Double for Checa as championship fight tightens up

Ducati’s Carlos Checa stormed to the top of the 2012 Superbike World Championship standings with a faultless performance at Imola overnight.

The reigning world champion’s second clean sweep at the Italian circuit in three years now has him on 75pts after two of 14 rounds, ahead of Aprilia’s Max Biaggi (71), Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes (69) and BMW’s Leon Haslam (47).

That quartet butchered the opposition at Imola, with polesitter Sykes finishing second in both 21-lap races, while Biaggi and Haslam were third and fourth – and then daylight to the rest.

Australian Mark Aitchison was 17 and 18th as he continues to develop his new BMW race bike.

But it was another incredible day for Checa, who initially played it cool in both races behind Sykes before hitting the lead. His Imola record now stands at five wins in the last six races, while Ducati’s CV around the challenging circuit is unmatched – 13 victories in 19 WSBK races.

“A day that I will never forget – it’s always great to win in Italy,” said Checa. “It was all an unknown today with the much colder conditions; we didn’t know which tyre to use but we took the risk of using one which we’d tested during the practice sessions – it was a risk but it paid off.

“At the beginning of race one I could see that Sykes had a very strong pace but I stuck with him. When I realised that he was beginning to have trouble in certain places, I took the opportunity to get past him. Then I was able to build a small advantage which meant I could finish comfortably ahead.

“The second race was very similar to the first. I made a small mistake near the beginning but was then able to find my rhythm.”

Checa also left Imola with a new lap record of 1min47.552secs, set in race two.

Eugene Laverty (Aprilia) and Marco Melandri (BMW) were fifth and sixth in race one, with the latter rallying back from 16th spot after he ran straight into the pit lane entrance on lap two after a downshift issue.

Honda’s big hope, Jonathan Rea, made up four spots to nail fifth in race two, ahead of Laverty who had his hands full keeping Jakub Smrz (Ducati) in check.

WORLD SUPERSPORT

Australia’s Broc Parkes (Honda) was again left frustrated by a rear tyre that lost all grip almost immediately after the start, which forced him to pit after just five of the scheduled 20 laps.

Even though he was straight back on the pace – he even set a new lap record of 1:51.952 – Parkes finished a lowly 20th, in a race won by veteran Fabien Foret (Kawasaki). Honda riders Sam Lowes and Ronan Quarmby took the other two podium positions.

“The tyre for the race was completely destroyed after two or three laps,” said Parkes. “We put on a new tyre – again, exactly the same spec – and I went back out and set the best lap of the race, a new lap record, and lap times that were as good, or faster than the guys that won the race.

“That’s two races in a row where we’ve had issues and I feel sorry for the team. They’re spending all their own money to go racing this year and I guess they might rather go and play golf together, because this is useless to us.”

Melbourne rookie Jed Metcher (Yamaha) was 15th, collecting the final world championship point.

In the support classes, Bryan Staring was fifth in Superstock 1000, and Matt Davies was the best of the three Aussies in European 600, finishing 13th. Both were riding Kawasakis.

- Promoter’s Report

Carlos Checa (Althea Racing Ducati) was a force to be reckoned with once more at Ducati’s home circuit, and he duly posted his desired double in the FIM Superbike World Championship races in front of 81,000 fans at Imola. The final result of his winning labours is that he is now leading the championship, but only just, from Max Biaggi (Aprilia Racing) and double second place finisher Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) with the English rider having his best results since his win in Germany last year.

Carlos Checa: “It’s a big family here for me and I feel like I’m at home, sharing these emotions with all the people! Five times winning here is also very special. We worked very well this weekend, and it helps us to go ahead in the championship. Of course after two wins, my position is getting better, but anyway I just want to think about today and the fantastic moment and the job we did. Thanks to the team, Ducati and all the fans!”

Tom Sykes: “I think it was a very good weekend for myself and Kawasaki. The ZX-10R has been great, we had pole position and two seconds in the races so I don’t think we could have asked for much more. Carlos has done a great job today, we had no answer, he was able to preserve the tyre that bit better than us. That’s something we need to work on but the big picture is that we’ve got a hatful of points again. If we continue like this I’ll be very happy.”

Leon Haslam: “It was a tough race, the top 3 got away again and I had to pull them back. I got comfortable behind Tom, thought I could have a go at him towards the end. Every time I pushed I got a little bit of chatter and kept losing my line, and had a few big moments on the last few laps, but he rode real good, and Checa rode a fantastic race once again. It was the first-ever double podium for BMW so I’m happy about that and we’ll take what we’ve learnt here to Assen. The ankle is a bit sore and I hit a couple of kerbs but for Assen I’ll be 100%.”

Biaggi missed the podium twice today, by narrow margins on each occasion. In each 21-lap race he had to give best to the impressive Leon Haslam (BMW Motorrad Motorsport) who is still riding with screws in his foot after his big crash in Australia in late February. This was Haslam’s personal best weekend for BMW as well, on a day of significant happenings for riders, teams and manufacturers.

