After the weekend of action at Donington Park I think that…..
Checa is letting nothing faze him After dominating in the opening round Carlos Checa had a lot of pressure on his shoulders to maintain his form at Donington. Taking another pole position was a good start to his weekend but when the red lights went out it looked like the Spaniard might have been overwhelmed by the level of expectation heaped on him. The Althea Ducati rider made three mistakes on the opening lap and came around to start the second tour in 11th position and with his work cut out for himself.
For the opening half of the race Checa continued to struggle but by half distance he started to come alive and make some solid overtaking moves and make some progress through the leading pack. By the final five laps Checa had managed to stalk his way into contention and, as ever, showed the wily racecraft of a veteran and had tyre life to spare at the end of the race while his rivals were struggling for grip. This let Checa slide past Leon Haslam in the dying moments to take a well deserved podium after a great recovery ride in the opening race.
Race two had no such worries for Checa in a comfortable win ahead of Melandri. This weekend though showed once more just how good Checa is at setting a bike up so that he still has the capacity to attack at the end of races. While riders such as Haslam seem intent to have the bike setup for fast times early in the race and are willing to live with a badly worn tyre at the end of races Checa, and the other experienced Grand Prix riders, all sacrifice ultimate times in their early laps to have their bikes set up to be fast at the end of the race.
Melandri showed he will contend for the title Marco Melandri took the first superbike win of his career with a great performance in the opening race at Donington. The Italian started ninth following his Superpole incidents with Max Biaggi but had a fantastic race day with a win and a runner up finish.
Melandri spent the early stages of the opening race battling, once again, with Biaggi but when he moved clear of his compatriot he quickly set about moving through the leading pack without fuss. By the time he got to the hamstrung Haslam Melandri had so much grip that when he got past the hometown rider it was one of the simplest moves of the race for Marco.
With six laps to go he relentlessly chased down the long time leader Jakub Smrz. With the gap standing at almost three seconds when Melandri moved into second place it seemed that he might have to settle for second but the former 250GP champion had other ambitions and started to close the gap. Smrz answered with a fast time four laps from home but it was his last hurray and Marco took the lead with one and a half laps remaining.
It was a superb win for Melandri and showed that the form on the 990cc MotoGP bike had not disappeared but was merely hidden by bikes that he was unable to show his true ability. He looks as confident as ever on the Superbike and his race two performance, runner up to Checa, was another strong showing that points to him being a strong championship contender.
Biaggi has no positives to take from a disastrous weekend This was a weekend to forget for Max Biaggi. His qualifying slap of Melandri will be long remembered as an example of how petulant Biaggi can be on occasion but it will also overshadow what was a very poor performance over the course of the weekend.
The reigning champion started in the middle of the second row and made countless errors in the opening race en route to a seventh place finish having been soundly outclassed by his teammate, Leon Camier, before the Englishman suffered from excessive tyre wear and dropped back.
The second race saw Biaggi jump the start and receive a ride through penalty, that he refused to take. The incident was not lost on Grand Prix fans who instantly remembered the ’98 Catalan Grand Prix when Biaggi was given a ride through penalty that he did not serve only to be black flagged. When Max continued in Donington the officials were once more forced to unfurl the black flag against the Roman disqualifying him from the race.
A weekend to forget for Biaggi saw him net only nine points and have much to mull over before the next round at Assen.
It was a poor weekend for Laverty but it could be beneficial This was a very challenging weekend for Irish rookie Eugene Laverty. A huge crash in Superpole wrecked his number one bike saw him use the spare bike, and face an uphill task, to try and make it through the opening session. It was a task he couldn’t meet in what was one of the more competitive Superpole sessions of recent times. Laverty would wind up 13th on the grid.
Raceday promised much but a crash in the opening race meant that scoring two points in the second race was as much as could be hoped for. Laverty has shown that he can ride a superbike as well as anyone and even though it looked like a very poor weekend it is actually weekend’s like this that will help him develop as a rider.
It is often said that adversity builds character but in Laverty’s case it will reveal his. The rookie is tremendously talented and I would be shocked if he does not return to form in the next round at Assen.
Haslam needs to adapt Leon Haslam had another good weekend aboard the BMW. The Englishman led both races having started from second on the grid but he was unable to convert that into anything more than two fourth place finishes.
It is hard to know whether it is the bike or the rider but Haslam has had a tendency to lose performance as the race progresses. He has always done this and while in the past riders were able to still succeed with an ailing tyre that is no longer possible. Riders like Checa, Biaggi and Melandri all get stronger as the race progresses and riders that have been brought up on Superbikes are struggling to adapt to the change of pace in the second half of races.
The BMW is clearly not a great bike at this point, Haslam still does not look as comfortable aboard it as he was on the Suzuki, but Leon needs to find a way to overcome this and finish races as strong as he starts them. I have no doubts about his pace but until he shows that he can have a consistent race then there will be a question mark hanging over his head.