WSBK Phillip Island 2011

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WSBK Phillip Island 2011

Post by Henrik on Mon Feb 28 2011, 09:51

The winter break is over, and the racing is back on again! Somehow I have not thought this break all that long, although I am still very eager for the MotoGP to kick off again. Still, yesterday was WSBK at my favourite track, and that just can’t be bad.

There have been some interesting changes in the line-up since last year, but I have been a bit concerned by the commitment to manufacturers properly investing in the sport. With Ducati pulling out, putting all their resources behind Rossi, it seems some of the others have lost interest as well. The Japanese manufacturers have been struggling in testing, and although we tend to expect Kawasaki to be trailing the others a bit, it is unfortunate to see Honda, Suzuki and especially Yamaha to be behind. Aprilia has remained the clear favourite, and I guess everybody believes that BMW just has to make it now. With Leon Haslam joining them for 2011 one would expect them to be fighting for the title.

Qualifying was dominated by Checa on a Ducati. I suppose the fact that a veteran riding a discontinued “customer” bike from last year leading the qualifying is a call for concern. Granted, Phillip Island is a track that suits a bike like the Ducati, and often the few remaining old-school tracks also tend to favour the veterans, but this just sort of further highlights the fact that WSBK is being taken over by veterans. Let’s look at some of the riders we have this year:

Carlos Checa (38 Years)
Max Biaggi (39 Years)
Troy Corser (39 Years)
Nori Haga (36 Years)
Ruben Xaus (33 Years)

Then there is a group of riders in their late twenties who are former MotoGP riders such as Marco Melandri, Chris Vermeulen, Roberto Rolfo, Jakub Smrz. One thing is for sure, WSBK is not the class for the new emerging teenagers! You sort get this feeling that it really has become a class for the “has beens” or even those who never made it but still have some good contacts with sponsors (Ruben, you know who you are!). Still, all is not gloom and doom, because even if these guys are old, they have loads of racing experience and can ride the shit out of the bike!

So what did this all give in the races? Well, not all that much to be honest. In both races Checa quickly got a bit of a lead, followed by Biaggi. The two of them would then cruise comfortably in first and second until the checkered flag. There was so little action up front that we hardly saw Checa at all. Biaggi had it a bit more difficult in race 2 as Melandri put up a good fight for the second position.

The fight for third was a bit more spirited. Melandri (again) put in a good effort for his maiden WSBK races on the Yamaha, and following a somewhat disappointing qualifying he got better as the day went on. His third in the second race was well deserved, and it was equally nice to see Laverty beat him on the finish line in race 1.

Leon Haslam was good in race 1, showing that the BMW might just be on the right track, but they still need to progress to get on the top of the podium. The fight he put up to get third was entertaining, and it was unfortunate he could not repeat this in race 2.

Now I don’t expect to see a remake of this in the coming races. Checa will not have such an easy time for sure, but I think he will indeed race hard for podium positions. The Yamahas don’t look as bad in the race as I had feared they would be, and the BMW has progressed. Certainly this gives us right now three good bikes up front, with the Ducati being a dark horse. You can expect Honda to improve, even if they too will probably be focusing more on MotoGP. Suzuki I really doubt will amount to much, but the Kawasaki probably has the potential to have a few surprise races this year.

Let’s hope that things get a bit more interesting for the next couple of races. As somebody who is always raving about how good the WSBK races are, and how much passing and fighting is going on, I certainly would not be able to use yesterday’s two races as an example of what it should be.



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Henrik
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