In race two there were five different manufacturers in the top five places, and all six were represented in the top eight positions, which once again proves how close and exciting SBK racing is in its 25th anniversary year. With the top three riders now covered by only six points, the next round at Assen is eagerly anticipated.

The teams will remain in Imola for an official test on Monday 2 April.

Race 1

Checa waited until half race distance to put a move on early leader Sykes but when he did he rode at lap record pace and took his second win of the year in some style. Sykes had his best ever dry-race performance on the Kawasaki in second place, with Haslam and Biaggi disputing the final podium place. It went to Haslam, by a second from his Italian rival. Fifth was Eugene Laverty (Aprilia Racing) but just behind him Melandri and Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki Racing Team) finally passed long-time fifth place runner, Lorenzo Zanetti (Pata Racing Team Ducati). Zanetti was a still-impressive eighth.

Results: 1. Checa C. (ESP) Ducati 1098R 38’06.264; 2. Sykes T. (GBR) Kawasaki ZX-10R 3.206; 3. Haslam L. (GBR) BMW S1000 RR 5.593; 4. Biaggi M. (ITA) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 6.519; 5. Laverty E. (IRL) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 24.662; 6. Melandri M. (ITA) BMW S1000 RR 27.261; 7. Lascorz J. (ESP) Kawasaki ZX-10R 27.384; 8. Zanetti L. (ITA) Ducati 1098R 28.299; 9. Rea J. (GBR) Honda CBR1000RR 34.067; 10. Canepa N. (ITA) Ducati 1098R 35.724; 11. Smrz J. (CZE) Ducati 1098R 36.738; 12. Berger M. (FRA) Ducati 1098R 37.257; 13. Hopkins J. (USA) Suzuki GSX-R1000 50.418; 14. Mercado L. (ARG) Kawasaki ZX-10R 53.623; 15. Badovini A. (ITA) BMW S1000 RR 53.942; 16. McCormick B. (CAN) Ducati 1098R 54.139; etc.

Race 2

Checa played a strong second card at Imola to take his first double win of 2012, 1.9 seconds ahead of Sykes and the hard-charging Haslam. Sykes set a new lap record of 1 minute 47.552 seconds to try and escape Checa on lap 7, but he could not manage the pace over race distance. Biaggi was fourth again, making the quartet of top finishers the same as in race one. Fifth this time around was Jonathan Rea (Honda World Superbike Team) who did well to survive a trip across the gravel after tangling with sixth placed Laverty. Rea was fighting against muscle fatigue and bruising, which resulted from his big highside crash in practice. Jakub Smrz (Liberty Racing Team Effenbert) was a very close seventh. Leon Camier (Crescent Fixi Suzuki) rode to eighth place, the best finish for a Suzuki rider so far this season.

Results: 1. Checa C. (ESP) Ducati 1098R 37’57.571; 2. Sykes T. (GBR) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1.935; 3. Haslam L. (GBR) BMW S1000 RR 2.969; 4. Biaggi M. (ITA) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 3.346; 5. Rea J. (GBR) Honda CBR1000RR 18.925; 6. Laverty E. (IRL) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 21.180; 7. Smrz J. (CZE) Ducati 1098R 21.392; 8. Camier L. (GBR) Suzuki GSX-R1000 23.797; 9. Lascorz J. (ESP) Kawasaki ZX-10R 24.219; 10. Melandri M. (ITA) BMW S1000 RR 25.599; 11. Guintoli S. (FRA) Ducati 1098R 25.776; 12. Berger M. (FRA) Ducati 1098R 26.004; 13. Zanetti L. (ITA) Ducati 1098R 31.172; 14. Davies C. (GBR) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 33.837; 15. Badovini A. (ITA) BMW S1000 RR 45.541; 16. McCormick B. (CAN) Ducati 1098R 50.807; etc.

Points (after 2 of 14 rounds): 1. Checa 75; 2. Biaggi 71; 3. Sykes 69; 4. Haslam 47; 5. Melandri 46; 6. Rea 40; 7. Smrz 30; 8. Laverty 29; 9. Guintoli 21; 10. Berger; etc. Manufacturers: 1. Ducati 91; 2. Aprilia 71; 3. Kawasaki 69; 4. BMW 63; 5. Honda 40; 6. Suzuki 15.

Supersport

Fabien Foret (Kawasaki Intermoto Step) took a cool and professional win after 19 laps of competition, his first of the year, and the first for his team in 2012. Sam Lowes (Bogdanka PTR Honda) went a close second and after many issues for some front-runners, Ronan Quarmby (PTR Honda) was third, albeit 17 seconds from the winner. Roberto Tamburini (Team Lorini Honda) finished fourth – by only 0.004 seconds – and the Power Team by Suriano Triumph of Vittorio Iannuzzo was fifth. In the championship, Foret has 45 points, Lowes 31 and Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki DeltaFin Lorenzini) in on 25 alongside Quarmby, after the Turkish rider was black-flagged for not taking a ride through penalty.

