InFront have signed a ten-year deal to race at the short Moscow Raceway circuit. With tales of terrible weather, “Mad Max” drivers outside the circuit and Internet connectivity woes inside, it sounds like it could be potentially disastrous racing there, but today's races showed that all those fears don't matter when the racing gets underway.
The weekend was without the Superstock classes and support was provided instead by the Italian/Russian Coppa dei due Paesi (Two Nations Cup). This meant there were less to fit into the schedule which was probably a blessing with all the red flags on Friday and Saturday.
An important lesson was learned about tracks on paper and tracks in reality, especially with the difference between racing and qualifying. What looked like an ideal track for Ducatis turned out not to be the case when there were other bikes on the racing line. If Carlos Checa had got a good start, maybe, just maybe, he could have managed the lead like Tom Sykes did in race one, and had enough free track to stretch a lead in the first lap to ensure that he could be uncatchable on the second lap.
But, as we now know, this was a track that wasn't going to make racing that easy to predict. While Carlos Checa and Davide Giugliano were able to maintain a decent pace, while they remained on the track, they weren't able to dominate in a way that qualification showed they should be able to. If you're on a Ducati and you can't overtake in the slow corners, you're going to get left behind down the straight.
Jonathan Rea may be the luckiest man in the paddock tomorrow, as he tests Casey Stoner's Honda in preparation for being his replacement while he's injured, he was the unluckiest man today, getting caught up in three other riders's incidents. When Carlos Checa crashed out in race one, it was Rea he clipped unsighted. When Max Biaggi torpedoed Leon Haslam out, it was because he tagged Rea with his braking arm. When Eugene Laverty asked too much of his rear tyre, it was while Rea was behind him, pushing for the podium. Of the four crashes Rea had today, only one was of his own making, and even that was caused by a false neutral severing the engine braking and causing a front end wash out.
Eugene Laverty looked beaten at the last corner of race one by his team mate, but it turned out that he was under team orders to let Max Biaggi past, and the three points Laverty conceded to his team mate look all the more necessary with Biaggi ceding the title lead to Marco Melandri in race two. Laverty was exasperated on Twitter, where i.e. asked if a glass of champagne was too much to ask for, having conceded one podium and lost another, especially as he feels he was robbed of a podium in race two at Silverstone.
Tom Sykes today, rode what was his strongest weekend of the season, even though he didn't sit on pole position. Having just signed up for another year at Kawasaki, he rode a superb pair of races, leaving with 45 points and closing the gap on Max Biaggi. Marco Melandri also left with 45 points, and a bee sting, but he also left with the championship lead after a hard fought couple of races in which the entire field kept him honest. Nothing was easily taken.
While the Russian track may be one of the shortest that is raced on, with more of a national championship feel to it, it gave us some fantastic World Championship racing. It's a welcome addition to the World Superbike roster.