2011 WSBK Miller Sunday Roundup: In A Downpour, Racing Motorcycles Looks Like The Hard Work It Is

A drop or two of rain always adds an extra dimension to motorcycle racing, and Sunday at Miller saw more than a drop or two of rain. That rain had a pretty big impact on the order, with riders such as BMW's Leon Haslam, who had struggled in the dry, suddenly finding themselves near the very top in the morning downpour, then dropping back as the conditions improved a little.

In fact, the rain may have inadvertently highlighted BMW's problem: In the dry, Corser was going strongly while Haslam struggled. In the wet, Haslam positively flew while Corser dropped down the order. As the conditions improved, the fates of the two men reversed, Haslam knocked out of Superpole 2 - crashing while trying to push - while Corser secured a spot on the second row of the grid. The settings of one appear not to suit the settings of the other, and that may go some way towards explaining why the development of the S1000RR has been erratic. The electronics, especially, have been the BMW's bugbear, with the complex system that BMW has developed in-house causing the riders, team and engineers plenty of headaches.

Castrol Honda's Johnny Rea suffered the opposite fate. Competitive in the dry, the Ulsterman was nowhere in the wet, not even making it past Superpole 1. The team's gamble that nominating Miller Motorsports Park as their official test track - allowing them to test at the circuit before the race - would help them on race weekend has failed, thwarted by the weather.

The real beneficiaries of the weather have been the Yamahas, both Eugene Laverty and Marco Melandri ending up on the front row, after a mediocre first day at Miller. The result is particularly impressive for Melandri, given that this is the first time he has even seen the track, so to be starting from 3rd is remarkable. The pairing of the Irishman with the Italian is starting to pay off for Yamaha, with both showing the kind of quiet intelligence and intense determination that it takes to succeed.

Speaking of intelligence and determination, Carlos Checa continues to dominate whatever the weather. The Spaniard snatched his fourth pole out of five this season, with a blistering lap in the very dying seconds of Superpole 3, just edging the Effenbert Liberty Ducati of Jakub Smrz into 2nd. Checa has now been fast in every type of weather at Miller, and with his team hoping that they have left their mechanical (and electro-mechanical, last year it was a fly-by-wire throttle that caused the problem) woes behind them, the Althea Ducati man has got to be the red-hot favorite for another double at Miller Motorsports Park.

Checa's biggest challenge is likely to come from the Aprilias, but circumstances have been on the side of the Spaniard. Both Max Biaggi and Leon Camier have been fast in all weathers at Miller, though not quite capable of matching Checa's pace, and if one or both of them can latch on to Checa's tail, they could make quite a race of it.

They have an obstacle to overcome first, however, and it is an obstacle of their own making. While both men were fast in the wet - Camier being particularly impressive on a soaking track - a couple of problems during Superpole saw Camier qualify in 11th and Biaggi in 6th, a little way off the front row. Camier followed up an epic mistake - highsiding on a cold tire on his lap out of the pits in Superpole 1 - with an epic performance, putting in a hot lap with a banged-up shoulder to scrape through to Superpole 2, but once the adrenalin wore off, the pain prevented him from making it any further.

Biaggi fared better during Superpole 1 and 2, but the Italian ran wide in the final minutes of Superpole 3 while on a hot lap and headed into the gravel, where he suffered a comical 5 km/h highside as his front wheel got stuck in the clinging wet gravel trap. Biaggi was unharmed, but his Superpole run was over and he was left down on the second row.

Seeing the weather conditions, Chris Vermeulen must be kicking himself for electing not to travel to Miller to allow the gash in his elbow to heal. The kind of cold, miserable conditions we have seen at the Utah circuit are exactly the circumstances under which the Australian shines. The Kawasaki rider is a master in the rain, though every time he is asked about it he avows that he hates the wet weather.

So now we wait to see what the weather will bring at Miller. There were reports of snowfall overnight, and the sun is breaking over a cold and very damp Utah. The latest forecasts are for a fairly damp race 1, with perhaps some respite for race 2, but it definitely isn't going to be warm and dry. On days like these, a lot of the shine goes off the glamor of motorcycle racing. But the riders wouldn't have it any other way.

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Comments

is fast in both wet or dry conditions, but remember Melandri on a wet Phillip Island a few years back? It may be hard to bet against him, and we may get a good race if it is wet. I hope....

After watching the entirety of Superpole live,one thing is apparent. An off line excursion into the gravel is not a gravel trap. Its a quagmire. Even the high pressure hoses had a time of it removing the clinging swamp mud from Biaggi's bike on the trailer. Given the predicted weather,the off track conditions in a few hours time appear to be the same succulent dinosaur bog.
Miller 2011 may well prove discretion to be the better part of valour in terms of points accumulation.
Agree @layback,Marco Melandri's improvement in changeable conditions on a new circuit (for him),has been noteworthy.