Results: 1. Foret F. (FRA) Kawasaki ZX-6R 35’44.653; 2. Lowes S. (GBR) Honda CBR600RR 0.574; 3. Quarmby R. (RSA) Honda CBR600RR 17.266; 4. Tamburini R. (ITA) Honda CBR600RR 17.270; 5. Iannuzzo V. (ITA) Triumph Daytona 675 22.953; 6. Leonov V. (RUS) Yamaha YZF R6 25.509; 7. Nemeth B. (HUN) Honda CBR600RR 30.042; 8. Antonelli A. (ITA) Honda CBR600RR 32.429; etc.

Points (after 2 of 13 rounds): 1. Foret 45; 2. Lowes 31; 3. Sofuoglu 25; 4. Quarmby 25; 5. Iannuzzo 18; 6. Parkes 16; etc. Manufacturers: 1. Kawasaki 50; 2. Honda 36; 3. Triumph 19; 4. Yamaha 15.

Superstock 1000

After the first attempt at the race was stopped when a crashed machine blocked the circuit, a final five lap sprint determined the winner overall and Sylvain Barrier (BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet) headed off his countryman Loris Baz (MRS Kawasaki) in a thrilling short race. The new Ducati Panigale 1199 placed third in its debut weekend, thanks to Eddi La Marra (Barni Racing Team Italia). Markus Reiterberger (alpha Racing BMW) was fourth, only 1.240 seconds from the win. In fifth, Pedercini Kawasaki rider Bryan Staring was well clear of sixth place man, Fabio Massei (EAB Ten Kate Junior Team Honda). Lorenzo Baroni (BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet) had to take a ride-through after cutting a chicane in the interrupted first race.

Results: 1. Barrier S. (FRA) BMW S1000 RR 9’25.462; 2. Baz L. (FRA) Kawasaki ZX-10R 0.700; 3. La Marra E. (ITA) Ducati 1199 Panigale 1.098; 4. Reiterberger M. (GER) BMW S1000 RR 1.240; 5. Staring B. (AUS) Kawasaki ZX-10R 5.638; 6. Massei F. (ITA) Honda CBR1000RR 11.703; 7. Coghlan K. (GBR) Ducati 1199 Panigale 13.079; 8. Savadori L. (ITA) Ducati 1199 Panigale 13.210; etc.

Points (after 1 of 10 rounds): 1. Barrier 25; 2. Baz 20; 3. La Marra 16; 4. Reiterberger 13; 5. Staring 11; 6. Massei 10; etc. Manufacturers: 1. BMW 25; 2. Kawasaki 20; 3. Ducati 16; 4. Honda 10; 5. Aprilia 5.

Official Tyre Supplier

“In this first European race here at the Imola track we introduced the new Diablo Supercorsa SC tyre for the Superstock 1000 FIM Cup riders which will be used this year only by the STK 1000 riders. Then, starting from next year, it will also be used by the 600 class and Supersport riders, as well as in the various national and open tyre championships in which Pirelli participates. For the Superbike class we brought a new SC1 compound for the rear, developed specifically for medium-low temperatures, which was quite popular with the riders in both race 1 and race 2 as opposed to the standard SC1 tyre. This leads us to believe that we have done a good job developing this tyre. The other riders, also in light of the slightly cooler temperatures compared to the last few days, opted for the SC2 solution which is particularly suited for these situations where the asphalt temperature shifted from 11° in race 1 to 18° in race 2. Carlos Checa once again showed that he is very strong on his Ducati and that he is definitely a contender for the title again this year, but Tom Sykes on his Kawasaki and Leon Haslam on his BMW have also grown a lot and will certainly be chasing the defending World Champion. And we can’t forget Max Biaggi, who will be giving it his all right down to the end together with these three riders during the season. Having three different motorcycle manufacturers on the podium in both races and even five different manufacturers in the first five places for race 2 is very important for us because it means that we are working in the right direction to level the playing field for all the riders and manufacturers so that they can all aim for the title, making this a very heated Championship. Last, but not least, I would say that the crowds and the media here at Imola demonstrate how the Superbike Championship has grown significantly and we are certainly pleased by this as the sole supplier for the Championship through 2015.” Giorgio Barbier, Racing Director, Pirelli Motorcycle

- Althea Ducati

Another amazing and unforgettable day for 2011 World SBK champion Carlos Checa who rewarded his team with two brilliant race wins at the Imola circuit; thanks to these impressive results, the Spanish ‘Toro’ now leads the championship standings. A very unfortunate day on the other hand for young talent Davide Giugliano who suffered two DNFs due to technical problems.

