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The sixth round of the World Superbike championship, run on Monday (Memorial Day) at Miller Motorsports Park in Salt Lake City, Utah, delivered some great action and two different race winners.
It was a landmark day for the series: Race 1 was the 600th race since the series began in 1988.
Carlos Checa (Ducati) and Marco Melandri (BMW) took a race win apiece, but the weekend winner was the rider who finished third in both racers, Aprilia veteran Max Biaggi. His haul of 32 points pushed him to an 18-point lead in the series by 18, from Melandri and Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes.
Works Honda rider Jonathan Rea was the other podium finisher, second in race two, and after finishing fourth in Race 1 moved up to fourth overall, only 1.5 points from Melandri and Sykes.
It was an up-and-down day for Checa, as he fell in Race 2. His fourth no-score of the season, coming along so shortly after his fourth race win, dropped him to fifth overall.
Checa pulled a controlled win out of the bag, eventually leading home Melandri by 2.313 seconds. Third was Biaggi who had to work hard in the final laps to hold off Rea. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia) finished fifth, with Superpole winner Jakub Smrz (Ducati) sixth.
Slowing front row starter Tom Sykes was finally caught by Chaz Davies (Aprilia) with Davies seventh and Sykes eighth.
Carlos Checa: “I had a great time and I always enjoy coming to America, spending time around here, and I always feel really well at this track. It is a fantastic moment for me to win again, get on the podium, to take a victory, so some great feelings come back. It is a really special day for all the Americans here as it is Memorial Day so I want to dedicate this victory to you.”
Marco Melandri: “I was struggling a lot last year so to get such a good race was amazing for me. I tried to make life not easy for Carlos but when I came back in the end, I tried to come back to him a few times but I made a mistake. So, for the last lap I chose not to try too much because it was easy to make another mistake. Second place was good for me after such a tough qualifying.”
Max Biaggi: “I had a long fight with Rea and his Honda and we got good points for the championship. In the end I could not go faster than that. On the first lap with so many riders there was a battle and I am happy now because we had a good race and finally we got some California-style weather.”
The second race was red-flagged after only four laps when Hiroshi Aoyama went down, and his Honda spilled its guts all over the track. It took the marshals an hour and a half to clean up the mess before the race - now shortened to 18 laps - could be restarted. But the few spectators who waited were rewarded with a superb duel between Melandri and Rea that saw them finish only 0.195sec apart.
Biaggi was third and Davies fourth, easily the World Superbike rookie's best result of the year. Fifth was Sykes, sixth came Laverty, with Davide Giugliano (Ducati) seventh. Early leader Carlos Checa was unlucky to crash out.
Marco Melandri: “It was such a difficult race for me, I was lucky for sure when Carlos made a mistake. I was struggling a little bit with a full fuel tank but after half distance it was getting better. When Johnny passed me he was much faster than me, and I lost a bit of concentration, so Max passed me and then Chaz Davies did as well.
So I tried to stay calm, take my rhythm and try to get a good feeling to catch Johnny. I was very lucky because my engine was so strong so I could pass him on the straight. Otherwise for me it would have been really difficult to pass him.”
Jonathan Rea: “Marco made some mistakes in the middle of the race and then I was making some mistakes at the end of the race. He was really strong but I am just so happy to come out of Miller with a fourth and a second. It is so nice to be here on the podium in America. I grew up watching AMA motocross and it was my dream to come to America and race. My team did a fantastic job - we’ve been lacking a little bit in a straight line but it is unbelievable everywhere else and I could really push to the maximum.”
Max Biaggi: “To come all the way to Utah and finish on the podium twice is not so bad, but my dream was to win a race. But there were some other guys who did a better job than me so third position is not so bad.”
RESULTS - RACE 1
1 Carlos Checa (Spain) Ducati 1098R - 38min21.283
2 Marco Melandri (Italy) BMW S1000 RR +2.313sec
3 Max Biaggi (Italy) Aprilia RSV4 Factory + 5.338
4 Jonathan Rea (Britain) Honda CBR1000RR +5.517
5 Eugene Laverty (Ireland) Aprilia RSV4 Factory +12.201
6 Jakub Smrz (Czech Republic) Ducati 1098R +13.262
7 Chaz Davies (Britain) Aprilia RSV4 Factory +19.662
8 Tom Sykes (Britain) Kawasaki ZX-10R +21.292
9 Michel Fabrizio (Italy) BMW S1000 RR +21.460
10 Leon Haslam (Britain) BMW S1000 RR +21.433
11 Davide Giugliano (Italy) Ducati 1098R +23.696
12 Sylvain Guintoli (France) Ducati 1098R +24.752
13 Leon Camier (Britain) Suzuki GSX-R1000 +28.400
14 Ayrton Badovini (Italy) BMW S1000 RR +31.222
15 Loris Baz (France) Kawasaki ZX-10R +32.966
16 Maxime Berger (France) Ducati 1098R +36.409
17 Horoshi Aoyama (Japan) Honda CBR1000RR +52.183
18 Shane Turpin (US) Ducati 1098R +1 lap
19 Jake Holden (US) BMW S1000 RR +1lap
1 Marco Melandri (Italy) BMW S1000 RR - 32min56.257
2 Jonathan Rea (Britain) Honda CBR1000RR +0.195sec
3 Max Biaggi (Italy) Aprilia RSV4 Factory +2.137
4 Chaz Davies (Britain) Aprilia RSV4 Factory +4.245
5 Tom Sykes (Britain) Kawasaki ZX-10R +8.534
6 Eugene Laverty (Ireland) Aprilia RSV4 Factory +9.798
7 Davide Giugliano (Italy) Ducati 1098R +11.891
8 Leon Haslam (Britain) BMW S1000 RR +12.718
9 Jakub Smrz (Czech Republic) Ducati 1098R +13.017
10 Sylvain Guintoli (France) Ducati 1098R +13.703
11 Leon Camier (Britain) Suzuki GSX-R1000 +15.687
12 Michel Fabrizio (Italy) BMW S1000 RR +21.923
13 Ayrton Badovini (Italy) BMW S1000 RR +23.940
14 Loris Baz (France) Kawasaki ZX-10R +24.061
15 Maxime Berger (France) Ducati 1098R +33.887
16 John Hopkins (US) Suzuki GSX-R1000 +38.692
17 Leandro Mercado (Argentina) Kawasaki ZX-10R +47.703
18 Jake Holden (US) BMW S1000 RR +1min07.223
19 Shane Turpin (US) Ducati 1098R +1min41.714
POINTS (after six of 14 rounds)
1 Max Biaggi (Italy) Aprilia RSV4 Factory - 160.5
2 Marco Melandri (Italy) BMW S1000 RR - 142.5
2 Tom Sykes (Britain) Kawasaki ZX-10R - 142.5
4 Jonathan Rea (Britain) Honda CBR1000RR - 141
5 Carlos Checa (Spain) Ducati 1098R - 130.5
6 Leon Haslam (Britain) BMW S1000 RR - 103
7 Sylvain Guintoli (France) Ducati 1098R - 86
8 Eugene Laverty (Ireland) Aprilia RSV4 Factory - 86
9 Davide Giugliano (Italy) Ducati 1098R - 64
10 Jakub Smrz (Czech Republic) Ducati 1098R - 61.5