tightening the thumbscrews on Melandri from the front, until eventually Melandri crumbled, losing the front - and then getting it back again with a most spectacular save - and running wide, rejoining 5 seconds behind the Aprilia and out of reach.

But Aragon marks a turning point in more ways than one: for the first time this season, Carlos Checa looked human, making a stupid mistake in race one and crashing out. The championship leader got caught up in traffic at the start, and tried pushing as hard as he could to try and catch Melandri and Biaggi. A little too hard, as it turned out, losing the front and crashing out of the race. It was Checa's first DNF of the season, but more significantly, it was the first time Checa had looked ragged again and riding right on the limit. He regained his composure in race two - despite getting caught up in traffic once again, and having to battle his way forward - settling for 3rd when he realized there was nothing more to be had, but that one slip-up could well prove to be costly.

That shift in momentum is likely to continue for the next few rounds of World Superbikes: the next stop for WSBK is Brno, which is then followed by Silverstone. Both tracks are high-speed, big horsepower tracks, with Brno especially favoring the four cylinders, with its immense climb up towards the final chicane and the front straight, fittingly nicknamed "Horsepower Hill" by most commentators. Brno is also Max Biaggi's favorite track, and a circuit he has a strong record at, making Biaggi the hot favorite to take the double there. Silverstone, meanwhile, saw Yamaha take the double last season with Cal Crutchlow, raising expectations that Eugene Laverty (who won the Supersport race last year) and Melandri will be a force to be reckoned with.

The arithmetic is now looking a lot less rosy for Checa. Coming into Aragon, the Althea Ducati rider had a 72-point lead over 2nd-place man Max Biaggi, but that deficit has been reduced to just 43 points. With the next four races at tracks favoring the four cylinders, Checa faces forfeiting over 10 points a race, which would bring both Biaggi and Melandri to within a few points of the lead. By the time we get to the Nurburgring in September, the championship could have been blown wide open.

If the World Superbike races opened up the championship, in the World Supersport class the opposite happened. The cause was the same, however, forced errors seeing Chaz Davies' main rivals crash out and DNF, giving the ParkinGO Yamaha rider a 20-point lead in the championship. Luca Scassa was the first to go, Davies' teammate capping a disappointing weekend with a crash after going backwards after the first lap. Broc Parkes, championship leader coming into the Aragon round, looked to be leading comfortably for most of the race, but pushed too hard in the downhill part of the long left-hander, losing the front and crashing out.

The only rider to remain calm, Davies went on to take the win and a comfortable lead in the championship, and here, too, momentum could be crucial. Parkes had undergone something of a revival after his win Misano, and had dominated practice throughout. To crash out while leading, succumbing to the pressure from Davies, will have dented any confidence he may have found at Misano, putting him back to where he started. Scassa keeps finding ways to beat himself, it seems, and Davies' cool head under pressure is paying dividends. If you had been holding off on picking a winner in the 2011 World Supersport championship, now is the time to get down to the bookmakers and put your cash on the Welshman.

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Comments

Parkes looked like a marked man to me. Scassa clearly faded from the contest. Davies earned this one and I hope his fortunes continue. He is the class of the field in my eyes.

I think if these three (maybe more?) could make it to the final round and be within a shout of the title it would be pretty exciting. If anyone can recall the 2004 Magny-Cours round with Toseland, Laconi, Haga and Vermeulen all having a shot. It was sad to see Haga so close and to see a near perfect effort come up short. We can hope.