Race 1: Carlos made a very quick start and was immediately up in second position, behind Sykes who seemed to have an even stronger pace than the Spaniard. The Althea rider did all he could to stick with the Kawasaki and when he saw that the Englishman was suffering a little through certain sections of the track, he took the tactical decision to pass and break away. On lap eleven Carlos took the lead and from that point he slowly built up an advantage, crossing the finish line in first position with a 3.2 second advantage over Sykes, second. Carlos recorded the fastest lap of the race; the 1m47.877 assured him of the Pirelli ‘best lap’ award.

Giugliano started from twelfth position on the grid. He ran off track when another rider made contact soon after the race start. Then, having made an error at the chicane he was given a five second penalty, after which he unfortunately found himself in last position. The young rider tried to make up lost ground but a technical problem prevented him from going beyond lap eight of the race.

Race 2: The second race got off to a similar start for Carlos, who was second, behind Sykes once again, at the end of the opening lap. On lap seven he battled with Biaggi and then a few laps later with Haslam. On lap 14, having closed the gap between himself and raceleader Sykes, Checa got past the Englishman and took control of the race. His strong pace allowed him to break away from the chasing pack and take the second race win of the day. Checa won with a 1.9 second advantage over Sykes in second; Haslam once again closed in third place. With today’s victories, Carlos becomes the rider to have won more races than any other at the Imola track – he has celebrated on the top step of the podium five times at this circuit.

Thanks to a strong start, Davide Giugliano was up in eighth by the end of lap one and chasing down Melandri, immediately ahead of him. The Italian pair fought it out for a few laps, before both passed Laverty. On lap fourteen Giugliano was able to pass Melandri, positioning himself fifth where he remained until the final lap. Unfortunately it seems that in the final seconds of the race he ran out of fuel, and was thus unable to cross the line. The situation is under investigation by the team.

Thanks to the 50 points earned today, Carlos has projected himself to the top of the rider standings with 75 points to Biaggi’s 71 and Sykes’ 69. Giugliano is seventeenth with 10 points. Ducati leads the manufacturer’s standings with 91 points to the 71 held by Aprilia, in second.
Carlos Checa: “Another incredible day, one more that I will never forget! At the beginning of race one I could see that Sykes had a very strong pace but I stuck with him. When I realized that he was beginning to have trouble in certain places, I took the opportunity to get past him. Then I was able to build a small advantage which meant I could finish comfortably ahead. It was all an unknown today with the much colder conditions, we didn’t know what tyre to use but we took the risk of using that which we’d tested during the practice sessions (but on a much warmer track) – it was a risk but it paid off. The second race was very similar to the first. I made a small mistake near the beginning but was then able to find my rhythm. I thank my team, the sponsor and of course the fans – it’s always great to win in Italy and I thank the spectators with whom I share these great emotions.”

Davide Giugliano: “This is not what we wanted today. Congratulations to Carlos of course but I am so disappointed as far as my own day is concerned. After the DNF of race 1 I was hoping to take a good result in the second race. I made a fast start, making up some positions very quickly and then I battled for a few laps with Melandri who had a similar pace to me. On the 14th lap I got ahead of him and wanted to maintain the pace to hold fifth place. Unfortunately in the last seconds my bike came to a stop and I was unable to finish, game over. A day to forget, we go to Assen where we hope to make up for this.”

Genesio Bevilacqua, General Manager di Althea Racing: “A fantastic result as far as the classification is concerned, with Carlos winning two races that we knew would be no easy feat today. We’re fighting with what we have available to us and are pretty satisfied, but of course we’re worried about another eventual increase in weight and the air restrictor. I was also very happy to see Davide’s great performance in the second race. His weekend was unfortunately conditioned by a lot of bad luck. We’re still looking into exactly what happened in the second race when he was up in fifth position but I hope we can continue to put in performances that match the rider’s obvious ability.”

- HRC Report

Jonathan Rea (Honda World Superbike Team) overcame the effects of a fast and heavy high-side fall in practice to post a ninth and then a much-improved fifth at the FIM Superbike World Championship races at Imola. Both races at round Ducati rider Carlos Checa, who now holds a narrow championship lead, won two.

Rea, who still qualified seventh after making it all the way to superpole three, simply had the wrong tyre on for the conditions in race one – cool after two days of sunshine in qualifying. In race two he held a good pace and closed in on the leaders at a circuit he won a race at last year.
He is now sixth in the championship rankings, with 40 points.

Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda World Superbike Team) had never even seen Imola before his first practice experiences and he missed Superpole qualification, starting 23rd on the grid for each of the 21-lap races. He finished 18th in race one, and went out with a technical issue at turn four on lap 13, while sitting 18th again in the second race.

Lorenzo Alfonsi (Pro Ride Motorsports Honda) retired from each race in his first race weekend with his new team. He had been 25th on the grid at his and his team’s home race as he had no testing time available before this competitive weekend.

