WSB 2012 – a year to remember

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The 2012 WSB season will be remembered for a multitude of reasons. After 14 rounds and 27 races (Monza race two was cancelled) the championship fight came down to the wire.

In fact it was the closest WSB finale in the championships 25 year history with half a point separating the old guard Max Biaggi and the new kid on the block Tom Sykes.

In the end not even the final round heroics of Sykes could overall the points deficit, but it made for a season of unpredictable and edge of your seat racing.

It also saw an incredible nine different race winners – a new record for the series and a stat that puts MotoGP’s three race winners to shame.

With so many fast guys riding highly competitive bikes it was a classic year, throw in a few wet races, the vast improvements by BMW and Kawasaki, hard charging rookies and the season became the perfect storm.

This is how the top men the shaped up in 2012…

Max Biaggi – Aprilia Racing
Championship position: 1st, 358 points 
Wins: 5 
Podiums: 11 
Poles: 1 
Fastest Laps: 5

We didn’t know it at the time but 2012 would be Biaggi’s last season and what a way to finish. Although it wasn’t the Italian’s most convincing win, he somehow managed to stay ahead of Sykes at the final round and the result was world championship number six.

While his year started strong, he suffered a mid season lull and when he even failed to win at his favourite Brno circuit, his title bid looked over. But once again he showed his resilience by grinding out results and ultimately doing just enough to win again.

During his twenty year career he has played a massive part in the sport he loves. From day one he brought richness and controversy, praise and criticism in equal measures, but whatever your feeling towards the 41 year old – he is a true great who’s participation in GP and WSB will never be forgotten.
Tom Sykes – Kawasaki Superbike
Championship position: 2nd, 357.5 points
 Wins: 4
 Podiums: 13
 Poles: 9
 Fastest Laps: 3
Tom Sykes was the revelation of 2012. After finishing 13th overall in 2011, no one could have predicted the dramatic rise to the front of WSB for the 27 year old Brit or the previously uncompetitive Kawasaki ZX-10R.

In terms of outright pace, Sykes was unprecedented showing stunning speed to secure nine pole positions and lead a total of 204 laps throughout the season.

His four wins including a s start to finish victory in the final race at Magny Cours gave a clear indication of what he’s was now capable of along with the ability to deal with the pressure under the most intense scrutiny.

And the good thing for British fans is that he’s only getting better making his participation in 2013 a mouth-watering proposition.

Marco Melandri – BMW Motorrad
Championship position: 3rd, 328.5 points
 Wins: 6 
Podiums: 11 
Poles: 4 
Fastest Laps: 0

With three rounds to go, Melandri was on a role,18.5 points in the lead and well on track to secure the WSB crown – his second world title of his career. But as the season reached its climax, the 32 year old faltered and having won six races (the most of any rider in 2012) his season was derailed with four DNF’s in a row.

It’s unclear why his season fell apart so dramatically given that he looked to have the measure of Biaggi, but possible explanations range from his ability to deal with the pressure or his conviction by Italian courts for tax evasion.

Although he didn’t win the title, Melandri was a true star of WSB in 2012. Through a mixture of brilliant race craft and aggressive riding he was feared, disliked, but ultimately highly respected by his rivals. He is also the man that goes down in the history books of securing BMW’s first ever WSB wins.
Carlos Checa – Althea Ducati
Championship position: 4th, 287.5 points
 Wins: 4
 Podiums: 9
 Poles: 1 
Fastest Laps: 8
As 2011 champion, Checa was viewed as the man to beat, but a 6kg weight penalty for the Ducati’s at the start of the season meant that to win in 2012 he was going to have to push the limits of the ageing 1198 to breaking point.

With four wins, the 40 year old Spaniard was still a major player, but gone was the consistency that saw him dominate 2011, replaced with more frequent crashes (not always his fault) and up and down results.

Other factors that combined to his down fall were that while development of his Ducati had stopped, his four cylinder rivals improved dramatically meaning he was often facing a 10mph deficit on the straights. His plight was also hampered by new generation of Pirelli tyres in 2012 which the four cylinders were able to exploit.

Jonathan Rea – Honda Superbike
Championship position: 5th, 278.5 points 
Wins: 2 
Podiums: 6
 Poles: 0 
Fastest Laps: 0

Unbeatable on his day, Rea re-iterated his credentials as a WSB title runner, but was unable to deliver the consistency needed to genuinely fight for the title.

