In the final race of the Finnish Superbike Championship, S1000RR motorcycles from team GULF BMW occupied the entire front row at the start, won all three positions on the Podium and secured the Championship title for Erkka Korpiaho. The GULF BMW dealer team rider had been dominant throughout the championship on his RR, winning four of the eight races of the series, finishing second twice and third once, with just one non-scoring round at the opening race of the season. In the final race of the 2011 series at the Motopark circuit in Virtasalmi, Erkka Korpiaho secured the Finnish Superbike Championship.
Up until this final round of the season, the championship was still open, with his arch-rival Vesa Kallio very much in the hunt for title glory. However, the initial signs were encouraging for the dealer-supported BMW team as its four riders secured the entire front row of the grid after a dominant display in qualifying, where they not only demonstrated their ability to set the RRs up for this demanding track but three of the top four BMW riders (Erkka Korpiaho, Kari Vehniäinen and Eeki Kuparinen) also consistently bettered the circuit lap record time during qualifying.
On race day, it was Eeki Kuparinen who made a fantastic start from the front row and led the race for a while, but soon pole-sitter Korpiaho made his move and overtook Kuparinen. From that point, he controlled the race from the front and led all the way to the checkered flag and the title that awaited him. In truth, the title fight had already been decided just before the start when Korpiaho’s only remaining contender, Vesa Kallio, was unable to begin the race due to an overheating problem with his KTM.
Korpiaho was still determined to finish this final race with a victory, so was obviously delighted with his achievement this season on the RR and a record 14 national titles – something no other Finnish rider is likely to ever achieve. “The BMW was very quick and victory came fairly easily,” commented Korpiaho after his podium celebrations. “Matching my record of 14 national titles would require racing in two categories over several years and it would be some achievement for another rider to manage.”
Teammate Kuparinen rode hard to secure second place, but did not risk the team’s title hopes by any over-enthusiastic moves on Korpiaho. He finished seventh in the overall standings. “My riding felt controlled and easy, even though I was circulating on lap record pace,” he said. “This season I’ve already had a victory and a third position, so this second place nicely fills the gap!”
Kari Vehniäinen, who secured the quickest lap of the race on his RR, was looking good for the final podium position, but was forced to retire from the race due to a technical problem. However, the final podium place went to another BMW rider – his teammate Eeki Kaulamo – who didn’t realize that he had secured third place, which also promoted him to a fourth place tie in the overall standings.
“I thought that I was fighting for the fourth spot, as I did not notice that Vehniäinen was out of the race,” he said. “Nevertheless, third is all the better!”
A delighted Team Manager, Esko Kuparinen, commented on a historic weekend of racing at Motopark: “I’ve spent more than 30 years in racing and I cannot remember another race, where the same team grabbed the whole front row in qualifying and then went on to secure the complete podium! This year has worked well for us; we have managed to bring four top riders to work together to develop the bikes, discuss the problems and then solve them. We believe in what we are doing and as you can see from the results, this is the right way for us to work.”
Even though the national series is now over – with four BMW RRs finishing in the top seven – the GULF BMW dealer team still has unfinished ‘international’ business. They will be making the journey to Germany on the third weekend in September to contest the final round of the IDM German Superbike Championship at the Hockenheim circuit to see how they match up against the top riders in this world-class series.