Max Biaggi victorious in Algarve

Veteran Italian Max Biaggi has ignited his 2010 world superbike campaign with a superb double victory in Portugal (Portimao March, 28).

The fast but occasionally fragile Biaggi (Aprilia) simply wasn’t going to be denied at Portimao, edging out Briton Leon Haslam (Suzuki) in two pressure-packed 22-lap races.Troy Corser (BMW) was the best of the depleted Australian contingent with ninth and 10th place finishes.

It was Biaggi’s first clean sweep in a WSBK round, and catapulted him five spots up the ladder into second position, 16pts behind Alstare Suzuki's Haslam.

“It’s great to get my first double win in WSBK, said Biaggi. “The feeling is, so I feel confident and we are in a good rhythm.

“We go to Valencia (for round three) next and we will ask very much of ourselves there as well. We had good speed down the straight today but if you saw how fast we could exit the last corner then you would know it was not just the engine. Our bike is fast but other bikes are also fast," Biaggi said.

Corser again struggled with his BMW’s persistent Achilles heel: a chronic lack of grip. However, the Wollongong rider did remind everyone why he is a two-time world champion when he circulated near the front of the pack early in both races before slowly drifting back.

“It seems the bike is very sensitive to grip -- whether it’s from the asphalt or from the tyres,” said Corser. “For race two my crew changed the bike a bit, working on the suspension settings in order to give me more grip. It was a little bit better for a little longer, and I was able to go over half the race distance without major difficulties. Still, this is not where we want to be. I am happy we have time to test tomorrow without any pressure.”

Meanwhile, Queenslander Chris Vermeulen (Kawasaki) didn’t compete after the knee he injured at the Phillip Island opener failed to come up, while Broc Parkes (Honda) still hasn’t raced this year after breaking his tibia in the pre-season.

That left Port Macquarie’s Andrew Pitt (BMW) as the only other Australian in action, and he crashed out of the opener before finishing 20th in race two.

Race one was set a cracking pace, with the battle hardened Biaggi setting a new lap record of 1:42.774 as he and Haslam dictated terms from the front. Haslam led most of the way before Biaggi edged back in front on lap 17 and held onto win by just 0.200 secs.

Yamaha’s polesitter Cal Crutchlow was within sight of his first WSBK podium before he low-sided two laps from the finish, eventually finishing 14th.

Crutchlow’s exit gifted third spot to Jonathan Rea, ahead of Carlos Checa (Ducati) and Leon Camier (Aprilia).

Rea retired with a mechanical problem in race two, but it was still a stirring four-way battle between Biaggi, Haslam, Crutchlow and Checa.

And that’s the way they finished, with Biaggi using his superior drive out of the final corner to pass Haslam when it mattered most. The quarter flashed over the finish line just 1.015secs apart, ahead of Camier in fifth.

Meanwhile, it was a hapless day for the powerful Ducati factory team, with Noriyuki Haga and Michel Fabrizio eighth and 11th respectively in both races.

Fabrizio’s now slipped to fourth in the standings on 46pts, behind Haslam (85), Biaggi (69) and Checa (60). Corser is ninth on 29pts.

Kenan Sofuoglu (Honda) won a thrilling supersport race by 0.031secs from Joan Lascorz (Kawasaki) and Sofuoglu’s team-mate Michele Pirro.

Long time leader Eugene Laverty was caught and passed by both Sofuoglu and Lascorz with a few laps left to run and soon after lost the front, falling but restarting to finish 11th.



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