Team BMW Motorrad Motorsport leaves the 11th round of the 2011 FIM Superbike World Championship with mixed results. Factory rider, Leon Haslam, crashes out of the first race but gives BMW another top-five finish in the second race. His teammate Troy Corser finished 12th in the first race but had to retire in race two with mechanical problems.
Ayrton Badovini of the BMW Motorrad Italia Superbike Team had a difficult weekend and finished 9th and 10th. Xavi Fores was forced to retire in race one but finished race two in 14th place, winning his first two World Superbike championship points.
Team BMW Motorrad Motorsport had arrived at the iconic “Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari” in Imola, Italy with higher hopes. Haslam and Corser had demonstrated the potential of the BMW S1000RR in both wet and dry conditions at its home race at the Nürburgring in Germany at the beginning of the month.
Badovini arrived at Imola motivated by tests the BMW Italia Team had run the week before at Misano Adriatico. Spanish rider, Fores, was looking forward to his Superbike debut after replacing James Toseland for the last three races of the Championship. Fores won the Superstock Championship Extreme last year in Spain on the S1000RR and had raced at Imola with Supersport in 2005 (withdrawn) and Superstock in 2009 (ninth).
Imola is a real challenge for motorcycles, and not just as a result of the many bumps that are characteristic of this circuit. Imola also features several chicanes, the first of which comes right after the start-finish straight. For this reason, the bike must be excellent when it comes to braking, steering into corners, and accelerating out of bends. Stability is also important, as almost every chicane is lined with kerbs, which unsettle the bike as the riders cut over them. At the same time, overtaking is very difficult in Imola. The rider must be very aggressive if he wants to move through the field during the race.
Team BMW Motorrad Motorsport had a very good start to the weekend. Haslam provisionally qualified for the front row by ending the first Qualifying practice in third position. Corser provisionally qualified 19th.
“I am really happy with the lap times,” said Haslam. “We did not use the soft tire in qualifying and basically worked on race simulation. Our consistency is probably one of the best out there. I would say that this was one of the best starts we have had to a race weekend, so we are going to keep on pushing for tomorrow.”
Ayrton started well by setting the eighth fastest time in morning practice but then suffered technical problems in the afternoon qualifying session that prevented him doing better than fourteenth. Technicians found the cause of the problem and Ayrton was ready to improve his grid position the following day. Xavi, meanwhile, had to familiarize himself with the Superbike he rode for the first time at the track and ended the day 22nd.
Saturday qualifying saw the BMW Team slip a little with Haslam finishing Superpole qualifying in sixth. “We had a few issues with the bike which made things difficult. We still managed to qualify on the second row of the grid however, which is a good position to be in going into tomorrow’s races,” said Haslam.
His teammate, Corser, encountered the grip issues which have plagued the team the entire season and qualified 15th. Corser said, “We have been improving with every session this weekend and we have found a pretty good set-up on race tires. Sadly, when we changed to qualifying tires we were not able to take advantage of the extra grip. I actually set my fastest lap on race tires but that wasn’t good enough to progress further in Superpole today.”
Badovini was the fastest Italian in Superpole and set the seventh-fastest time putting him on the second row. Fores continued to gain experience with the Superbike and ended the day in 22nd and would start from the sixth row.
After two promising days at Imola, hopes were high for both Superbike teams. In race one, Haslam kept sixth place on the opening laps. He then found his rhythm and was able to close the gap to the front runners. After eight laps, he was only 0.2 seconds behind the leading group. But then he fell on lap nine and was forced to retire.
“In the early stages of race one I was struggling to push properly, but after a few laps I found a good rhythm and caught up to Tom and Carlos. Unfortunately I then got a false neutral. I went into the corner, the gear jumped out and in again and I fell. I am disappointed with the crash,” said Haslam.
Corser started from 15th and was able to make up some positions during the race and finished 12th. He said, “I did not get a bad start, but then I ran a little bit wide at the ‘Tosa’-hairpin. We had made quite a few changes on the bike, so it took me a few laps to learn how to ride it. Once I had worked it out, I was able to push.”