TWO HONDA RIDERS ON THE PODIUM AS POLE MAN LOWES TAKES SECOND

Pole position rider Sam Lowes (Bogdanka PTR Honda) tried everything he knew on the final few laps of the FIM Supersport World Championship race at Imola to get past eventual winner Fabien Foret (Kawasaki), but he could not get into a position to make his final move. In finishing second by only 0.574s Lowes promoted himself to second in the championship, on a day when lots of top names and new talents experienced some vastly differing results.

Ronan Quarmby (PTR Honda) was ninth on lap one, having been 11th on the grid, but rode through with good pace to set-up a final lap struggle with Roberto Tamburini (Team Lorini Honda). Quarmby came out on top to record his first podium finish, but he only beat Tamburini by 0.004s after their dramatic exit from the final chicane.

Another two Honda riders finished inside the top eight places. Balazs Nemeth (Racing Team Toth Honda) was seventh and Andrea Antonelli (Team Lorini Honda) eighth, the latter riding though from 12th on the grid. Nemeth had qualified ninth.

Broc Parkes (Ten Kate Racing Products Honda) had high expectations of a podium finish after qualifying fifth, but he was forced in to change a rear tyre after only five laps. He went back out on track to set a new lap record of 1m, 51.952s, but lost so much time in the pits he finished 20th and out of the points.

Jules Cluzel (PTR Honda) was looking good for a top four finish, but fell on lap six, at the infamous final chicane. Martin Jessopp (Riders PTR Honda) had to take a ride-through penalty for cutting the last chicane, while Lukas Pesek (PRORACE Honda) finished one place behind Jessop, in 18th place, having qualified 23rd.

Imre Toth (Racing Team Toth Honda) retired in the pits after a great start that saw him sixth for a time. Pawel Szkopek (Bogdanka Racing Honda) broke his right tibia and tibia in a free practice crash and will require surgery to fix the fractures before he can consider coming back to racing.

David Latr rode for SMS Racing Honda this weekend, but retired. South African Mathew Scholtz (Bogdanka PTR Honda) was disqualified for not coming in for a black flag penalty.

HONDA RIDER COMMENTS:

Jonathan Rea (Honda World Superbike Team) Race result: 9th / 5th Championship position: 6th “Well, it finished better than it started, for sure. In the first race, we flat-out picked the wrong tyre – we didn’t do so much work on the hard tyre in the practices so we were reluctant to go with it. Also, this was the first temperature change we’d had over the weekend to very cold. But it’s been a bit of a frustrating weekend, to be honest, because our pace here last year was good enough for a win. Our pace this year is the same, but there’s two or three guys at the front going faster. If we don’t have a big improvement, then it’s hard to find that half-second. All in all, I’m happy to have points on the board in both races, and I’m really pleased with the way I rode in race two. I got messed up with my rhythm in the first laps when some guys put me out at the chicane, but I put my head down and got back to the group. When I cut through them and got some free track I was able to get to the front comfortably at the end. I’m happy with my riding and happy that we have a test here tomorrow and then a two-day test at Assen to try and find the front feeling that I’ve been lacking.”

Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda World Superbike Team) Race result: 18th / DNF Championship position: 13th “It’s been a very difficult weekend for me. It was my first time racing at Imola and, of course, that doesn’t help to set up the bike but, anyhow, we set out to try and find a good feeling. We couldn’t really find one, but we started the first race and, until mid-race, my pace was not too bad so we could catch up to 12th position. Starting from 23rd position, that wasn’t so bad. But then the tyre started to drop and I started missing some gears and we ended up in a not very good position. For the second race we changed the engine in case of the gearbox and we expected a better result. Feeling-wise, it wasn’t so bad, but from the middle of the race, the engine started to slow a little bit and, in the end, it stopped. So, it was not really a happy weekend but for the next race at Assen, I know the track a little bit so I hope we can have a better weekend.”

Lorenzo Alfonsi (Pro Ride Motorsports Honda) Race result: DNF / DNF Championship position: – “In practice things were not so easy as we only had limited time to get used to working with the bike. In race one we had a problem with the clutch and in race two we think that maybe a sensor was not working properly, so the team is checking that now.”

Sam Lowes (Bogdanka PTR Honda) Race result: 2nd Championship position: 2nd “That was a tough race. We changed the bike a bit for today and the team gave me a bike that as capable of winning. Fabien was great last year at this track and this year he did not put a foot wrong. I nearly matched his times towards the end, but I could not go any faster to catch him, but fair play to all of us, and I am glad to get my first podium of the year. I made a good start from pole and had to control the race from the front. Fabien is a fantastic rider and he’s always good at this circuit so well done to him for the win. We’re getting closer and I feel good and confident. I didn’t make any mistakes in the race and the bike and tyres were working well until the end. We’re now second in the championship so I’m really looking forward to Assen.”

