Carlos Checa (Althea Racing Ducati) was a force to be reckoned with once more at Ducati’s home circuit, and he duly posted his desired double in the FIM Superbike World Championship races in front of 81,000 fans at Imola. The final result of his winning labours is that he is now leading the championship, but only just, from Max Biaggi (Aprilia Racing) and double second place finisher Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) with the English rider having his best results since his win in Germany last year.

“In this first European race here at the Imola track we introduced the new Diablo Supercorsa SC tyre for the Superstock 1000 FIM Cup riders which will be used this year only by the STK 1000 riders. Then, starting from next year, it will also be used by the 600 class and Supersport riders, as well as in the various national  and open tyre championships in which Pirelli participates. For the Superbike class we brought a new SC1 compound for the rear, developed specifically for medium-low temperatures, which was quite popular with the riders in both race 1 and race 2 as opposed to the standard SC1 tyre. This leads us to believe that we have done a good job developing this tyre. The other riders, also in light of the slightly cooler temperatures compared to the last few days, opted for the SC2 solution which is particularly suited for these situations where the asphalt temperature shifted from 11° in race 1 to 18° in race 2. Carlos Checa once again showed that he is very strong on his Ducati and that he is definitely a contender for the title again this year, but Tom Sykes on his Kawasaki and Leon Haslam on his BMW have also grown a lot and will certainly be chasing the defending World Champion. And we can’t forget Max Biaggi, who will be giving it his all right down to the end together with these three riders during the season. Having three different motorcycle manufacturers on the podium in both races and even five different manufacturers in the first five places for race 2 is very important for us because it means that we are working in the right direction to level the playing field for all the riders and manufacturers so that they can all aim for the title, making this a very heated Championship.  Last, but not least, I would say that the crowds and the media here at Imola demonstrate how the Superbike Championship has grown significantly and we are certainly pleased by this as the sole supplier for the Championship through 2015.” Giorgio Barbier, Racing Director, Pirelli Motorcycle

Pirelli BEST LAP Awards:

SBK Race 1 – Carlos Checa (Althea Racing), 1’47.877 (Lap 13)

SBK Race 2 –  Tom Sykes ( Kawasaki Racing Team), 1′ 47.552 (Lap 7)

Total BEST LAP (SBK): Checa C. (Althea Racing): 2, Biaggi M. (Aprilia Racing Team): 1, Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team), 1

WSS –  Parkes B. (Ten Kate Racing Products),  1’51.952  (Lap 9)

Total BEST LAP (WSS): Foret F. (Kawasaki Intermoto Step): 1, Parkes B. (Ten Kate Racing Products), 1

Stk1000 –  Sylvain Barrier (BMW Motorrad Italia Goldbet ), 1’51.551 (Lap  2)
Stk600 –   Nacho Calero Perez (Team Trasimeno), 1′ 54.481 (Lap 7)

Carlos Checa: “It’s a big family here for me and I feel like I’m at home, sharing these emotions with all the people! Five times winning here is also very special. We worked very well this weekend, and it helps us to go ahead in the championship. Of course after two wins, my position is getting better, but anyway I just want to think about today and the fantastic moment and the job we did. Thanks to the team, Ducati and all the fans!”

Tom Sykes: “I think it was a very good weekend for myself and Kawasaki. The ZX-10R has been great, we had pole position and two seconds in the races so I don’t think we could have asked for much more. Carlos has done a great job today, we had no answer, he was able to preserve the tyre that bit better than us. That’s something we need to work on but the big picture is that we’ve got a hatful of points again. If we continue like this I’ll be very happy.”

Leon Haslam: “It was a tough race, the top 3 got away again and I had to pull them back. I got comfortable behind Tom, thought I could have a go at him towards the end. Every time I pushed I got a little bit of chatter and kept losing my line, and had a few big moments on the last few laps, but he rode real good, and Checa rode a fantastic race once again. It was the first-ever double podium for BMW so I’m happy about that and we’ll take what we’ve learnt here to Assen. The ankle is a bit sore and I hit a couple of kerbs but  for Assen I’ll be 100%.”

