Max Biaggi is 2010 WSBK champion
Max Biaggi has won the 2010 World Superbike Championship with one round remaining after a mid-race retirement for Leon Haslam made his title win a foregone conclusion.
The Aprilia Alitalia rider was already on course to take the crown after pushing ahead of Haslam, who had dropped to sixth with a mistake on lap seven, but a spectacular engine failure and subsequent retirement for the Suzuki rider means he can no longer be considered for the title.
Biaggi himself cruised to a fifth place finish once he knew that Haslam was out of contention, the 39-year-old choosing to back off and revel in winning his first title in 17 years.
Significantly, Biaggi’s win signals the first WSBK title triumph for an Italian rider, while the Italian team and Italian title sponsor makes the title win on home soil especially poignant.
The race itself was won by Carlos Checa, who made it a double victory, the Spaniard finishing comfortably ahead of Noriyuki Haga, while Cal Crutchlow made it onto the podium after a strong charge through the field.
Under some pressure after failing to finish inside the top ten for the first time this season during race one, Biaggi put himself in a much better position at the start of race two as he leapt into third position behind Tom Sykes – once again getting a good start from pole – and Haslam.
While Biaggi kept Haslam honest initially, he slipped to fourth on lap four when he was overtaken by race one winner Checa, though with the Spaniard also passing Haslam on lap five, the pair continued to circulate together. Crucially, had they finished third and fourth, Haslam would have just been able to keep his title dreams alive by just a single point.
Checa went on to pass Sykes for the lead at the end of lap five, the Kawasaki man proceeding to put up a stern defence of those circulating behind him, the Briton’s method of braking late and hard causing headaches for Haslam.
As such, when Haslam did make his move for second on lap seven at the chicane, he mis-judged his braking and went straight on, losing him positions to Biaggi, Haga and Michel Fabrizio consequently. It meant Biaggi was now well in position to win the title so long as he remained ahead of Haslam to the chequered flag.
As it happens, the outcome would prove irrelevant as Haslam was soon shown with smoke billowing from his ailing GSX-R1000, the Briton pulling off the track in the knowledge that his title hopes were officially over. Frustratingly for Suzuki, it is their first mechanical fault of the season.
With Aprilia – and the cheering crowds - signalling to Biaggi that he was now champion, he tailed off from the fight for second place, which continued to be held by a very determined Sykes.
Eventually, Haga found his way past the Kawasaki rider on lap ten and immediately began to pull away, while Sykes came under pressure from Crutchlow, who was showing strong late pace having been as low as 13th earlier on in the race.
Back at the front, Checa was cruising to his third win of the season for the Althea Ducati team, the Spaniard’s superb double win coming on the day he announces a two-year extension to his contract with the Italian team. The maximum points’ haul puts him back on the tail of the absent Jonathan Rea for third in the standings.
Haga completed his third consecutive podium in second place aboard the Ducati Xerox, while Crutchlow did eventually find his way past Sykes three laps from the chequered flag.
While it did deny Kawasaki its first podium in more than three years, a pole position, a fourth and a sixth place finish represents an outstanding weekend for both Sykes and the Japanese manufacturer.
Behind Biaggi in fifth position, Shane Byrne completed a strong result for the Althea team in sixth, the Briton benefitting from a crash for Fabrizio, while race one standout Lorenzo Lanzi was seventh.
Sylvain Guintoli continued his peerless finishing record in eighth, ahead of Ruben Xaus and Luca Scassa, while Troy Corser, Max Neukirchner, Federico Sandi, Fabrizio Lai and Matteo Baiocco completed the points’ paying positions.