Biaggi benefits from Checa misfortune
31 May 2010
Max Biaggi has won his fifth World Superbike race of the season at Miller Motorsports Park, but only after a cruel technical problem robbed Carlos Checa of certain victory.
The Spaniard had led from almost start-to-finish on the Althea Ducati, Checa shaking off the attentions of Biaggi at the midway point before pulling out an advantage of almost three seconds.
However, the race would prove just two laps too long for Checa as he coasted off the circuit, promoting Biaggi to a somewhat fortuitous victory.
Aiding his title hopes, Biaggi has pulled back five points over Leon Haslam in the championship fight, the Suzuki rider recovering from a poor start to claim second position, while Noriyuki Haga was back on the podium in third.
Having been billed pre-race as a straight fight between the Ducati of Checa, who smashed the lap record on the way to pole position, and the Aprilia of Max Biaggi, which had displayed superior advantages through the speed traps, it was little surprise to see both riders leap into the lead early on.
Indeed, while the long run down to the first left-hander did enable Leon Camier to squeeze between the pair on the second RSV-4, Checa needed just one more bend to dispose of the Briton.
Instantly Checa began pressuring Biaggi, but while he would lose ground down the huge home straight – he would average around 16kph slower throughout the race -, he displayed superior confidence through the bends as he simply out-manoeuvred his rival round the outside of Witchcraft on lap two to snatch the lead.
From here, the pair would pull away from third place man Camier, who in turn had a comfortable advantage over the fast-starting Troy Corser.
With the pendulum swinging between the straights and bends as they bunched up and then gapped one another, it took until lap 13 for Checa to pull a second over Biaggi.
From here, Checa didn't look back, lapping consistently faster than Biaggi to eke out his advantage over the remaining laps. However, just as he was beginning to ease off in search of the chequered flag, the Althea Ducati simply coasted to a standstill.
A cruel end to a peerless ride, Checa calmly parked the bike and returned to the pit lane as he was left to imagine what could have been.
Checa's retirement played firmly into the hands of Biaggi, who subsequently took the lead and kept it neat and tidy through the final two laps to cross the line as the winner.
An additional boost for his title hopes, Biaggi's reins Haslam in by five points as a result, bringing the margin between the two back down to ten points.
While Biaggi's race was fairly uneventful, Haslam was made to work hard for his podium as he battled back from a bad start, one that left him down in ninth position at the end of the first lap, to finish in second position.
Haslam certainly wasn't aided by the smokescreen being emitted by the Ducati of Jakub Smrz, the Czech rider completing almost a lap before realising his PATA B&G machine was set to expire.
Prompting Haslam to sit up and motion to the marshals, once Smrz had pulled off the circuit, the Briton pushed on, gaining two positions on lap three when Jonathan Rea, still smarting from his accident during Superpole, suffered another tumble and took Cal Crutchlow onto the grass with him.
Dropping Crutchlow outside the top ten and Rea, who gallantly got back on the bike, to the back of the field, Haslam was up to sixth and chasing Haga and Corser, the Suzuki rider proceeding to pass both riders in a move befitting of a potential world champion.
With Haga following through, the pair swiftly tracked down third place Camier, but with the Briton making no noticeable errors through the bends, neither had the grunt to out pace the Aprilia in a straight line.
Eventually, Haslam bullied his way past his countryman on lap 16, with Haga following through soon afterwards when Camier, seemingly struggling with his tyres, ran wide.
With Checa retiring, Haslam was promoted to second, with Haga claiming third for his best finish since winning at Valencia some eight races ago.
Camier held on for one of his best results of the season in fourth, while Corser's excellent getaway from 13th was rewarded with another fine top five result on the BMW.
With several riders suffering towards the end of the race, the mid-pack bunched up markedly in the latter stages, a fact that explained Shane Byrne's remarkable late charge through the order.
The Althea rider had fallen to the back of the field with an error on lap two, but after steadily forging his way onto the cusp of the top ten with three laps to go, he scythed his way past the ailing Ruben Xaus, Sylvain Guintoli, James Toseland and Luca Scassa to claim sixth place – his equal best finish of the season.
Scassa crossed the line seventh for what remains his and Supersonic Ducati's best-ever finish at World Superbike level, while Guintoli was another to shrug off a bad start to get into a decent eighth place at the chequered flag.
Going in the other direction was Toseland who, after getting a good start from 14th to run seventh, slipped behind Scassa, Byrne and Guintoli towards the end of the race on the way to an eventual ninth.
Xaus completed the top ten, ahead of the recovering Crutchlow, who never quite got back into the race after his earlier off, Max Neukirchner, Tom Sykes and Rea, who put in a brave performance to hunt down and pass Chris Vermeulen for 14th on the final lap.
A frustrating race for Ducati, joining Smrz and Checa on the sidelines was Michel Fabrizio – a four-time podium winner here – after he dropped his Xerox machine on lap two.