Yes, we actually have a foreign correspondent - Philippa Keizer from Rotterdam has bundled up a fine 1st person report for us from the Assen round of the World Superbike Championship. So from the ‘Better late than never” file, here’s Philippa’s first report:
Ducati enters a factory team into the World Superbikes Championship once again in 2013, with the brand new 1199 Panigale RS. The ‘superquadro’ engine is a 4-stroke L-twin 90. The weight varies between 165 – 171 kg, and the season starts out using a 50mm air-restrictor on the fuel injection system. This to FIM regulations, which adjust after 3 races.
The riders in the Alstare factory team are 40 year old veteran Spaniard Carlos Checa, who has been with Ducati since 2010. And 26 year old Italian Ayrton Badovini, who has been Superstock and Superbike racing successfully over the past years. MR-racing enters German Max Neukirchner. From the Assen round the Effenbert Libery Team rejoins the Ducati squad with Australian rider Mark Aitchison, on a Ducati 1098R.
It was expected, that the new short-stroke-engined Ducati 1199 Panigale would take a while to get up to speed, so Carlos Checa surprised many by putting the new machine on pole position for the first round at Philip Island in Australia.
Short lived is the success when Carlos misses his braking point early in race one, collides with Marco Melandri’s BMW, crashes out, ending up concussed and having to miss race 2 as well. Ayrton Badovini also misses the races of round one, as he broke his foot in training.
Max Neukirchner arrives at Assen with 20 points, having finished in every race so far.
The Assen round welcomes the SBK circus with a warm open paddock day, but overnight it gets cold to just 8 degrees C. on Friday and it rains most of the time.
Ayrton Badovini is the fastest Duc in the wet in 6th position. Qualifying day is still cold but dry, Checa, Badovini and Neukirchner make it into Superpole.
Because each rider has only one bike, many practice a pitstop, in case of varied weather conditions on raceday. It means changing wheels, rather than just jumping on a second bike. Checa betters his time in free training to 1.37.029. Ayrton suffers a nasty highside crash in turn 11, hurting his fingers, but he can join superpole.
The Superpole session is open to the 15 fastest riders, after 14 minutes three drop out, after 12 more minutes Badovini and Neukirchner qualify in 11th and 12 position, Checa makes the final 10 minutes and lands 8th on the grid. Tom Sykes puts his Kawasaki on pole with 1.35.043.
Raceday luckily is dry and sunny, also a little warmer at 15 degrees C.
Badovini is hindered a little by his injuries from yesterday’s crash, but manages to hold his position in the field, while Checa improves a few places, battling with Leon Camier for some time. In the end he drops back a little and finds himself riding the laps alone, at a similar pace to the riders ahead, so unable to make up places, finishing 10th.
Badovini comes 13th. Neukirchner finishes just behind Checa in 11th, and also Aitchison gets a point for 15th, in race one.
In race two Checa looses a few places at the start, but Badovini is able to ride stronger, thanks to a visit to the clinica mobile, taking care of his injuries. Checa makes up some places again, battles with Melandri for some time, Badovini catches up with his team mate, they finish 10th and 11th, with Neukirchner 12th. Once again Aitchison gets a point.
Checa: “I hoped to be able to do more this race, the rear of the bike caused some problems, but we improved that for race 2. I will rise to the challenge and try to improve with every race meeting”. Badovini: “I was not 100% today, but better in race 2. We still have to improve a lot to be more competitive”. Aitchison is pleased to learn more about the Duc 1098R and improve some places in both races to finish in the points.
From next race at Monza the air-restrictor will be improved from 50 to 52mm. This should give the Ducatis a little more speed.