Biaggi missed the podium twice today, by narrow margins on each occasion. In each 21-lap race he had to give best to the impressive Leon Haslam (BMW Motorrad Motorsport) who is still riding with screws in his foot after his big crash in Australia in late February. This was Haslam’s personal best weekend for BMW as well, on a day of significant happenings for riders, teams and manufacturers.

In race two there were five different manufacturers in the top five places, and all six were represented in the top eight positions, which once again proves how close and exciting SBK racing is in its 25th anniversary year. With the top three riders now covered by only six points, the next round at Assen is eagerly anticipated.

The teams will remain in Imola for an official test on Monday 2 April.

Race 1

Checa waited until half race distance to put a move on early leader Sykes but when he did he rode at lap record pace and took his second win of the year in some style. Sykes had his best ever dry-race performance on the Kawasaki in second place, with Haslam and Biaggi disputing the final podium place. It went to Haslam, by a second from his Italian rival. Fifth was Eugene Laverty (Aprilia Racing) but just behind him Melandri and Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki Racing Team) finally passed long-time fifth place runner, Lorenzo Zanetti (Pata Racing Team Ducati). Zanetti was a still-impressive eighth.

Results: 1. Checa C. (ESP) Ducati 1098R 38’06.264; 2. Sykes T. (GBR) Kawasaki ZX-10R 3.206; 3. Haslam L. (GBR) BMW S1000 RR 5.593; 4. Biaggi M. (ITA) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 6.519; 5. Laverty E. (IRL) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 24.662; 6. Melandri M. (ITA) BMW S1000 RR 27.261; 7. Lascorz J. (ESP) Kawasaki ZX-10R 27.384; 8. Zanetti L. (ITA) Ducati 1098R 28.299; 9. Rea J. (GBR) Honda CBR1000RR 34.067; 10. Canepa N. (ITA) Ducati 1098R 35.724; 11. Smrz J. (CZE) Ducati 1098R 36.738; 12. Berger M. (FRA) Ducati 1098R 37.257; 13. Hopkins J. (USA) Suzuki GSX-R1000 50.418; 14. Mercado L. (ARG) Kawasaki ZX-10R 53.623; 15. Badovini A. (ITA) BMW S1000 RR 53.942; 16. McCormick B. (CAN) Ducati 1098R 54.139; etc.

Race 2

Checa played a strong second card at Imola to take his first double win of 2012, 1.9 seconds ahead of Sykes and the hard-charging Haslam. Sykes set a new lap record of 1 minute 47.552 seconds to try and escape Checa on lap 7, but he could not manage the pace over race distance. Biaggi was fourth again, making the quartet of top finishers the same as in race one. Fifth this time around was Jonathan Rea (Honda World Superbike Team) who did well to survive a trip across the gravel after tangling with sixth placed Laverty. Rea was fighting against muscle fatigue and bruising, which resulted from his big highside crash in practice. Jakub Smrz (Liberty Racing Team Effenbert) was a very close seventh. Leon Camier (Crescent Fixi Suzuki) rode to eighth place, the best finish for a Suzuki rider so far this season.

Results: 1. Checa C. (ESP) Ducati 1098R 37’57.571; 2. Sykes T. (GBR) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1.935; 3. Haslam L. (GBR) BMW S1000 RR 2.969; 4. Biaggi M. (ITA) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 3.346; 5. Rea J. (GBR) Honda CBR1000RR 18.925; 6. Laverty E. (IRL) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 21.180; 7. Smrz J. (CZE) Ducati 1098R 21.392; 8. Camier L. (GBR) Suzuki GSX-R1000 23.797; 9. Lascorz J. (ESP) Kawasaki ZX-10R 24.219; 10. Melandri M. (ITA) BMW S1000 RR 25.599; 11. Guintoli S. (FRA) Ducati 1098R 25.776; 12. Berger M. (FRA) Ducati 1098R 26.004; 13. Zanetti L. (ITA) Ducati 1098R 31.172; 14. Davies C. (GBR) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 33.837; 15. Badovini A. (ITA) BMW S1000 RR 45.541; 16. McCormick B. (CAN) Ducati 1098R 50.807; etc.

