Sunday, February 25, 2007

WSBK: Biaggi Joint Championship Leader After Qatar

Everybody knew that Max Biaggi was an extremely fast motorcycle racer, but nobody was quite sure what would happen when he arrived in the World Superbike Championship.
Some thought he would be quick enough, but might struggle in the hard-racing, rough and tumble world of WSBK. I thought he would have no problem with the hard racing, but would take time to adapt to the different rules, and Superpole qualifying in particular.
Well, you would have to be a huge Biaggi fan to have predicted the events that actually happened.
In his first ever Superpole session, Max had taken 2nd on the grid, beaten only by Superpole specialist Troy Corser.
In his first ever World Superbike race, Max made a great start, fought tooth and nail with the WSBK veterans around him, and won the race by more than a second from the former champ and notoriously hard racer, James Toseland.
Would Max be able to put in the same kind of performance in race two, despite never having competed in a double-header event before?
Yup. Another great start, and more hard racing from the Roman Emperor. This time he was forced to settle for 2nd place behind a flawless ride from Toseland, but not before a raging battle with the two Yamaha Italia bikes of Corser and Haga. At one point Biaggi audaciously passed both Yamahas at the same time on the way into turn 1.
Max looked like he had been riding in WSBK for years, and in a post race interview, said he wished he had discovered this championship years ago. He has answered all of the big questions. Yes, he can step up from 145kg MotoGP bikes to 165kg WSBK machinery, race with the old hands, qualify well, start well and most importantly of all, stand on top of the podium.
Whether he can make an assault on the championship will depend on whether he can maintain this form on tracks where he has never raced. The next event is at Phillip Island, where Biaggi has gone well many times. He will go there jointly leading the championship with Toseland.
One thing that has surprised many people is the fact that Max has been in WSBK for an entire race weekend without starting a feud with anybody. Maybe the more relaxed atmosphere in 'Supers will suit him better than the pressure cooker of the Grand Prix circus. Or maybe the words will start flying near the end of the season when the title is up for grabs.
After just one race weekend, Max has achieved what everybody had hoped: sending a shockwave through WSBK. There is a new star in town.

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