Notes from the Television Screen: WSBK @ Phillip Island

Editor’s note – While I have been sorely remiss in properly posting here at OASTD, I have begun a new series of “Notes from the Television Screen,” in which I compile my thoughts from a racing weekend. Between my Formula1Blog commitments and various life choices (hello grad school!) I cannot cover all or the majority of any two-wheeled racing series, nor attend any racing in 2011 (though I”m planning on an attempt or two). These new articles will generally cover what I can catch of the WSBK season, MotoGP, and some Grand-Am. Enjoy!

The World Superbike season got underway beneath not just the stormy clouds at Phillip Island, but under a black cloud of grief. Young Australian racer Oscar McIntyre passed after sustaining injuries during Saturday’s Australian Supersport support race just before the first Superpole of the season began. That led to Superpole’s cancellation and Tom Sykes’ third career WSBK pole. Max Biaggi, Carlos Checa, and Jakub Smrz completed the front row of starters as the organizers set the grid from the earlier qualifying practice standings.

Though Sykes led into the first turn for both races, he and his Kawasaki were entirely unable to keep the position long. The Brit drifted backward in both races but refused to do so without a fight. It is unclear whether the issue lies with tire wear or a lack of power, but both likely contribute to Kawasaki’s lack of recent wins in WSBK.

The more important story is twofold: Biaggi and Checa. In the first race, Checa soon surpassed Sykes and had set off to capture the first race of the season as reigning champion. Only Biaggi seemed capable of giving him a run for his money until the Spaniard had an impossibly violent highside that threw him out of the saddle, fifteen feet into the air, into the gravel, and out of the race. Somehow Checa sustained only bruising and was able to compete in Race 2. His Ducati was not so lucky. Continue reading