Points (after 2 of 14 rounds): 1. Checa 75; 2. Biaggi 71; 3. Sykes 69; 4. Haslam 47; 5. Melandri 46; 6. Rea 40; 7. Smrz 30; 8. Laverty 29; 9. Guintoli 21; 10. Berger; etc. Manufacturers: 1. Ducati 91; 2. Aprilia 71; 3. Kawasaki 69; 4. BMW 63; 5. Honda 40; 6. Suzuki 15.

Supersport

Fabien Foret (Kawasaki Intermoto Step) took a cool and professional win after 19 laps of competition, his first of the year, and the first for his team in 2012. Sam Lowes (Bogdanka PTR Honda) went a close second and after many issues for some front-runners, Ronan Quarmby (PTR Honda) was third, albeit 17 seconds from the winner. Roberto Tamburini (Team Lorini Honda) finished fourth – by only 0.004 seconds – and the Power Team by Suriano Triumph of Vittorio Iannuzzo was fifth. In the championship, Foret has 45 points, Lowes 31 and Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki DeltaFin Lorenzini) in on 25 alongside Quarmby, after the Turkish rider was black-flagged for not taking a ride through penalty.

Results: 1. Foret F. (FRA) Kawasaki ZX-6R 35’44.653; 2. Lowes S. (GBR) Honda CBR600RR 0.574; 3. Quarmby R. (RSA) Honda CBR600RR 17.266; 4. Tamburini R. (ITA) Honda CBR600RR 17.270; 5. Iannuzzo V. (ITA) Triumph Daytona 675 22.953; 6. Leonov V. (RUS) Yamaha YZF R6 25.509; 7. Nemeth B. (HUN) Honda CBR600RR 30.042; 8. Antonelli A. (ITA) Honda CBR600RR 32.429; etc.

Points (after 2 of 13 rounds): 1. Foret 45; 2. Lowes 31; 3. Sofuoglu 25; 4. Quarmby 25; 5. Iannuzzo 18; 6. Parkes 16; etc. Manufacturers: 1. Kawasaki 50; 2. Honda 36; 3. Triumph 19; 4. Yamaha 15.

Superstock 1000

After the first attempt at the race was stopped when a crashed machine blocked the circuit, a final five lap sprint determined the winner overall and Sylvain Barrier (BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet) headed off his countryman Loris Baz (MRS Kawasaki) in a thrilling short race. The new Ducati Panigale 1199 placed third in its debut weekend, thanks to Eddi La Marra (Barni Racing Team Italia). Markus Reiterberger (alpha Racing BMW) was fourth, only 1.240 seconds from the win. In fifth, Pedercini Kawasaki rider Bryan Staring was well clear of sixth place man, Fabio Massei (EAB Ten Kate Junior Team Honda). Lorenzo Baroni (BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet) had to take a ride-through after cutting a chicane in the interrupted first race.

Results: 1. Barrier S. (FRA) BMW S1000 RR 9’25.462; 2. Baz L. (FRA) Kawasaki ZX-10R 0.700; 3. La Marra E. (ITA) Ducati 1199 Panigale 1.098; 4. Reiterberger M. (GER) BMW S1000 RR 1.240; 5. Staring B. (AUS) Kawasaki ZX-10R 5.638; 6. Massei F. (ITA) Honda CBR1000RR 11.703; 7. Coghlan K. (GBR) Ducati 1199 Panigale 13.079; 8. Savadori L. (ITA) Ducati 1199 Panigale 13.210; etc.

Points (after 1 of 10 rounds): 1. Barrier 25; 2. Baz 20; 3. La Marra 16; 4. Reiterberger 13; 5. Staring 11; 6. Massei 10; etc. Manufacturers: 1. BMW 25; 2. Kawasaki 20; 3. Ducati 16; 4. Honda 10; 5. Aprilia 5.