Today witnessed Race 1 of the UK round of the SBK under a grey sky that loomed over the Donington Park circuit. However, in the end threat of rain was just that, only a threat and the crowds of English fans were able to watch an incredible race without getting soaked.
Max Biaggi started off well and was right behind the poleman Spies at the first curve, followed by Haga in third place. The three drivers had that something extra over their adversaries and they broke away from the pack, maintaining a pace that was just under the record set at the Bayliss track in 2007. After four laps, Haga began to lose ground and about halfway through the race he was losing one second per lap with respect to the pacesetters. Spies continued to push ahead at a maniacal pace, but Biaggi didn’t budge at all, and recovered what he had lost on the final and slowest part of the track during the second part of the race, which was much more technical and had a faster pace. The two continued that way until Biaggi’s motorcycle suddenly died out at the last chicane due to a problem with the gas pump. Fortunately, Max was able to restart his RSV4 and thanks to a lead of more than nine seconds on Haga, he still managed to finish the race in second place. The Roman driver and Noale’s four-stroke V cylinder motorcycle returned to the podium following the two third place finishes that were secured in Qatar, and a parenthesis surrounding the much discussed penalty in Race 1 at Monza.
Shinya Nakano finished in sixth place, at 21:286 behind Spies. The Japanese driver, who started off from fourth place, lost some ground at the beginning and fell behind the lead group. After recovering some ground thanks to a good rhythm, Shinya found himself battling Haslam and Byrne for fourth position. It was only during the final two laps that he lost a bit of ground against the two English drivers who were racing on their home turf.
"I’m very pleased with the result,” declared Biaggi. “After some difficult trials, we finally found the right tyres and balance, even though we had a few problems during the warm-ups. We had a great race, and we managed to set a pace that was just under the track record. I must compliment Ben, because he set an incredible pace. At the last chicane, the bike died out suddenly, but fortunately it started again and because of the lead I had gained over Haga, I still managed to cross the finish line in second place.”
RACE 2: TWO CRASHES FOR BIAGGI AND NAKANO
A pale sun peeked through the clouds to brighten up Race 2 of the UK SBK round. The 61,000 spectators that were present at Donington Park witnessed total domination by Ben Spies and a number of falls, most likely due to the higher temperature.
The start of the race was exactly the same as Race 1, earlier today, with Spies ahead of everyone, followed by Biaggi once again, while Nakano moved into third position followed by Haga and Haslam. The American driver then began to break away from his competitors and only Biaggi managed to keep up with him. During the second lap Nakano ran into in a frightening high side that fortunately didn’t result in any injuries. During the fourth lap Biaggi lost his front tyre at the first curve and slipped to the ground, but quickly got back on his bike and returned to the race. Upon re-entry, Max came into contact with one of his adversaries along the outer kerb and slipped back to twentieth place. During the crash, the Roman pilot ended up with a bruise and a minor injury to the third metatarsal of his right foot, but he still managed to finish the race in twentieth place. The degree of his injuries will not prevent Max from participating in the Aprilia’s private test run on the Brno track that is scheduled for July 1st and 2nd.
During the fifth lap, Haga, who was in second place at the time, fell at the end of the straightaway, and ended up with a fracture of one of his vertebrae. He was taken to hospital in Derby and the severity of his condition will only be known in the next few hours.
So, it turned out to be a cake walk for Spies, who crossed the finish line with a significant lead over Haslam, who was racing on home turf and Fabrizio secured the third step on the podium.
"During the second race, I felt the vibrations a lot more,” said Biaggi. “It was probably because of the fact that there wasn’t as much grip on the track which would also explain why there were so many falls. I started off well and I was able to keep up with Spies’ pace, but during the fourth lap I entered the U turn the same way I always do and about halfway through, I lost the front tyre. I managed to keep the motorcycle running, but re-entering from outer kerb area, I was hit by another driver and ended up with this minor injury to my foot. I’m disappointed because I could have had another spot on the podium.”
“The results of Race 1 were good,” said Nakano, “considering the problems we encountered during the warm-ups, and even though I lost a lot of ground at the beginning. Instead, I started off much better in Race 2 and I realised that I would be able to keep up with the leaders, but during the second lap, I lost my rear tyre and flew into the air. Luckily I’m fine, even though I’m disappointed about how things ended up. On Wednesday we’ll do the test runs at Brno which will help me improve my feeling and develop the RSV4 for the next round.”