Wow! Race 2 for the Superbike class at Donnington will go down as probably one of the best I’ve ever seen. I remember Fogarty and Chili at Assen many years ago; add another 3 riders and you’ve got yesterday’s race 2. Haslam, Melandri, Biaggi, Rea and Sykes all jockeying for position over the 2nd half of the race. I can’t remember how many overtakes there were but there were a lot, with passes being made at almost every turn! And while Rea might be seen as the monkey for knocking Haslam into Melandri on the last corner, Melandri needs to take responsibility for going in too hot and leaving the door open for Rea. One also has to mention Checa riding into the back of Laverty at the start of the race and subsequently taking his team-mate Guiliano and Liberty Effenberg’s Smrz out. A DNF for Checa means that things are really hotting up at the sharp end of the points table.
Melandri’s 1st race win ( with Haslam in 2nd ) is also an impressive first for the BMW Italia team. Pity they couldn’t pull it through in the second race as well.
In a slightly calmer SuperSport race, our South African boys mostly did well. Morais finished with a sixth place and Quarmby 7th. Morais had a slow start but a steady race, something he needed to get over his recent spate of DNFs. Quarmby did well to pick up a few positions on his starting place, while Matthew Scholtz unfortunately went down mid-race.
All n all, a fantastic race weekend which puts the misery of Monza well behind us.
There was mixed fortunes for all classes in this weekend’s WSBK series. The biggest news of course is Haga’s massive high side coming into Coppis in the 2nd SBK heat. It was initially thought that he had fractured T8 and 9 vertebrae but after careful inspection, these were found to be sealed and from an earlier incident. The issues now relate to a fracture ulna and scapula. Screews and paltes were inserted into the forearm but the shoulder will just need to be rested. Even considering the seriousness of the injuries, you can bet Nori will be back at Brno in a month’s time.
The first race saw Biaggi sticking close to Spies for most of the race but it ended that way and Biaggi never really challenged. Biaggi also in second in the 2nd heat made a real hash of Melbourne loop and slid off. He got back on and promptly almost took Lagrive out. Bad boy but typically Biaggi. Haslam took a well fought 2nd place with Byrne and Fabrizio right behind. Thins are really tight at the top of the log with only 14 points separating Spies and Haga.
Cal Crutchlow took honours again in the SuperSport class after Laverty slid of early in the race. Gary McCoy, even though going on antient, took a well deserved 3rd place for Triumph.
The previous weekend’s WSBK races at Assen were the usual bomb, starting with a 3-way battle up front in the premier class, race 1. Haga spent most of the race leading Spies and and fast-riding Leon Haslam until the last lap, when Spies made a last ditch effort in a very fast part of the circuit to move past Haga for the win. Haslam finished 3rd also recording the fastest lap of the race.
The 2nd race went almost in the same direction with Spies sprinting out the blocks to lead the rest of the field on the first lap. Unfortunately he went into lap 2 too hot and slid out on a corner leaving Haga with a good lead which he kept to the end. Haslam, now in second, went on to finish in the same position increasing his tally of points and keeping him in contention for the championship.
The Supersport 600 race was the usual start-to-finish mad dash with Laverty just pipping Cal Crutchlow at the last. Lascorz came 3rd, even though he led almost to the end but was overtaken by both Laverty and Crutchlow on the last lap.
Rossi put on a splendid display of riding at Jerez this weekend past, chipping away at Danni Pedrosa’s lead initially and then going past to stay out in front. Stoner brought his under-par Ducati home in 3rd after nearly having some attention from a slow starting Lorenzo, who tipped his bike in on a corner and lost the front end. Du Puniet finished in 4th and Melandri brought the non-developed Hayate Kawasaki home in 5th – a great result for the team. This leaves a very tight field at the top of the championship but I think that Rossi’s consistency might take him to another title at the end of this year.
The racing in the 250cc class was as fierce as ever with 4 riders battling at the front for the whole race – Bautista, Aoyama, Simoncelli and Barbera. The lead changed continuously throughout most of the race with Simoncelli and Barbera starting to fall of the pace near the end. Bautista wanted this home win badly but Aoyama moved in front of him on the very last corner to take the victory; just as Bautista had taken the win in Motegi, Aoyama’s home race.
Bradley Smith took his first win in 125cc racing with a huge margin over the rest of the field. Not known for his starts, Smith got away well with Simon in tow but on lap 5 Simon has a nasty high side and Smith spent the rest of the race up front and alone. Iannone, championship leader, fell off on lap 1 so things are very tight at the top of the log.
Troy Bayliss took both heats of yesterday’s end of year meeting to cap a great career in bike racing. Leading from the front in both heats, no one came close to his pace except for Haga who retired with a mech gremlin in the first race and jump started the second. You could see the emotion on his face as he toured around the track with his helmet off after the last race – surely all greats feel the same on their last outing. Including Michael Schumacher who was prowling around the start line at the beginning of the race.
