At the second World Superbikes race weekend at Aragon, The heat of the past two days was tempered today with a cool breeze that lowered the temperature and pushed the bikes hard down the back straight into the disc-crushing hairpin. The conditions were just right to give us good, close racing.
In the first race, Jonathan Rea got a bad start and got tangled up in a turn one crash. It looked like an accident of his causing at first, and it was described as such here earlier, but it was an accident he got caught up in as opposed to caused. His fifth place result in race two showed us what we were denied as racing fans. We apologise for the misconception and wish Jonathan Rea luck, something he's been mighty short of recently.
Earlier in the year, and throughout 2011, the BMWs were plagued with an inferior electronics package, but it appears a corner was turned at Monza and today, watching Marco Melandri coming out of corners behind Max Biaggi, the bike lifting the front wheel and complaining a little was Biaggi's Aprilia. BMW, it's fair to say, have a complete package. Marco Melandri, now second in the championship, should be in a position to stop Biaggi running away with the title.
Carlos Checa was hoping for a top five result today, expecting his Althea Ducati to struggle at the dynamometer that is Aragon's terrain and punishing long straight, and was surprised to stand on the podium in front of the Spanish fans that saw him honoured with the first named corner of the track. Turn three is now called Carlos Checa Corner.
Checa's good fortune was Tom Sykes's bad luck. Ayrton Badovini uncharacteristically lost control of his GoldBet BMW and it tagged the back of Sykes's Kawasaki as it was entering a left-hander on the last lap, robbing Sykes of a certain podium. After such a brilliant pole position lap, it looked like he'd finally got his tyres to last going fast. The second race was safer, but slower, for Sykes.
Max Biaggi still leads the championship, now with a 48-point lead, and took a win in race one, but to be the last Aprilia, behind Chaz Davies, in race two was not something anyone would have predicted. He finished less than half a second behind the winner, and still missed out on the two-Aprilia podium. On a track that looked from Friday onwards to favour the powerful BMWs and Aprilias, this was the chance for both Davies and Eugene Laverty to finally shine this year, and they didn't disappoint in race two.
Leon Haslam didn't appear as much at ease with his BMW as did Melandri. While many riders would be pleased with a seventh and a sixth place, Haslam considered he made too many mistakes to stay with the leading groups.
The World Supersports race gave us just as much action as the big bikes, but with a twist at the end. In the record of this race, it shows Sam Lowes won. However, Kenan Sofuoglu crossed the finish line first and was sent back to fifth place for his actions against Fabien Foret that reminded many viewers of Biaggi v Rossi. What looked like a deliberate hard nudge down the fast straight was lucky to not cause a crash. Sofuoglu pulled alongside Foret, turned to stare at him and veered hard into his left side. The penalty was a three-place penalty from his second place that was reminiscent of Foret's punishment at Imola. As he was warned three laps from the end, he likely assumed he wouldn't be penalised for not dropping back before the end of the race. As it was, he was simply marked back to fifth place after the flag. His riding into Parc Fermé did cause some confusion. Lowes, luckily, was notified by his team of the penalty and didn't need to risk trying to get back in front on the last lap, knowing he'd won finishing behind Sofuoglu.
With what appeared to be the most deliberately dangerous action of the year so far, this incident is likely to be revisited as the year goes on.
Great weather at Aragon, along with an excellent and entertaining track, allowed the racers to give us a proper show of production racing at its best. While many will discuss the headlight stickers with bewilderment, they at least remind us that these aren't million-euro prototypes. Production-based racing gives us close racing, and if that means headlight stickers and 17" wheels, we should not complain.