Brilliant Biaggi doubles up in Portugal
28 March 2010
Max Biaggi has taken a double victory for Aprilia in the second round of the World Superbike Championship at Portimao to firmly establish himself as a title contender for this year's crown.
Bouncing back from an indifferent weekend in Australia, a bold pass on Leon Haslam on the penultimate lap proved the decisive moment for the Italian as he went on to resist the Suzuki rider to the chequered flag.
The results – his first double victory at World Superbike level – means Biaggi has moved up to second position in the standings, 16 points adrift of Haslam, who nonetheless held on for a fourth consecutive top two finish.
Just behind, Cal Crutchlow bounced back from the disappointment of the first race to claim a maiden WSBK podium for Yamaha, while Carlos Checa and Leon Camier mirrored their fourth and fifth place finishes from the opening encounter.
Having prevailed in a race-long battle with Haslam in the first race, Biaggi signalled his intentions by getting away from the start line quickest and delving into the opening turn with the lead, followed closely by Jonathan Rea, up from fifth on the grid, and Haslam.
Rea wasted no time in announcing his presence, pulling a fine pass on Biaggi for the lead at Craig Jones corner, only to be demoted to second again when the Aprilia's superior top speed eased Biaggi back past down the home straight.
Having held sway in third for the first few laps, Haslam launched his challenge on Rea on lap six, the Northern Irishman doing his utmost to stay side-by-side with the Suzuki through turn one, only to find himself forced wide when he couldn't hold the position.
Dropping to fourth, behind Crutchlow, Rea's race would last just two further laps when a technical problem forced him to park his Ten Kate Honda.
With Haslam now in second position, both he and Biaggi looked set to pick up where they left off in race one as the Briton attempted to keep his rival honest over the coming laps. The big difference here, however, would be the proximity of Crutchlow and Checa, who kept a watching brief in third and fourth.
Save for a quick swap of position on lap twelve, Biaggi continued to keep Haslam at bay, only for the Italian to drop to third with just five laps remaining after an error that allowed both Haslam and Crutchlow through.
Quickly regrouping, Biaggi swiftly dismissed Crutchlow for second before riding up to the back of Haslam and snatching the lead back down the home straight into turn one with less than two laps remaining.
Despite Haslam's best efforts, he couldn't wrestle the position back off Biaggi, leaving the 'Roman Emperor' to celebrate a fine double triumph – the first time Aprilia have won two consecutive races since Troy Corser did so at Valencia in 2001.
Lifting him to second in the overall standings, Biaggi still has a 16 point deficit to make up on the consistent Haslam, whose second place finish keeps the Suzuki man on top by a comfortable margin.
Despite crossing the line just six tenths behind Biaggi, Crutchlow never looked likely to convert his pole position into a race victory, although third position does go a long way to reviving Yamaha's fortunes after a dismal weekend in Australia.
Two more strong results for Checa also keeps him in the hunt overall, the Spaniard even moving ahead of factory Ducati rider Michel Fabrizio after capitalising on a dismal weekend for the Xerox-backed concern.
While his team-mate claimed the spoils up front, Camier courted his own attention with another strong ride to fifth place, ahead of fellow Britons James Toseland, who secured a solid sixth place finish having started a lowly 15th, and Shane Byrne.
Although some way off where he would prefer to be, Noriyuki Haga at least had the mild satisfaction of beating Sylvain Guintoli to eighth after a lengthy battle, the pair having also caught and passed Troy Corser towards the end of the race, the BMW rider fading once again having run inside the top five initially.
Michel Fabrizio completed his wholly unsatisfying weekend in 11th on the second Ducati Xerox, ahead of Ruben Xaus, Tom Sykes, Lorenzo Lanzi and Max Neukirchner.
The World Superbike Championship now moves on to Valencia for the third round of the season in two weeks time.