|Jonathan Rea (Castrol Honda CBR1000RR) rode two brave races at the opening round of the 2011 FIM Superbike Championship held at Phillip Island, battling against the cumulative effect of recent falls, as well as a field packed with potential race winners. Carlos Checa (Ducati) won both 22-lap races; from Max Biaggi (Aprilia) and Leon Haslam (BMW) in the opener, and from Biaggi and new WSBK rider Marco Melandri (Yamaha) in the second.
Rea had been hospitalized twice, if only for a short time on each occasion, after two big crashes in recent Phillip Island testing. One in private sessions held between 16 and 17 February, and one in the more recent IMS tests, held shortly before race weekend. Rea suffered a further two crashes on Saturday, one in free practice and one that ensured he would only finish 12th in the second Superpole session. Rea entered race-day with a re-injured left wrist and a twice-dislocated ring finger on his left hand, plus bruising and spraining in much of his upper body.
In warm and dry conditions, after significant overnight and morning rains, Rea battled hard in race one but ran straight on while lying fifth, having to settle for a 12th place at the finish. An astounding performance in race two used up all of Rea’s energies but he was rewarded with a strong fourth place, a remarkable outcome given all that had happened before.
Ruben Xaus (Castrol Honda CBR1000RR) had a difficult first race to 16th place, fighting a set-up that did not work as he had hoped. A significant set-up change in race two took him from his 16th place grid position to tenth and his first points of the year.
Checa sits on a maximum 50-points after the first round of the year, Biaggi has 40, with Rea in sixth place overall, on 17-points. Xaus is 13th, with six points.
Jonathan Rea (Castrol Honda CBR1000RR)
Race result: 12th / 4th. Championship position: 6th
“I am kind of annoyed at myself for out-braking myself in race one, but I just had no strength in my hands. I got a really bad start in race two, and got messed up by another rider in turn two. I lost a load of places and then passed Nori, who passed me back. He had more grip than me at that point of the race. I am not strong right now but I was fitter than anyone at the end and I could keep the lap time. I was into the 1’33s until I caught Haslam and Fabrizio; then took time to catch my breath. When I got behind Leon Haslam I could have passed him but kept it for the last lap to make it count, and got fourth. After crashes in testing and everything else that has happened, I have nothing left. Physically, mentally emotionally, everything, I am finished. I just want to go home. If you had told me on Wednesday afternoon when I was lying in hospital that I would come away from here sixth in the championship, I would have laughed at you.”
Ruben Xaus − (Castrol Honda CBR1000RR)
Race result: 16th / 10th. Championship position: 13th
“In race two I missed my braking at turn four and lost five positions, but after I came back I worked hard and improved my lap times. I had a fight my way past some riders but I also brought other riders through with me and they had better tyre choices than me at the last laps. I think I lost the chance of seventh or eighth. We changed the bike a lot for race two and we found a good way, it allowed us to step up a little bit. I got some points and finished two races, which is what I needed.”
Lowes Take Debut Podium in Thrilling Supersport Season Opener
Sam Lowes came within 0.033 seconds of winning his first FIM Supersport World Championship race in Parkalgar Honda colours after 21 frantic laps of the Phillip Island circuit in Australia. Lowes led out of the final corner, after being a perennial contender in practice and qualifying, and having made good use of his front row starting position of third. He was never lower than fourth in what was only his seventh career WSS race and third earned the status of top Honda finisher.
The race, held on a dry track, was won by Luca Scassa (Yamaha) who headed off Broc Parkes (Kawasaki) by only 0.009 seconds. All three leading riders crossed the line almost as one, riding handlebar-to-handlebar.
Five Honda riders made it into the top nine places, with Robbin Harms (Harms Benjan Racing Team Honda) fighting deteriorating rear tyre performance to take an eventually lonely fifth when Fabien Foret (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) was forced out with a deflated rear tyre. Foret, the second fastest man in qualifying, fell in morning warm up, damaging two of his fingers and suffering a vertebrae fracture.