Talking about the track, what a great effort by the Portuguese and this is certainly a meeting to look forward to on the calendar. Kudos to Haslam for taking 3rd in the second race – this certainly bodes well for his participation next year in the premier class. He just has to do something about those failing legs on the entry to corners. Fabrizio had one bad race knocking Biaggi off first time around, and then came second for the last race – hot and cold you might say.
Cal Crutchlow put in 2 good efforts as well with Corser picking up 2nd in the championship with 2 reasonable efforts. It was great to see Brendon Roberts take the Stock 100 championship but you have to say that Xavier Simeon through it away with his front end slide. Sofoglu got back to his winning ways in the Supersport race but I have to say his remonstrations half way through the race were not quite suited.
Anyhow, great season of racing and can’t wait for next year. What with newcomers BMW and Aprilia, and Haga on the Ducati, it’s going to be very interesting.
Haga unusually rode a very good SuperPole to be no. 1 on the grid for the 1st race and went on to win – that’s 3 on the trot now. But the big story of race 1 was Troy Bayliss’ clinching of the 2008 championship with a 3rd place in that race, and that on the 3rd model of Ducati in his career. Nieto came good at the end of the season with a well-fought 2nd place. Corser who could’ve come closer to Bayliss only made 6th; as a result Haga has taken over 2nd position in the championship.
The 2nd race ran in a similar vein but Bayliss managed to get the lead from Haga a few laps from the end. Haga, with worn tyres, had no response. So nearly the end of this season and we’re all looking forward to next year already. There’s some talk about Yamaha’s active Ohlins being disallowed for next year – something to look out for.
Rossi’s win at Motegi has won him the 2008 MGP title, his 6th in 8 years. This is probably his best having been out of it for the last 2 years. Stoner, being first out of the blocks, tried his best to stay at the front of the pack but Rossi came past 3/4 way through the race and stayed there for the rest. I fitting victory to a brilliant hard-fought year. The most interesting news to come out of Sunday’s race was the statement of a one-tyre make for next season. While the choice has gone out to tender, you’d be hard pressed to bet against Bridgestone, especially now that quite a few Michelin guys have changed to Bridgestone during this season.
This weekend’s race takes place at Philip Island in Australia, a winding and often wind-swept track that always provides great racing. In practice, Hayden has been fastest in the wet with Stoner best in the dry. But don’t forget about Rossi – he’s been very strong in race trim all year long so practice and qualifying performance can take a side seat.
To WSBK, Haga won both rounds at Vallelunga with close finishes in both rounds. The first race saw Biaggi dogging Haga for most of the race but he wasn’t able to get by the Japanese. Corser finished close behind the two dueling masters at the front with Neukirchner a distant 3rd. The second race saw a strong initial challenge by Bayliss and Corser but after TroyB went off in a slow left-hander on the last lap, it was all Haga. Fabrizio, made a strong finish and pipped Corser to the line for 2nd.
Haga has taken provisional pole for Sunday’s race at with Bayliss second. Considering the possibility of getting to second in the championship, one would be hard-pressed to bet against Haga for at least one of the races on Sunday.
In other news, Leon Haslam ( who did so well at Donnington in the wet ) has joined Stiggy’s Honda-based team for 2009.
Hudson Kennaugh finished in 10th position in the WSS600 race on Sunday as a wildcard rider. Riding the Yamaha R6 in changeable conditions, he kept his position well until spotting rain caused the front 3 riders to raise the hands as indication of unsafe conditions. However it was only when Smrz slid off the track ( and fellow rider Holland ) that the race was red flagged. It was restarted as a wet race although most riders went with a dry road tyre ( not quite a slick ) and Hudson managed to keep his 10th position until the tragic crash of Craig Jones a few laps before the end of the race. The race was red flagged for a 2nd time as a result and Hudson kept 10th place as his finishing position.
Sheridan Morais faired even better in the SS1000 race by finishing a fantastic 2nd, the first podium for any Kawasaki rider this year. Shezza, as he is known in SA, has already won last years SA SuperBike Championship and is leading this years too. He qualified 8th, but managed to work his way up to 4th in tricky conditions with Antonelli close on his heels. First Smrz went down in front of the pair and then fellow Kawasaki rider Baiaccho, leaving Shezza in 2nd place, which he kept until the finish.
… has sadly passed away this weekend past as a result of head injuries sustained during a crash at Brands Hatch in the UK. Craig was in 2nd position contesting the SuperSport 600 race when he came around onto the main straight and lost rear traction. He fell into the path of Andrew Pitt ( currently leading the WSS600 championship ) who tried to take avoiding action but unfortunately clipped Craig’s head. Craig was taken to Royal London Hospital but succumbed to his injuries early Monday morning.