Remarkable Laverty double after Biaggi penalty
8 May 2011
Eugene Laverty has won his second World Superbike race of the day at Monza after an epic final corner pass on team-mate Marco Melandri saw him claim an unexpected victory.
A race of huge drama, Melandri was leading Laverty all the way until the final bend when he ran wide under intense pressure and allowed the Irishman through to take a double victory, just hours after claiming a maiden WSBK win.
The Yamaha 1-2 came after a drive-through penalty handed to Max Biaggi for cutting the first corner chicane whilst leading by a significant margin, in doing so igniting the battle between Melandri and Laverty.
Indeed, Biaggi looked well on course for victory having opened up a five second lead over the first-half of the race, the Italian benefitting from incidents for others to sprint away the moment he snatched the lead on the second lap.
However, the defending champion's victory hopes were controversially dashed on lap eleven when he was handed a drive-through penalty for cutting the first corner chicane, Biaggi judged to crossed a white line that ensures riders return to the circuit safely.
Visibly angry by the ruling as he vigorously shook his head on learning of his penalty, Biaggi avoided a repeat of his Donington Park exclusion by pulling into the pit lane and paying his dues.
Dropping down the order, the battle for victory was suddenly between Melandri and Laverty, an unexpected scenario for the latter rider having completed the first lap in ninth place and run off the circuit himself on lap five.
Indeed, Laverty was one of a few innocent victims eliminated or delayed in a first corner fracas, triggered by Carlos Checa diving up the inside at the chicane, clipping the kerb and bouncing into Jonathan Rea. While Checa stayed upright, Rea slid off, in doing so collecting Leon Haslam and forcing Laverty to an almost stop. Jakub Smrz would also be collected as he clattered into one of the stricken bikes and was sent over the handlebars, thankfully without harm.
The melee had left Corser leading Biaggi, ahead of Leon Camier, Noriyuki Haga and Melandri at the end of the first lap, though Biaggi would cruise past Corser on the home straight.
Having courted some controversy of his own with a robust pass on Noriyuki Haga at turn one on lap two – prompting the normally placid Japanese rider to kick out in anger as he went down the escape road -, Leon Camier soon made it an Aprilia 1-2 as he relieved Corser of second.
However, Aprilia's dream result on home soil was scuppered on lap eight when Camier low-sided out of the second Lesmo and into retirement, promoting Melandri to second, a charging Michel Fabrizio to third and Haga in fourth, while Biaggi's lead grew once more.
Laverty, meanwhile, was having an eventual afternoon, running off on lap five whilst trying to pass Haga, leaving him back in eighth again. Nonetheless, he quickly worked his way up the order to hold down third by lap eleven, behind Melandri, as the second-half of the race got underway.
Third duly became second when Biaggi peeled in, prompting an intense fight for victory with his team-mate, who was also looking for his second victory of the season.
Taking a more cautious approach in tackling his fellow Yamaha rider, Laverty stayed in the shadows of Melandri throughout the duration of the final laps, rarely showing more than a wheel as the small gap between the pair remained static down the straights.
Indeed, Melandri looked to be on course for victory as he rebuffed Laverty's determined last lap efforts, only for him to get crossed up with his troublesome gears into the final corner and running slightly wide.
It was the invitation Laverty needed to dive beneath Melandri and hold him off on the run to the finish line to claim a breathtaking second win of the day - in very different circumstances to that of his first victory.
Melandri cut a disappointed figure in second, though his strong points' haul lifts him back up to second in the standings, 27 points behind Checa.
The battle for the final podium position was arguably just as heart-stopping, with former team-mates Fabrizio and Haga going handlebar-to-handlebar at several points on the circuit as they disputed third place.
Sending Haga down the escape road, not for the first time today, at one point, the Japanese rider was relentless in his fight backs, but Fabrizio aggressively defended his position to hold onto third place by a mere tenth, the Italian scoring his first podium result for Suzuki as a result. Despite missing out on the podium, fourth is Haga's best finish yet on the PATA Aprilia.
Though BMW's hopes of victory were hit by Haslam's first corner retirement, Troy Corser brought home some good points in fifth position, the Australian backed by Ayrton Badovini, who put in an exceptional ride on the satellite 'Italia' machine to claim sixth – the third round in succession that he has improved his personal best result.
Still, he and seventh place Sylvain Guintoli did have some fortune after inheriting positions from Checa in the final metres after the Althea Ducati slowed with a suspected puncture, the Spaniard nonetheless holding on to cross the line in tenth.
Appropriately enough, his problems allowed Biaggi to finish ahead in eighth position, ensuring he leaves Monza having reduced Checa's margin by 15 points to a more manageable 28.
Joan Lascorz brought some smiles to Kawasaki with a top ten finish in ninth, while all 15 finishers scored points in the order of Tom Sykes, Ruben Xaus, Roberto Rolfo, Mark Aitchison and Fabrizio Lai.