Posted: 27 Oct 2011
The 2011 Superbike World Championship (WSB) season promised a healthy mix of the old and young. Heading the old guard was Max Biaggi. He took the 2010 title on his demonically fast Aprilia and looked a good bet to retain it in 2011, but Carlos Checa, another former GP rider in the twilight of his career, was strong pre-season on his Ducati.
Then there were the young guns. Marco Melandri was out of MotoGP and in WSB on a Yamaha and lookedlike he was enjoying his riding again. Marco beat even the great Valentino Rossi, who in his day was certainly a danger man. And just look at the line-up of Brits!
The quietly determined Eugene Laverty was Marco’s team-mate at Yamaha, graduating up from Supersport 600. Leon Haslam was on the rapid but fickle BMW, Leon Camier was lining up alongside Max on the Aprilia, Jonathan Rea was the main rider at Honda, while Tom Sykes was on the brand new Kawasaki ZX-10R. Compared to the dull procession that was MotoGP, WSB promised to be more than action packed, and it didn’t disappoint!
The first round at Phillip Island in Australia set the tone for the season. Checa looked like he was born to ride the Ducati and took the double win while Max and Marco knocked lumps out of each other in a typical Italian demonstration of machismo. Something that was to boil over at the next round…
Donington Park saw Marco and Checa share the glory, but not before Max and Marco had indulged in some ‘handbags at dawn’ in the pit, with Max slapping Marco in the face. Marco had the last laugh though, leaving the UK with his first WSB win while Max had a did not finishand a disqualification, after ignoring a ride through penalty. At least Camier’s podium gave the British crowd something to cheer about.
Onto Assen, where Jonathan Rea’s win gave the travelling British fans hope. But the championship wasn’t looking good, as once again Checa took glory in the second race, extending his advantage. Monza’s straights saw the emergence of a new force in WSB as Eugene Laverty took a double win, while Checa’s sluggish Ducati ensured he had a round to forget, good for the fans if not the likable Spaniard. He was soon smiling again after a double win at Salt Lake City, extending his championship lead to over 60 points, something he further increased with another double at Misano.
Aragon and Brno saw the return of the Italians with Marco and Max sharing the wins at these rounds while Checa had a DNF and a third at Aragon and two thirds at Brno – consistency wins titles and the 2011 WSB championship looked likely to be heading to Spain. A feeling that was cemented at Silverstone when Checa took the double and Ducati’s 300th WSB win.
The next round in Germany was a washout. Checa took the first race win but the headlines were made in the second. Despite horrific conditions Tom Skyes somehow kept the ZX-10R upright to give Kawasaki a much-needed win – ironically just hours after hearing the news that his team would no longer be running the bikes in 2012.
Onto Imola and, with his injuries eventually healed, Jonathan Rea reminded the WSB field what a class act he is with a win. While ‘you know who’ took the second race glory, moving him to within a whisker of his first WSB title. The champagne was uncorked after Checa took the first race win at MagnyCours, not that it slowed him down, he took the second race win to stamp home his authority and also won the first race at the final round at Portimao, to finish off a superb season for the Spaniard.
The 2011 WSB season saw some great racing, but also some shocks. Yamaha announced it was withdrawing from the series, Kawasaki dropped the British squad who was running its official team and Ducati announced its new 1199 Panigale superbike wouldn’t be raced in 2012. Never mind, Checa seemed to make the old 1098 fly…
Over in World Supersport there was one story, another British Champion! Chaz Davies’ last minute switch from Triumph to Yamaha (on Cal Crutchlow’s old championship winning bike) proved the inspiration for a dominant season. With six race wins, Davies wrapped up the title with ease. However British riders Sam Lowes , Geno Rea and James Ellison kept him honest. Watch these boys next year and also watch Davies as he progresses to WSB on a Ducati…