Checa Wins, Hopkins Fifth

Henny Ray Abrams | July 31, 2011

Althea Racing Ducati’s Carlos Checa extended his championship lead to 50 points by winning his ninth race of the season in the opening leg of the World Superbike Championship’s ninth round at the Silverstone circuit.Checa passed early race leader Eugene Laverty (Yamaha) on the seventh of 18 laps and immediately began to edge away. Over the final 11 laps he carefully managed his tires and his lead to cross the line with a gap of 3.304 secs. on Laverty. Yamaha’s Marco Melandri moved into third when Alitalia Aprilia’s Leon Camier was forced to retire with mechanical problems on the 15th of 18 laps. Melandri was 1.48 secs. behind his teammate.BMW Motorrad’s Leon Haslam finished fourth, his best in nearly three months. Superpole winner John Hopkins (Samsung Crescent Racing Suzuki) was second off the start, but gradually slipped back to sixth on the 14th lap. He moved up to fifth with Camier’s retirement.The six-way battle for sixth went to Team Effenbert-Liberty Racing’s Sylvain Guintoli (Duc) over Kawasaki’s Joan Lascorz. Next were Supersonic Racing’s Maxime Berger, BMW Motorrad’s Troy Corser, BMW Motorrad Italia’s Ayrton Badovini, and reigning world champion Max Biaggi.Biaggi’s 11th ended a string of podium finishes at seven and was the worst he’d placed in any race he’d finished this year. He also has two DNFs.Combined with Checa’s win, Biaggi now trails the Spaniard by 50 points, two race wins, after 17 of 26 races. Melandri is third with 256 points.Laverty jumped into the lead from the start, front Hopkins and Haga, with Checa fourth and Melandri fifth. Suzuki Alstare’s Michel Fabrizio crashed on the first lap.Haga took second from Hopkins on the third lap, with Checa dropping the Californian back to fourth a lap later.Checa then moved up to second on the fifth lap and set out for Laverty, as the top two riders began to edge away from the rest.By the end of the fifth lap it was a two-rider race, Laverty in front of Checa with five riders-Haga, Hopkins, Melandri, Camier, and Haslam-battling for third.Castrol Honda rider Alex Lowes, riding in place of the injured Jonny Rea, crashed out on the sixth lap.Checa made his move on the seventh lap. When they crossed the line, the pair had two seconds on third, which was Haga, briefly, before Hopkins re-took the spot early on lap eight. Haga soon dropped to the back of the pack and would crash on the tenth lap.The next pack was another eight secs. back, with Biaggi mixing it up with a variety of non-marquee names.Meanwhile, Checa was checking out. Halfway into the 18-lap race he had a lead of 1.640 secs. that he continued to stretch. Laverty had two secs. on Hopkins, who was being pressured by Camier, Melandri, Haslam, and Haga, before the Japanese rider hit the deck. Camier passed Hopkins later on the tenth lap with Melandri looking for a way through. The Italian found it on the 12th lap to drop Hopkins to fifth, while Camier looked to secure his third place position more than a second behind Laverty.Further back, Biaggi was trying to break into the top ten but not having much luck. In fact he was going backwards, landing in 12th with five laps to go.Hopkins fell one more spot to sixth on the 14th lap when Haslam came by. That set the order of the top six, but it would change on the 15th lap when Camier put his hand up to signal a machine problem as he cruised back to the pits.Camier’s retirement bumped Melandri up to the podium to join Checa and teammate Laverty.Race One:1. Carlos Checa (Ducati)

2. Eugene Laverty (Yamaha)

3. Marco Melandri (Yamaha)

4. Leon Haslam (BMW)

5. John Hopkins (Suzuki)

6. Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati)

7. Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki)

8. Maxime Berger (Ducati)

9. Troy Corser (BMW)

10. Ayrton Badovini (BMW)

11. Max Biaggi (Aprilia)



Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.