September 2012

30 Apr 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on September 2012
Suzuki B-King Final Prototype

Friday, 28 September 2012

Motorland Aragon , in the North East of Spain, is the newest circuit on the calandar. It was only completed in 2009 after some spectacular political shenanigans involving the regional government, Spain’s motorsports governing body and a large number of wealthy local businessmen.

This being possibly the wealthiset area of Spain (though you’d never guess to look at it – there’s not actually a huge amount around, but what there is is either valuable, old or commercially hugely profitable) that meant a circuit to rival any in the world. And it really is a great track, with tight, technical sections, huge elevation changes including a section very reminiscent of The Corkscrew and a daunting back straight, entered from a fast downhill run and ending in a first gear hairpin.

Oh yes, Motorland Aragon has it all. The media centre is great, the staff were friendly and the weather was simply glorious. Which, of course, has its own issues. But we’ll come to that later.

In qualifying it was, unsurprisingly, Checa who reigned on track. By having the second fastest time in the first practice, where Haga also managed to slip into third before crashing at turn 16 and Lanzi and Xaus ended up having to pit in with technical problems, and being fastest throughout most of the second session, Checa definitely proved that the home circuit advantage is no illusion.

It was the second qualifying practice that seemed to determine how the rest of the weekend was going to go. It started out with Checa fastest and Biaggi behind; the Aprilia seems to like this circuit as Camier was also in the top ten. Biaggi then took the fastest time and Melandri slotted in second with 22 minutes to go.

Badovini started showing he could go and was way up in fourth and Sykes in fifth – making us wonder if this could this be his second pole in a row, as he then went into second with 20 minutes to go. Smrz then set the fastest time followed by Biaggi, leaving ‘golden boy’ Checa now down in fifth, but not for long as he then took the top spot again. Badovini sadly crashed when he was 7th fastest, stopping his chances to qualify higher up in the pack.

So with 2 minutes to go the provisional front row was Checa, Smrz, Biaggi and Sykes – but Camier then did a brilliant lap and pushed himself up into fifth. start as you mean to continue, so they say!

Superpole one . with 9 minutes to go, had Checa going fastest followed by Camier, Melandri and Haslam, with Corser falling in fifth and Sykes seventh behind Laverty. Biaggi’s time then slotted into third with Haga fourth, pushing Sykes down to eighth. With 4 minutes to go Checa still reigned, but Camier was now second and Biaggi third.

Badovini did a last minute quick lap and slotted into fourth fastest whilst Checa pulled into the box and watched, looking very pleased with himself. Guintoli ran off track and onto the gravel trap but still also third place, with Fabrizio then setting the fourth fastest time. These late fast times pushed back some of the top contenders, with surprising consequences as Corser, Berger, Haslam and Smrz then didn’t qualify for superpole two.

Superpole two had Biaggi as the top qualifier with 7 minutes to go with Checa in second and Badovini third, soon to be pushed down to fourth by Laverty. Melandri then slotted into fifth, but with 30 seconds remaining, Haga slots up to seventh, pushed down to eighth by Camier doing a fast lap and qualifying fifth. Sykes, however, then pushed Camier to sixth and Haga out of superpole three along with Aitchison, Fabrizio and Guintoli.

With 6 minutes remaining in superpole three . Melandri was the fastest with Biaggi behind him and Laverty and Sykes making up the first row. Camier then set an amazing time of 1.58.279, putting him into third place and keeping him there. Checa was fourth and, with three minutes remaining it was still Melandri, Biaggi, Camier and Checa. Sykes was doing a flying lap from qualifying eighth after pitting in but was blocked by another rider, taking valuable time away from his lap.

He finally finished in fifth, starting the second row. This left the superpole results and front two rows as Melandri, Biaggi, Camier, Checa, Sykes, Laverty, Lascorz and Badovini.

Race time approached fast, and race one had a good start from Camier, slotting straight into third place approaching the first corner with Melandri in first and Biaggi in second. Checa and Haga then overtook Camier, and Biaggi overtook Melandri after a short battle for first. Camier then returned Haga’s favour and took fourth place back, leaving the first four after the first lap as Biaggi, Melandri, Checa and Camier.

A pack of bikes and lots of overtaking left something being knocked off someone’s bike (vague I know but it was a little difficult to tell exactly what happened) and Camier overtook Checa into third place by going around the outside and blocking him off, leaving him in the capable hands of Haga. At this stage, the top ten riders were still incredibly close, but Biaggi started to make a small gap with Melandri hot on his tail.

It all ended for Lanzi on the third lap, as he had to enter the pits due to a technical problem but Sykes had started working his way up the pack and was now sat in sixth place.

Further down the field, Vermeulen showed signs of improvement as his times started to decrease leaving him eighteenth, just a few more places and he’d be getting points. Vermeulen’s a prime example of how much a seemingly minor crash can make a rider have to start from square one again. Camier and Checa fought for third and Checa got it, Camier trying to take it back on the inside but being blocked off.

Camier did briefly overtake again going into the next corner, but into the straight Checa got straight back in front.

