Laverty storms to maiden WSBK victory
8 May 2011
Eugene Laverty has won his first World Superbike Championship race at Monza after his dogged defence of the lead from Max Biaggi was rewarded with a remarkable victory.
The Irishman took the lead at the start of the second lap, but while Biaggi repeatedly drafted alongside or even past him on the straights, Laverty calmly responded by being much stronger on the brakes and nudging back through.
His perseverance was rewarded mid-race when Biaggi bowed under pressure and made series of mistakes that caused him to lose crucial ground in the chasing pack. Though he recovered to second, Biaggi could not close the gap again.
A typically frenetic race, Biaggi – who had beaten Laverty to pole position by a clear six tenths – got away well, but was beaten into the first corner funnel by Troy Corser, while the rest of the field filed in behind them without incident.
Maintaining his place at the front through the duration of the opening lap, as expected Biaggi pulled alongside and slipped past the BMW as they crossed the finish line. However, both riders were caught unawares by Laverty, whose double slipstream propelled him up the inside into the first turn chicane.
From here, Laverty and Biaggi embarked on a tense toing and froing of the lead, Biaggi slipping past on lap three down the straight, only for Laverty to respond at Ascari around the outside and retake the position.
It would set the tone for the first-half of the race, Laverty getting better drive out of the long final bend, only for Biaggi to quickly recover the ground down the home straight. Crucially, however, it was rarely enough for him to be more daring on the brakes as Laverty, the Yamaha showing better anchors into the chicane.
Indeed, Laverty's strength on the brakes and through the bends was made evident when Biaggi drafted past at the start of lap seven, only to have Laverty edge back past on the outside of Rettifilo.
With seven laps remaining, the pressure eventually told on Biaggi as he missed the apex at Rettifilo and was forced to back off and trundle through the second half of the chicane. Immediately losing ground to Laverty, Biaggi was swallowed up by the chasing Leon Haslam and Marco Melandri, dropping him to fourth.
Up to that point, Haslam had been enjoying a strong race, cruising up to the back of the two leaders, only to lose ground again when he ran on at the first corner chicane.
However, his hopes of hunting down Laverty were immediately hampered by Biaggi, the Italian exercising his bike's straight-line pace to cruise back up to second place.
Indeed, although he gave two more chances to Haslam and Melandri to pull away when he made two more identical errors into Variante della Roggia, he was back ahead of them within just a handful of bends.
Even so, while he had no problems getting back up to second place, Biaggi's costly errors had left him 2.4secs behind Laverty, who was revelling from having broken the tow.
Though Biaggi began chasing, Laverty matched him to the chequered flag, the Irishman completing a truly remarkable victory on a day when Biaggi looked to be the man to beat. A repeat of his victory at Monza in 2010, albeit in the Supersport class, the result catapults him up to sixth in the overall standings as a result.
Biaggi consoled himself with the knowledge the key rival and series leader Carlos Checa could only manage ninth position, bringing his lead down to 30 points.
Despite being sent across the chicane on lap 14 when Melandri elbowed his way through, Haslam recovered to claim his second podium finish of the season in what was arguably BMW's most competitive performance of the year, while Melandri was a fine fourth on his Monza Superbike debut.
Behind the top four, the field was fairly strung out, with Michel Fabrizio putting in a battling, if lonely, fifth place finish on the Suzuki, up on Jonathan Rea, the front row starter struggling somewhat on the Castrol Honda.
Having jumped out of the blocks, Corser ended up in seventh on the second BMW, well up on Leon Camier, who spent his race locked in battle with Checa, the Briton getting the better of the series leader on the final lap of the race.
Jakub Smrz shadowed his Ducati counterpart in tenth, ahead of Ayrton Badovini, who managed an impressive 11th having been down in last after running across the gravel during the early stages of the race.
Sylvain Guintoli was 12th, ahead of Tom Sykes, Kawasaki's disappointing qualifying pace having carried through to the race, while Maxime Berger and Ruben Xaus completed the points.
Elsewhere, Noriyuki Haga was battling for seventh when he received a drive-through penalty, leaving him outside the points in 16th, while Joan Lascorz crashed out.