His wins at Assen and Donington under controversial circumstances saw him well placed in the early part of the season, but a lack of top speed from his Honda meant that to race at the front became impossible.

He turned around his summer lull with two second places in the final two rounds of the championship to move to fifth and second Brit in the standings and all that was achieved whilst racing in MotoGP on the Repsol Honda as a replacement for Casey Stoner during his weekends off!
Eugene Laverty – Aprilia Racing
Championship position: 6th, 263.5 points 
Wins: 1 
Podiums: 6
 Poles: 0 
Fastest Laps: 1
Slotting into the gifted Aprilia Racing squad alongside golden boy Max Biaggi was never going to be easy, but Laverty did everything and more that was required of him.

With one win and six podiums, the 26 year old Irishman finished the year thinking that he could have done better, but that doesn’t account for the electronic problems that robbed him of results mid season.

When the bike was working, he performed, bringing his stunning style to the Aprilia RSV4 and while he rode it completely different to the silky smooth Biaggi – he made it work.

With his 2012 learning year behind him and the departure of his attention grabbing team-mate, Laverty is perfectly placed for 2013. 

Sylvain Guintoli – Pata Ducati

Championship position:
7th  213.5 points 
Wins: 3 
Podiums: 7 
Poles: 2
 Fastest Laps: 1
If Guintoli’s 2012 season had been a script for a film it would have definitely come from Hollywood.

The effervescent Frenchman had to deal with it all, from winning in Assen for the Effenbert Ducati team only to part company with the erratic team six rounds later.

Such were his talents and personality that Guintoli wasn’t out of work for long and in a fairy tale switch to the privateer Pata Ducati team he won first time out to give the Italian team their first ever WSB victory.

The 30 year old excelled in the frequent wet conditions winning three times and showed a genuine harmony with the ageing 1198. Even once the season was over, Guintoli grabbed the headlines by pulling out of a deal to ride for the Crescent Suzuki team at the 11th hour in an effort to fill Biaggi’s seat at Aprilia.

And after a few nail biting weeks of uncertainly his gamble paid off and he secured the most coveted ride in WSB.

Leon Haslam – BMW Motorrad

Championship position:
8th, 200 points
 Wins: 0
 Podiums: 5 
Poles: 0 
Fastest Laps: 1
In his second year with the improving BMW, Haslam looked well placed to run consistently at the front in 2012. A double podium in round two at Imola kick started his challenge only to crash out of a dominant lead and almost certain win at Assen.

The real turning point came at his home race at Donington. Having rode brilliantly all weekend, Haslam fought hard for the win with team-mate Melandri in race one and was all set for victory in race two until his rash riding team-mate ran him wide in the final corner.

Often one of the fastest men on track, 2012 was a season where it didn’t quite come together, but he remains one of the most fierce and motivated competitors in WSB and 2013 with Honda should be spectacular.
Chaz Davies – ParkinGO Aprilia
Championship position: 9th, 164.5 points 
Wins: 1
 Podiums: 4
 Poles: 0 
Fastest Laps: 0
To win a WSB race in your rookie season is a rare achievement, but that’s exactly what World Supersport champion, Davies he did in race two at the Nurburgring.

Despite his lack of experience his victory didn’t come as a major shock, having overcome injury in the opening round to race for the win with Melandri, Laverty and Biaggi in Aragon.

While some WSS men have struggled to adapt to the more powerful and electronically advanced WSB bike, Davies rode like he was simply fulfilling his destiny. His ParkinGO team were also new to WSB making their achievements of becoming true WSB contenders seriously impressive.
Leon Camier – Fixi Crescent Suzuki
Championship position: 14th, 115.5 points 
Wins: 0 
Podiums: 1
 Poles: 0
 Fastest Laps: 0
While a single podium and 14th in the final championship standings fell well below expectations for both Camier and his Fixi Crescent Suzuki team, there were also some big positives.

From the opening round the lack of top speed from the Suzuki was blatantly apparent meaning that against the high level opposition he simply did not have the speed to race at the front.

While some riders would have given up, Camier and the team continued to push hard. From a chassis perspective Camier had nothing to complain about and often illustrated his riding talent and set-up of the GSXR by topping split times at certain more techni cal tracks.

With engine development a priority the team made big steps by the end of the season leading to Camier’s inspired podium at Nurburgring.

Michael Guy

By Michael Guy

Sports Editor, former 250-racer and adventure rider