In a tough and physically demanding weekend for many riders, James Ellison (Bogdanka PTR Honda) had his own medical issues to overcome to take sixth place. He had damaged the meniscus ligament in his left knee in a crash during official testing last Monday, and underwent keyhole surgery to remove a section of it, to allow him more movement when riding. He had qualified 11th,
improving five places during the race.
Despite a terrible start from his seventh place grid slot, a factor that left him 22nd after one lap, Florian Marino (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) made up several places and ended up seventh. Alexander Lundh (Cresto Guide Racing Team Honda) made forward progress from his 20th place on the grid, taking a strong ninth spot.
Gino Rea (Step Racing Team Honda) and Miguel Praia (Parkalgar Honda) each experienced technical difficulties with clutch slip and retired.
Sam Lowes (Parkalgar Honda) CBR600RR
Race result: 3rd. Championship position: 3rd
“I was fast going into the final corner, but slow coming out. I think if had come out of the final corner behind Scassa I would not have been able to pass him before the line. The only way to win was to pass him into turn nine and then push hard, and it nearly worked. I am satisfied to make my mark in the class at the start and it is a confidence booster for me to finish on the podium. I have massive boots to fill with Eugene Laverty having been in this team and the squad are used to winning and being up there, so I have no excuses. I have already learned that is a long season and any top five in this race would have been a result at this stage.”
Robbin Harms (Benjan Racing Team Honda) CBR600RR
Race result: 5th. Championship position: 5th
“It was a good and tough race, but after ten laps my tyre was destroyed and that was a shame. I passed Foret and settled in sixth and then I saw Chaz Davies had a problem and I was fifth. I would have liked to been able to go the last ten laps with the leading group but it was not possible. A good start for our team, because we make everything by ourselves and we got fifth place, so it was a nice start to the year.”
James Ellison (Bogdanka PTR Honda) CBR600RR
Race result: 6th. Championship position: 6th
“I had to use my upper body to push the bike around instead of using my injured leg, and it is so physical here at the best of times. I am really annoyed because I normally don’t get tired in races. I had to cling on the straights and my arms started to get tired. But that is all down to the injury from testing a few days ago. But we still got solid points and now we can get on with the rest of the season.”
Florian Marino (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) CBR600RR
Race result: 7th. Championship position: 7th
“I am actually disappointed because I bogged-down at the start and I was lucky that no one bumped me. I arrived at turn four too fast compared to the slower riders, so I ran on straight again and lost time yet again. I was way down on lap one. My rhythm ended up like the top five riders, so I came back a bit and passed rider after rider, and then a big group of five. At the end I finished the best I could, seventh, and took some points. For sure we could do better, but this is the first race.”
Fabien Foret (Hannspree Ten Kate Honda) CBR600RR
Race result: DNF − Championship position: No score
“When I saw my fingers after the warm-up crash this morning, I thought my weekend was over. But I got patched up and thought I’d jump on the bike and get some points. Then my back was hurting so I went back to the medical centre and asked them to x-ray it and that’s when they discovered the fracture. They said it was up to me whether I rode or not so I decided to try. I was pretty stiff on the bike and made some mistakes changing the way I rode, like braking with four fingers. I was OK for a while but started to get tired and I got some arm pump because of how I was riding. I felt the tyre dropping but I was surprised how fast it was going off and turned up the traction control to stop it spinning. I just tried to stay on the bike and finish the race. Tomorrow I’ll have surgery on my finger because the tendon is cracked and I need a skin graft, too. The back just needs rest.”
Gino Rea (Step Racing Team Honda)
Race result: DNF − Championship position: No score
“My clutch started to gradually go after a few laps and that was that. I just had to sit there and ride as smoothly as I could and not try and aggravate my front tyre either, but the clutch gradually started going. It has been a hard week with a few problems to overcome, so hopefully our teething problems are out of the way now and we can improve.”