Ronan Quarmby (PTR Honda) Race result: 3rd Championship position: 4th “It is amazing to get third and I did not expect to get onto the podium from my starting position. I pushed hard this weekend and I cannot say thank you enough to my team because the bike was good this weekend. What an amazing race day after getting on the podium. My bike was all good and yesterday we did not know which tyre to run and we made a good decision in the end. The team was awesome and I have never been so happy in a long time racing. It got difficult at the end so I had to get my head down and I knew Tamburini was close. I block-passed him on the last corner and came out in the wrong gear so had to get my weight forward and try to get to the line in front of him which I did – just.”

Roberto Tamburini (Team Lorini Honda) Race result: 4th Championship position: 8th “After a tough weekend in Australia we had a good one here, because we arrived with a lot of determination to succeed. Our bike worked well this weekend and the only problem was that I got a not so good start. We made a wise tyre choice so I was able to keep up a good pace at the end and make up places. Overall I am happy with our performance but it would have been a very important thing for everybody in our team if we could have reached the podium. We came so close!”

Andrea Antonelli (Team Lorini Honda) Race result: 8th Championship position: 13th “I had a very strong race, hard but very good. We almost finished our fuel at the end so that had an effect on the last three laps. But it was good to make a positive start to the ‘European’ season and I took my first points to start my championship campaign properly.”

Broc Parkes (Ten Kate Racing Products Honda) Race result: 20th Championship position: 6th “As soon as I went out directly the tyre had no grip at the start. I tried to regroup and about three laps the tyre started to go and about five laps in the tyre was just completely gone. We came into the pits and put on a new tyre. I made a new lap record and stayed in good lap times the whole way. There is nothing more we can do or say.”

Jules Cluzel (PTR Honda) Race result: DNF Championship position: 9th “I made a mistake and crashed I think touched the kerb a little bit too much maybe, with too much angle. I had some chatter and it was my mistake. I was not so good before this and the gap from the first group started to be bigger. I had some movement and some sliding and maybe I did not take the good tyre choice. Anyway, it is on to Assen and I hope to get a better result there.”

Mathew Scholtz (Bogdanka PTR Honda) Race result: Disqualified Championship position: 20th “I made a bad start and dropped down a bit, but quickly recovered a few positions. Then I tried to pass another rider and had to go straight through the last chicane, which dropped me down to 17th. I worked my way up to seventh again and was closing in on the riders ahead, but then I saw the black flag. I never saw the penalty board and it’s a pity because I had a really good pace and I was very happy with the race until then.
Overall it was still a good weekend and I hope that we can go to Assen now and show what we can do.”

Martin Jessop (Riders PTR Honda) Race result: 17th Championship position: – “I am disappointed with that result. I couldn’t make the chicane and went through the gravel and lost time and position, which was bad enough, and then they slapped me with a ride through penalty.
I’d hindered myself already and then you get a ride through as well, which is the last thing you need. Looking at the time I lost with the ride through I would have been in the points around 13th – but that is always ifs and whats. I am disappointed, but determined to do better next time.”

- BMW Report

BMW Motorrad has reached another milestone: Team BMW Motorrad Motorsport celebrates its first double podium in the FIM Superbike World Championship. At the second round of the 2012 season at Imola (ITA), factory rider Leon Haslam (GBR) proved that his injured right leg is nearly not affecting him anymore on his BMW S 1000 RR. He finished third in both races and thus collected 32 points on this race Sunday, more than any other BMW rider before. His team mate Marco Melandri (ITA) was sixth and tenth respectively. Overall, Team BMW Motorrad Motorsport collected 48 points this weekend, more than ever before.

Starting fourth on the grid, Leon slipped back two positions in the early stages of race one. He was soon back in fourth and began to chase third placed Max Biaggi (ITA). Halfway through the race he had closed the gap to the Italian and the two started to fight an exciting battle for the podium. With five laps to go, Leon passed Biaggi and he defended this third place to the finish line. Marco started sixth, but at the end of lap two, he had an issue while shifting down and was forced to ride straight into the pit lane entrance. He rejoined the race in 16th position and started an impressive catch-up, regaining ten positions and he finished sixth. In race two, Leon overtook Biaggi for third on lap 13 and then battled for the rest of the race with Tom Sykes (GBR) for second, holding off some late attacks from Biaggi. Marco was lying in fifth for a long time in the second race, but due to some chattering issues he dropped back to tenth.

BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet SBK Team’s rider Ayrton Badovini (ITA) finished 15th in both races, while his team mate Michel Fabrizio (ITA) had to retire in both heats. The races were both won by Carlos Checa (ESP). In the riders’ championship, Leon lies in fourth with 47 points. Marco is fifth with 46 points. In the manufacturers’ standings BMW is fourth with 63 points. Tomorrow, Team BMW Motorrad Motorsport will take part at the official Infront testing at Imola.

In the FIM Superstock 1000 Cup, Sylvain Barrier (FRA) of the BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet Team won the first race of the season. Markus Reiterberger (GER) of Team Alpha Racing missed his first podium in this series only by one tenth, finishing fourth on his BMW S 1000 RR.

