Monday, April 07, 2008

WSBK: Crashfest at Valencia

What's your favourite nickname for Carlos Checa? The old classic is "Careless Chucker", but you could choose from alternatives such as "Crash-lots Checa", "Carlos Crasher", "Chuck-it Checa", "Chuck Chucker" or "Chuckies Checa" (if you live somewhere that "chuckies" is slang for gravel stones, that is. Come to think of it, he could probably start a business selling gravel for people's driveways using the heap he must have tipped out of his racing boots when he got home over the years.) You may have seen his incredible MotoGP highside at the top of the precipitous Waterfall corner at Sachsenring, where he must have flown for a good seven or eight hundred yards before returning to earth. Anyway, in a carnival of cart-wheeling crashes at Valencia, Carlos took the cake.

The marshals had a good workout dragging crumpled wreckage out of the gravel traps, as seemingly everybody had a go at launching their bikes at the Spanish scenery. In race one, Yukio Kagayama continued his record of crashing in every single race he's ever entered, destroying his bike in the process. So did Michel Fabrizio. Ruben Xaus returned to his crash-happy ways, as we knew he would. Noriyuki Haga had a fast crash, losing the front into turn one and sliding into the gravel trap at what passes for high speed on the teeny Valencia track.

All of these guys were amateurs compared to our lad Carlos. He had a poor start, but suddenly found bucket loads of pace and reeled in everybody in front of him. Eventually, in what looked like a fairytale ending, he caught up with Max Neukirchner at the final corner on the final lap. The unpronounceable, unspellable German had dominated the race from pole position, and looked certain for his first WSBK win. Checa was too far back to make a move, not that it stopped him trying. Screaming "Banzai!!!", Carlos threw the bike at the gap between the apex and the German's Suzuki. He hit something, and it sure wasn't the apex. Neukirchner saw Checa coming, sat up a bit and prepared to cut in tight and out-drag the Spaniard to the line, but Checa was never going to make the turn. He lowsided, clipping the Suzuki on the way down, and hurling both of them into the gravel trap.

Ignoring the young German, whose foot was trapped under the bike, Checa jumped back on his Honda and took off, finishing 5th. Neukirchner stayed in the gravel trap with a broken collar bone that put him out of the second race too. Carlos was mildly apologetic but thought it was just a racing incident. Yep, one of those things where you ruin the best day of somebody's life and put them in hospital too. Oops. It was a boneheaded move by Carlos, not the worst I've ever seen but still the kind of thing that would look idiotic in 125 racing, never mind from a guy with tons of experience at the highest level. Still, you have to feel for Max, who at least came out of the weekend with a damn sight more respect than that other guy called Max who likes to speak in a German accent...

Lorenzo Lanzi accepted the gifted victory after impressively beating Troy Bayliss into 2nd on the factory bike (which he miserably failed to do last year despite two dozen opportunities, of course.) Troy Corser took the final step on the podium.

There was less crashing in race two. Neukirchner wasn't there due to his broken Gibernau bone. Carlos Checa kept up his race one pace and worked his way into the lead. Then he slowed suddenly, letting Nori Haga past. It was an electronic problem on the dippy Spanish crasher's Ten Kate Honda. He fiddled with the radio, turned off the satnav and unplugged his iPod before finally de-activating the traction control, which returned him to full power. By that time, Haga and Bayliss had taken 1st and 2nd, where they stayed to the end, and Checa had to settle for 3rd.

Lots of other people finished too. Kiyonari had a decent 4th in front of Corser, Kagayama, Xaus and the crocked Max Biaggi, who had a mediocre weekend as he is still recovering from the broken wrist he suffered in his massive Phillip Island crash. Given the speed of the Suzuki this year, Biaggi's decision to follow the money to Sterilgarda Ducati is looking like one of his dafter decisions.

So Checa has found a lot of his old pace, and his old bird-brained risk assessment skills. Bayliss still has a huge lead in the championship, Haga is still quick but erratic, and Suzuki should have had a great weekend but didn't. Such is life.


Nicebloke said...

I feel sorry for my upstairs neighbours. They had probably gone to bed by the time my girlfriend and I got around to watching the race, which included shouting "NOOOOOOOO!" at the top of our lungs when Crasher took out Neukirchner.

Alessandro Matteucci aka Alex 555 said...

The unpronounceable, unspellable German ...(LOL). Totally true: I cannot pronounce his name for nothing and the worst part is that I have never watched a race where to get some hints by the commentator in this regard. Suzuki is really fast but Honda was very competitive as proven by Checa. The poor German rider is pissed off with Checa and I don't blame him at all since he didn't win, he didn't get any point and now he has less than a month to fix his collarbone. No matter what the doctors will do, he will never be able to recover 100% before 8 weeks, with the risk to crash again in the next race. Do you remember Gibernau? He fell twice on a broken collarbone jeopardizing his season and motorbike career. If I am correct the last time he went down was because of a crazy move by Stoner, the former Aussie crasher.

Jimmy said...

I let out a howl of anguish myself when they crashed!

Gibernau was like a cat, but instead of always landing on his feet he always landed on his collarbone.

smokeymyster said...

i like "Charlie Chucker" the best :].. charlie being charlos in english? haha