Inclement weather continued its influence on the race proceedings at the Silverstone circuit in Great Britain for the 10th round of the World Superbike Championship, as riders were forced to gamble on tire selection in both races with the rapidly changing conditions. Both races turned into a game of survival for the most part, with the second race being red-flagged just past the halfway point as multiple crashes in a downpour forced organizers to call the race and award half championship points.
Although World Superbike Race 1 was declared wet before the start, a good portion of the field at Silverstone gambled that the track was going to dry out, and chose to start on slicks. It seemed that was a good choice for the majority of the race, with Althea Racing Ducati’s Carlos Checa managing to shake off Kawasaki’s Loris Baz and FIXI Crescent Suzuki’s Leon Camier to build a several-second lead by lap 12. However, Checa suddenly began to slow in a sign that rain was beginning to fall, and he was quickly swallowed up by the chasing pack as the Spaniard chose to let others test the traction conditions first. BMW’s Leon Haslam took over as the lead pack bunched up considerably due to the riders in front being more tentative than those in the back half of a pack that grew to as many as nine riders dicing for the lead.
The increasingly slippery conditions at Silverstone as rain continued to fall caused Camier to crash out with four laps to go, with the lead changing constantly as riders tiptoed around the circuit trying to survive until the end. Baz made his bid for the win down the back straight, drafting past Honda World Superbike’s Jonathan Rea and BMW Italia’s Michel Fabrizio to take the lead with two corners to go on the final lap. The Kawasaki rider just managed to stay upright to take a sensational win, nearly crashing on the curbing off the final corner. Behind Baz, chaos ensued as Fabrizio’s teammate Ayrton Badovini snuck up the inside of the dicing Rea and Fabrizio only to lose control on the same curbing that almost took out winner Baz; Badovini crashed and slid across the finish sans motorcycle, with his bike taking out Rea and allowing Fabrizio to take second. Badovini was credited with third despite not being aboard his bike, while Rea was credited with fourth place despite also crashing across the finish.
Championship leader Max Biaggi had a race he’d rather forget, crashing out on the last lap. Title contender Marco Melandri only slightly capitalized on Biaggi’s mistake, as the BMW rider only managed a seventh place finish.
Rain continued to fall at Silverstone as the field lined up for World Superbike Race 2, and everyone except Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes—who would immediately be forced into into the pits to switch rubber once he realized the weather wasn’t going to cooperate—chose rain tires. New PATA Racing Ducati rider Sylvain Guintoli quickly grabbed the lead and began to build on it as the rain became heavier, with Effenbert-Liberty Racing Ducati’s Jakub Smrz (Guintoli’s former team) following about a second behind. As conditions began to worsen, Baz and Checa’s Althea Racing Ducati teammate Davide Giugliano began to close up on the leading pair, but Giugliano’s charge ended as he crashed out on lap seven.
Baz continued his quest for the lead by catching and passing Smrz three laps later, but that quickly came to an end a couple of corners later as Baz crashed out. The Kawasaki rider wasn’t the only one to fall victim to the increasingly treacherous conditions however, with Smrz, Maxime Berger, Checa, and Sykes all crashing at different parts of the circuit on the same lap. Silverstone organizers were forced to halt the race at that point due to the number of crashes, and World Superbike officials eventually had to call the race on lap 10. Interestingly, the final results were backed up two laps, thus giving Guintoli the win, Baz second despite his crash, and Smrz third despite his getoff. In view of the half race halt, FIM/WSBK only awarded half points for the race, similar to Race 1 at Monza earlier this year.
Championship points leader Biaggi’s once-yawning gap over second-placed Melandri has now been whittled down to 10.5 points with four events (eight races) remaining.
World Superbike Silverstone Race 1 results:
1. Loris Baz (FRA) Kawasaki
2. Michel Fabrizio (ITA) BMW
3. Ayrton Badovini (ITA) BMW
4. Jonathan Rea (GBR) Honda
5. Carlos Checa (SPA) Ducati
6. Leon Haslam (GBR) BMW
7. Marco Melandri (ITA) BMW
8. Tom Sykes (GBR) Kawasaki
9. Davide Giugliano (ITA) Ducati
10. Eugene Laverty (IRL)Aprilia
DNF John Hopkins (USA) Suzuki
World Superbike Silverstone Race 2 results:
1. Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) Ducati
2. Loris Baz (FRA) Kawasaki
3. Jakub Smrz (CZE) Ducati
4. Eugene Laverty (IRL) Aprilia
5. Maxime Berger (FRA) Ducati
6. Carlos Checa (SPA) Ducati
7. Chaz Davies (GBR) Aprilia
8. Marco Melandri (ITA) BMW
9. Jonathan Rea (GBR) Honda
10. John Hopkins (USA) Suzuki