Castrol Honda's Johnny Rea sits on provisional pole on Friday night at Imola, after a fast late lap during the first session of qualifying for the World Superbike series saw the Ulsterman dislodge Althea Ducati's Carlos Checa from the top spot. Checa was bumped down to 2nd, ahead of BMW's Leon Haslam, posting a fast time for the second session in a row, and Alstare Suzuki's Michel Fabrizio.
Checa's title rival Marco Melandri managed only the 5th fastest time during QP1, lapping the Imola circuit six tenths slower than Rea, and 0.441 slower than Carlos Checa. Max Biaggi is absent, after having been ruled out of the Imola WSBK round with a foot injury sustained at the Nurburgring.
Carlos Checa topped the timesheets in the first session of free practice for the World Superbike class at Imola. The Althea Ducati rider led for the second half of practice, closely pursued by Marco Melandri, but a fast lap in the final moments saw him pull half a second over Melandri. BMW's Leon Haslam also nipped ahead of Melandri, dropping Yamaha down to 3rd.
The session was delayed by a crash involving Gino Rea, Broc Parkes and Danilo Dell'Omo, which left oil on the track.
Press release previews from the World Superbike and World Supersport teams ahead of this weekend's WSBK round at Imola:
The FIM has just released an updated version of the 2011 World Superbike calendar, which includes the full schedule of WSBK and WSS, as well as the supporting Superstock series. The dates in the provisional calendar remain unchanged, but the circuits are now all confirmed, removing the last To Be Announced dates from the provisional calendar. As reported earlier, Donington makes a return on the WSBK schedule, with what looks likely to be a chilly European WSBK round in late March.
The other open question was the third Italian round of WSBK, with rumors suggesting that the series might make a return to the Vallelunga circuit near Rome, after Rome native Max Biaggi secured his first World Superbike title earlier this season. This is not to be, however, and WSBK will once again return to Imola for another year.
Elsewhere, the World Supersport class has been dropped from the US round at Miller Motorsports Park. Though the US round attracted a number of wildcard entries, they never included the top AMA Supersport riders, and as some of the smaller WSS teams complained about the cost of the Transatlantic expedition, the class has been quietly dropped from the schedule.
The pretense is now officially over. First reported here on MotoMatters.com by vigilant reader over two weeks ago, Leon Haslam's contract with BMW has finally been officially confirmed by the Munich-based manufacturer. The first part of the move was Haslam officially being released from his contract by Francis Batta at Alstare Suzuki - an inevitability given Suzuki's apparent lack of interest in racing - leaving the Derby-based rider - and son of legend "Rocket" Ron Haslam - free to announce the contract he had signed with BMW previously. The agreement sees Haslam lined up alongside Troy Corser for 2011.
Below is the text of the press release from BMW:
Leon Haslam will line up alongside Troy Corser for BMW Motorrad Motorsport in 2011.
The press release issued earlier today by the Alstare Suzuki team came as no surprise: Alstare boss Francis Batta merely formalized the news that the team had released Leon Haslam from the second year of his two-year contract that Haslam had with the Alstare squad. The reasons given were obvious: A lack of sponsorship combined with a lack of support from Suzuki's Hamamatsu headquarters, despite Haslam coming perilously close to securing the 2010 World Superbike title. The Englishman is now free to finalize the switch to BMW which has been so widely leaked.
The penultimate round of the World Superbike series brought some great racing once again - including one of the most intense duels of the last 10 years or so in the World Supersport race - and as every Monday morning, the official World Superbike Youtube channel has highlights of the races up. The highlights reels are pretty full, especially as the outcome of the races decided the championship this weekend. So if you feel the need to see the full version of both WSBK race 1 and WSBK race 2 - complete with Italian commentary - they are available on the website of La7, the broadcaster that shows World Superbikes in Italy. Below are the highlights:
World Superbikes race 1 highlights:
2010 Imola World Superbike Race 2 Result - Easy Victory Up Front While Mechanical Settles Championship
Results and summary of World Superbike Race 2 at Imola:
Results and summary of the World Supersport race at Imola:
Results and summary of World Superbike Race 1 at Imola:
After lying dormant for much of the summer, the World Superbike Silly Season has suddenly been kicked into top gear at Imola, with a spate of contract signings and rumors emerging from the WSBK paddock over the weekend. At the heart of the various moves and switches has been the fate of the Alstare Suzuki team. Doubts have hung over the future of the team for some time now, with Suzuki apparently unwilling to continue to back the team at their current level. After a meeting last week in Japan, Alstare team boss Francis Batta came away with more questions than answers. "Even though I didn't receive any concrete guarantees, I'm still encouraged that Suzuki showed some attachment to the team," Batta told GPone.com's Claudio Porrozzi. Suzuki is likely to have the budget to run just a single rider next season, though the level of support available from Hamamatsu is uncertain.