Leon Haslam:
Result Race 1: 3rd / Gap to 1st: 00:05.593 min / Fastest Lap Race 1: 1:48.095 min
Result Race 2: 3rd / Gap to 1st: 00:02.969 min / Fastest Lap Race 2: 1:47.741 min
“It has been a good weekend. We had a good first race and managed to get a podium position which was my first in Imola. I made a mistake in the beginning and third was the best result we could get. In 2010, Max beat me in the world championship here in Imola, so it was nice to win that fight for the podium. In race two I got a better start, but the top three got away again. I managed to catch up and I really did feel that I could beat Tom, but in the end I made a few mistakes again. Every time I pushed, I got a little bit of chatter and lost my line.

Overall, we are making progress and it is quite clear in which areas we still need to improve, but I am really happy with the first double podium for BMW. We definitely made some good steps and a big, big thanks to all the guys at BMW. We will certainly be celebrating tonight, but not too much, as we are testing tomorrow. My ankle was a bit sore after the second race, but for Assen I should be 100 percent fit again.”

Marco Melandri:
Result Race 1: 6th / Gap to 1st: 00:27.261 min / Fastest Lap Race 1: 1:48.577 min
Result Race 2: 10th / Gap to 1st: 00:25.599 min / Fastest Lap Race 2: 1:48.475 min
“I think I could say that it was a negative day for me. We have been struggling with the gearbox and in race one I went straight into the pit lane entrance. Afterwards I was working hard to catch up. My pace was not too far from the top three guys. In race two I had quite a lot of issues with chattering, as was the case at Phillip Island. I could not push properly, and I destroyed the tyres so much more than in race one. I could not do anything. We do not know yet why the bike is changing. We will work on this tomorrow and I hope that we will be able to make some steps forward.”

Bernhard Gobmeier (BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director):
“It was an extremely exciting race Sunday. We are very happy with how Leon managed to fight his way back from his non-ideal positions after the start. He gave everything, found a very good rhythm and was at the very top speed-wise. This shows that we are heading the right way. On Marco’s side, we were not able to fully solve the chattering issues. We will work on this intensively in the next days and will hopefully solve it for the next race. The team is working very hard and both crews are doing a great job. We just need to find a solution for the technical issues on Marco’s side in order to be able to provide him with the best tool.”

- Suzuki Report

Leon Camier charged from 15th on the grid to a hard-fought-for eighth position in the second race of today’s Imola World Superbike Championship second round in Italy, making up for his DNF in race one after making contact with Joan Lascorz on the opening lap.

Crescent FIXI Suzuki team mate John Hopkins took his first points of the year in race one after battling through the field on the Yoshimura-powered GSX-R1000 from 19th to 13th in his 2012 race debut, but he was unable to repeat the feat in race two after severe arm-pump forced him to retire after just four laps.

Leon Camier – Race 1: DNF (1 lap). Race 2: 8th: “I’m not sure if my coming together with Lascorz was my fault or just a racing incident. I made a reasonably good start and tried to make big gains straight away, passing a lot of people going into turn one. At turn five, I went round the outside of Giugliano and when I got back on the racing line, Lascorz and I collided and that was the end of my race. I managed to get the bike back to the pits, but crash damage prevented me from going out again.

“I’m pretty happy to get eighth place in the second race today and think I could’ve finished even higher if it hadn’t been for my grid position. I started pretty aggressively but soon fell into a good rhythm. I was lapping strongly at the end and was catching the group ahead, so who knows what would’ve happened with a better grid position. This series is very competitive and you have to be on the first two rows of the grid if you are to have any chance of a podium, so all things considering, eighth is pretty good.”

John Hopkins – Race 1: 13th, Race 2: DNF (4 laps): “I made a decent start in race one but lost a few positions in the carnage in the first laps. After that I kept my head down and tried to lap consistently. I wanted to get used to being in a race situation again after such a long time. Understandably my right arm was a bit sore after 21 laps, but I thought it’d be OK for race two. But, almost right from the start, it began to pump up and soon I couldn’t hold on to the bars properly. I knew it was impossible to ride competitively and because I didn’t want to anybody else in danger, I decided to pull in. I’m realistic enough to know that I am not yet race fit, but there were positives that I can build on. I know I’m going to be a lot stronger next time out for sure.”

Jack Valentine – Team Manager: “We knew all weekend that Leon could run in the top six because of his lap times, so it was unfortunate that he had to start from the fourth row of the grid. In race one, he had a collision with Lascorz and that was that. In race two, he got involved with the pack and was doing low 1:49s towards the end of the race, finishing a strong eighth. I’m pretty happy about that and it shows that the Crescent FIXI Suzuki has potential.

“John did well to bring the GSX-R home safely in the points in race one because there was a lot going on in the early laps. I’ve known John a long time, so the problem must have been really bad for him to retire in race two. This is a very physical circuit and it has given John a hard workout, but I’ve no doubt that he will be fitter and more competitive next time out.”