Remember that, whilst riders battle for places it increases their lap time, so this gave Biaggi and Melandri the chance to pull away and Checa and Camier less hope for any more than third. Checa now had a small gap ahead of Camier, with Sykes chasing Haga to try and get fifth. The heat wasn’t a help to any of the riders, as when the tarmac gets too hot it melts the tyres and gives them less grip, making it harder to gain speed and overtake without overdoing it and falling off.

Speaking of falling off, Smrz then did so on turn one, getting up and walking away. Melandri, in the mean time, caught up to Biaggi and was gearing himself up to overtake.

Lap seven saw Xaus run onto the gravel at turn one, rejoining in seventeenth place beforeo having to enter the pits due to the problems the gravel caused. There was a big gap forming between Checa and Camier, as Checa had started to push in an attempt to catch up with Melandri and Biaggi.

Maybe he ushed a little too hard, though, as he, Checa then crashed on lap eight at turn ten, he was OK but understandably rather annoyed, but did put British boy Leon Camier on the podium, as long as he stayed steady. Fabrizio then crashed on lap ten, losing his eighth place finish after climbing up the pack – he also sent his bike straight into the wall, which would have been expensive. Sykes finally overtook Haga on lap eleven, leaving the standings as Biaggi, Melandri, Camier and Sykes.

Haslam and Corser showed some team-mate action as they then started to battle for tenth, with Haslam managing to keep it.

Sykes’ good fortune started to wane as Haga then overtook him again in lap fourteen, followed by Laverty on lap fifteen, then Lascorz on lap sixteen, leading us to believe he was struggling. Meanwhile, also on lap sixteen, Biaggi ran slightly wide, allowing Melandri to dive straight through and into first place. As mentioned before, this battling slowed them down, and Camier started gaining on the top two very rapidly, closing the gap to only two seconds.

Laverty then overtook Haga into fourth and Corser overtook Haga to take ninth place. Sykes also seemed to regroup and overtook Lascorz again. Camier’s laps were getting faster and faster, and it was clear that, if there were just a few more laps, he could have easily taken first place. Haslam also overtook Corser again, pushing him down to tenth place.

On the last lap Sykes overtook Haga again, and Melandri won the race with Biaggi in second and Camier third. Laverty finished in fourth followed by Sykes, Haga, Lascorz, Haslam and Corser – but it was a very close finish between Laverty and Sykes.

Between Superbike races, Chaz Davies put the Union Flag at the top with a tidy and well earned win in the Supersport race, while Sam Lowes rode the wheels off the slightly outgunned Parkalgar Honda to take second, ahead of local hero David Salom. Pretty good considering that both Yamaha and Kawasaki (first and third) nominated Aragon as their official test track and their bikes had a good five km/h advantage through the speed trap. Honourable mention to Gino Rea as well, on the massively outclassed Step Honda, taking a hard fought sixth place.

Back to Superbikes, then. Race two saw another good start from Camier, but Biaggi took the lead with Melandri behind him and Camier, once again, in third just to be overtaken straight away by Sykes. Lascorz then also overtook Camier, leading to a battle between them which Lascorz came out top of.

Maxime Berger t-boned Corser at the end of the long fast back straight, knocking them both off. Berger walked away but Corser was left with a broken radius and ulna in his left arm. This left the standings by the end of lap two as Biaggi, Melandri and Sykes. Fabrizio and Checa then both overtook Camier on lap three, but it was, once again, the Biaggi and Melandri show for the top two.

Fabrizio and Checa then went on to overtake Lascorz, whilst Haga overtook Haslam into eighth place.

The weekend ended badly for Smrz, as he ended up with two DNFs after crashing on lap five at turn fourteen, with Haslam falling behind when overtaken by Laverty. Checa and Fabrizio kept on overtaking, as they both got past Sykes, putting Fabrizio into third place. However, there was already a three second gap between Melandri and Checa, with Melandri still very close to Biaggi.

Xaus had to retire from the race and enter the pits on lap seven (another technical problem) and, sadly, Sykes crashed on this lap with a fast low side. Fortunately the Yorkshireman was unhurt. Camier also dropped back into eighth place as Haga overtook him, but was still setting quicker lap times.

Haslam’s weekend seemed to get worse as Badovini then overtook him, but things suddenly stopped happening and people stopped overtaking! Haslam overtook Badovini again on lap thirteen, but tenth place was a whole 18 seconds behind Biaggi’s first place.

Melandri stayed very close to Biaggi, hoping for a double, but on lap sixteen he lost the front end and though he managed to save it he ranning off track and ended up with a 5 second gap behind Biaggi. At this point we knew the most likely result, as did Melandri because he seemed to relax a bit.

Laverty overtook Haga on lap nineteen, and by the final lap there were 20 seconds between first and eighth place – which is a huge difference! Biaggi finished the race way in the lead, cruising over the line with a quick glance over his shoulder. Melandri finished second, Checa third and then Fabrizio, Lascorz, Laverty, Haga, Camier, Haslam and Badovini.

Brno next and, as usual, we’ll be there – but unfortunately Johnny Rea still hasn’t recovered fully enough to race, so will be missing his favourite circuit’s round. We’ll keep you posted on Corser.

1 Marco Melandri (Yamaha)

2 Max Biaggi (Aprilia)

3 Leon Camier (Aprilia)

4 Eugene Laverty (Yamaha)

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