Checa bounces back but Biaggi steals show
26 February 2012
Carlos Checa made amends for his failure to finish the opening race of the 2012 World Superbike Championship by cruising to victory in the second Phillip Island encounter.
The reigning champion began his title defence with a DNF after barrelling out of the lead during the first race, but was back to his best in the second to win by a sizeable five second margin.
However, the story of the race was undoubtedly the fabulous fight back from race one winner Max Biaggi, who completed the opening lap in 21st when he ran off the circuit at the very first turn, only to claw his way up to a remarkable second place.
Indeed, Biaggi came into the second race seeking a double victory following a dominant turn in race one, but his hopes of a strong result looked to have been scuppered at the very first corner when light contact with Tom Sykes around the right-hander pushed him out too wide and onto the grass.
Embarking on a high-speed trip across the run-off area, Biaggi re-joined the circuit in 24th and last having lost more than eight seconds on the leaders.
Up front, it was pole sitter Sykes that held firm over the opening revolutions before Jonathan Rea slipped ahead at the start of lap three. However, with Checa swiftly following through, the Spaniard wasted no time in dispatching of the Honda rider, striking to the front on lap five.
With Checa proceeding to pull away from Rea and Sykes, attention turned to Biaggi, who was already making impressive gains at the back of the field, climbing to tenth by lap ten of 22.
Aided by a busy mid-field pack that stretched from fourth place to ninth place, Biaggi's superior straight line speed on the Aprilia RSV4 was very much in evidence as he routinely slipstreamed past his rivals on the run into the first turn, occasionally passing more than one bike per lap.
His pace was such that he was up to fourth position, ahead of race one podium winner Marco Melandri, by lap 16 and suddenly within sight of a podium finish as he took chunks out of Sykes's advantage.
Though Sykes put up a better fight than most as he doggedly defended his podium spot, Biaggi eventually made it past with four laps remaining and promptly set about going even better as he reeled in a flagging Rea.
Indeed, with Rea struggling with evident tyre woes in the final laps, Biaggi was able to get the better of him too to claim a remarkable second place finish, just five seconds behind Checa.
His impressive efforts mean he leaves Australia with a comfortable lead in the overall standings, 15 points ahead of Melandri, 16 points up on Sykes and, perhaps most crucially, 20 points ahead of Checa.
Behind Biaggi, Rea's troubles on the Honda allowed Sykes back onto his tail in the closing stages, the Kawasaki rider duly taking advantage of the opportunity to snatch only his third career WSBK podium on the run to the finish line.
The battle for fifth place also went down to the wire, with Leon Haslam emerging ahead of Marco Melandri after heroically defying the effect of his injured leg to spar with – and eventually prevail over - his BMW team-mate.
Maxime Berger raised some smiles for Effenbert Liberty Ducati with a good run to seventh, just behind the BMWs, though there was disappointment for team-mate and race one podium winner Sylvain Guintoli when he crashed out of the fifth place battle.
Eugene Laverty was also part of the fight for fifth for much of the race, but faded during the latter stages to an eventual eighth place, just ahead of Hiroshi Aoyama, who completed his second top ten finish of the day, and Red Devils Roma Ducati rider Niccolo Canepa.
Outside the top ten, Jakub Smrz finished 11th, ahead of Leon Camier, who suffered for a poor start, while Davide Giugliano, Lorenzo Zanetti and Josh Brookes rounded out the points' paying positions.
As well as Guintoli, other notable retirements included Joan Lascorz, who crashed out of a possible podium position having scythed his way up to fourth place behind Sykes during the opening half of the race, and Michel Fabrizio, who fell early on.