- Kawasaki

- Kawasaki

Having started from pole after blitzing the previous track best in Superpole qualifying Sykes was to leave Imola with the new lap record on raceday as well, a 1’47.552 lap set while trying to keep eventual double race winner Carlos Checa behind him. Tom was not able to perform that feat as 2011 champion Checa turned up the heat but even in the cool conditions on raceday, Tom was able to defend his second place, particularly in race two.

Tom has won an SBK race on the Ninja before, last year in Germany, but this can be considered his best weekend so far in many ways, as he took not only two consistent second places in dry conditions, but the best results to date. His total of podiums on the Ninja ZX-10R now is four, three coming in 2012.

For Joan Lascorz incidents involving other riders affected his final results but he still finished a strong seventh in race one, gaining places right up until the last lap, and he was ninth in race two. He had to fight through from 22nd on lap one of race one, making his seventh place a remarkable result in many ways.

In the points standings, Sykes is third on 69 points, only six behind leader Checa.

Team Pedercini new SBK signing Leandro Mercado scored points for 14th in race one, but retired in race two with a gearbox glitch. David Salom continued to fight against his weakened wrist, hurt in a fall in Australian testing, and took 19th place in race one, 17th in race two.

More success came along in the Superstock 1000 FIM Cup class, as Loris Baz took his MRS Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R to second in what was eventually a five-lap sprint after an interrupted first attempt. This was the best result for the Ninja ZX-10R in this class. Bryan Staring (Team Pedercini Kawasaki) was fifth in Superstock, another good result for the big Ninja in near streetbike spec.

Tom Sykes: “The plan was to get a good start in race one and we had a very clean launch in the Kawasaki. In the first nine laps or so it was just Carlos and I and saw there was a big gap behind us. Carlos rode a great race, hats off to him, and he knew exactly what he was doing. In race two I had a lot of pressure from Leon and Biaggi certainly in the last third of the race so I was forced to dig a little bit deep and it paid off. I heard Leon’s engine there for a few laps but I found I had a little bit of a gap on the last lap so second position was good. Overall I think it has been a very good weekend for myself and Kawasaki. The Ninja ZX-10R has been great again – pole position, and two seconds in the races – so I do not think we could ask for much more.”

Joan Lascorz: “In race one I got hit by Leon Camier in the first chicane, and was lucky not to fall off. I was well back but I worked hard to get nearer to the front. In race two we made a change to the rear shock but it made no big difference. I made one mistake and another rider hit me again and I lost five seconds. I raced with a guy who won the race here last year so that shows how difficult it is in this class. We have some good things to work on when we test tomorrow, and we will try another line of set-up to try to find even more.”

Foret Wins To Make It Kawasaki Two-From-Two – This was Fabien’s14th career win, his third for Kawasaki, the second Kawasaki win of 2012 after the Australian victory of Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki DeltaFin Lorenzini) meaning Kawasaki is leading the manufacturers’ championship by 14 points.

Kawasaki DeltaFin Lorenzini rider Sheridan Morais was also on course for a podium but fell at the final chicane while third, restarting to finish tenth. Kenan Sofuoglu had to use strong doses of painkillers to get into the grid but his injured left knee still caused him pain and some lack of movement. He too could have potentially won the race had he not run on while leading at the chicane opposite pitlane, be penalised with a ride through, then be disqualified for not coming into pit lane to serve his penalty.

Foret’s team-mate Romain Lanusse was 13th and in the points in Imola.

In the overall championship standings Fabien leads with 45 points, from Sam Lowes, who is 14 points behind. Sofuoglu is now third, on an unchanged 25, while Morais leaves Imola seventh, with 16 points.

Fabien Foret: “This is a good track for me, I love Italy and we have had a great start to the season. The team worked very hard for me and gave me an excellent bike. It has not been the easiest weekend and I was sixth in qualifying, but it ended very well for me, the team and all of us.”

Sheridan Morais: “I eventually lost the front and I was having a problem even when I was leading, because I made the same kind of mistake into the chicane and I there were about five or six laps where I kept running wide. That is where I crashed. I was basically struggling to stop for the chicane. I should maybe have calmed down a bit but I am here to win races, not here to finish third. I wanted to catch the two in front. I am trying hard and the only problem I was having for the race was stopping for the last chicane, otherwise the bike and the set-up were good.”

Kenan Sofuoglu: “In the race my plan was to make one lap see how my knee was and if I could continue I would continue. Before the race I had a lot of painkillers and I had less feelings on the bike. They final disqualified me because I had made a mistake at the chicane. They say if you make this mistake you have to go straight on, stop in that point, then restart. But it was impossible as I was into the corner, so I could not go straight. I think it is not fair because I was in first position, then dropped back to give four positions and two seconds away. But, I am not complaining, it is a decision from the organisation. I think I was maybe not fit enough to ride for the whole race in any case.”