Badovini had a long battle with Marco Melandri in race one, fighting for eighth place and finished in ninth. A result that allows him to acquire more precious points in the world standings. BMW Italia hoped Fores would be able to finish both races but he was forced to retire from the first race with technical problems.
At the start of race two, Haslam was fighting in the leading group. But then he struggled to keep pace with the front runners and had to settle for fifth. Corser made another good start but then lost positions and retired on lap 11. “I felt something was wrong with the bike, as I could hear a strange noise coming from it. I am not sure where it was coming from or what it was but something wasn’t right. So I decided to play it safe and pull in. It is a shame because I felt good and we could have scored some good points.”
On the grid of the second race, Troy was given a special award by Infront for having achieved his 4000th world championship point at Nürburgring earlier this month.
Badovini managed another top ten finish thanks to a good comeback. He said, “Imola is a difficult track and very demanding physically and I started to suffer a bit at the end of race two. We finished with two good results, but I’m not happy, because we had the potential to do more.” Fores finished race two in 14th place and won his first two World Superbike championship points.
The riders’ championship totals show Haslam in fifth with 187 points. Badovini is ninth with 147 points and Corser holds 15th with 71 points. In the manufacturers’ standings BMW is fourth with 232 points.
2011 World Superbike Championship
Imola, Race 1 Results:
1. Jonathan Rea (Honda) 38mins 03.396
2. Noriyuki Haga (Aprilia) +0.111s
3. Carlos Checa (Ducati) +9.449s
4. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) +9.792s
5. Eugene Laverty (Yamaha) +14.699s
6. Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati) +16.820s
7. Jakub Smrz (Ducati) +24.227s
8. Marco Melandri (Yamaha) +24.935s
9. Ayrton Badovini (BMW) +25.224s
10. Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki) +25.487s
11. Mark Aitchison (Kawasaki) +26.148s
12. Troy Corser (BMW) +26.444s
13. Federico Sandi (Ducati) +29.761s
14. Alessandro Polita (Ducati) +30.083s
15. Leon Camier (Aprilia) +34.862s
DNF. Leon Haslam (BMW)
Imola, Race 2 Results:
1. Carlos Checa (Ducati) 38mins 04.538secs
2. Noriyuki Haga (Aprilia) +4.631s
3. Leon Camier (Aprilia) +15.159s
4. Eugene Laverty (Yamaha) +17.195s
5. Leon Haslam (BMW) +17.388s
6. Marco Melandri (Yamaha) +28.533s
7. Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati) +19.615s
8. Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki) +20.063s
9. Mark Aitchison (Kawasaki) +24.194s
10. Ayrton Badovini (BMW) +28.485s
11. Ruben Xaus (Honda) +28.600s
12. Federico Sandi (Ducati) +41.802s
13. Maxime Berger (Ducati) +54.750s
14. Javier Fores (BMW) +1m 12.281s
DNF. Troy Corser (BMW)
2011 World Superbike Championship Points:
1. Carlos Checa, 417
2. Marco Melandri, 320
3. Max Biaggi, 281
4. Eugene Laverty, 256
5. Leon Haslam, 187
6. Leon Camier, 171
7. Sylvain Guintoli, 158
8. Noriyuki Haga, 155
9. Aryton Badovini, 147
10. Michel Fabrizio, 141
15. Troy Corser, 71
22. James Toseland, 13
23. L. Lanzi, 10
27. B. Veneman, 3
30. J. Fores, 2
FIM Superstock 1000 Cup
In the FIM Superstock 1000 Cup race four BMW S1000RRs were classified in the top 10. Sylvain Barrier (FRA) from the BMW Motorrad Italia Superstock Team finished fifth, followed by Markus Reiterberger (GER) from the Garnier Alpha Racing Team in sixth. Baru Racing Team rider Michele Magnoni (ITA) finished eighth, Fabio Massei (ITA) of Team Piellemoto crossed the line in ninth.
Serafino Foti, sporting director of BMW Motorrad Italia Superbike Team, commented on the day’s races: “In Superstock we had an unfortunate weekend. Sylvain was sore after the fall in practice and he miraculously finished the race with a very swollen knee. Lorenzo paid for the error on lap two, but unfortunately this is racing and you have to accept what happened. At this point, the championship is pretty much closed unless there are significant plot twists.”