Vent Axia VK Honda riders Gregorio Lavilla and Chris Walker added to the points tally, although not as many as they would have liked, with a pair of solid rides at round twelve of the Hannspree World Superbike Championship held at Vallelunga near Rome in Italy today.
Having not tested at the track, and with both riders making their debut, the team was desperately playing catch up to find a successful race setting in time for Sunday. Friday's solid rain put the team even further behind the mark with the first time on dry track being first qualifying practice on Saturday morning. Under normal circumstances the team would be very disappointed to miss out on Superpole but they did the best they could and Lavilla ended up in 17th with Walker in 26th.
In the opening race, former British Superbike Champion Lavilla claimed 14th place at the finish but when lying in 11th position in race two, and making good progress towards a top eight position, the bike suffered a technical problem on lap six and forced him out.
Walker, in only his third meeting for the Paul Bird team, followed up an 18th in race one with a 15th place in race two, just coming home ahead of World Champion-elect Troy Bayliss who had slid off on the last lap and remounted.
Gregorio Lavilla: "We knew it was going to be a difficult weekend as all the teams have tested here during the year and the weather on Friday really didn't help us. We lost a good two hours practice on Friday which didn't help with our set-up or grid positions. In the first race we struggled but for the second race we made some changes and the bike was much better and the pace good. I felt that I could have been up to fifth as these were the riders I was battling with so it was unfortunate that we had a problem with the bike and I wasn't able to finish. I just hope for better luck for the next race."
Chris Walker: "It was exciting coming into this weekend as it's only the third time I've been on the bike. I'm one of the few riders who haven't been here before and the rain on Friday set us back more so I was disappointed about our qualifying which made it tough for the races. We struggled a bit in race one but the team made some good changes in race two and having started on the seventh row of the grid it was great to finish in the points. I'm really looking forward to the next race as I'm getting to grips with being back on a Superbike and I really like Magny Cours so I'm hoping to grab some more points."
Paul Bird: "It was a tough weekend from the start for the team having missed the mid-season test and also with the weather conditions on Friday. The bikes had good pace and both riders seemed to be making progress after strong starts. In race two, Greg would have finished in the top eight at the very least had it not been for a technical problem with the bike. Chris once again pushed hard and did the job required. We look forward to Magny Cours which is a track both riders like so we hope to gain back some points. The grappa was good but now I'm sick of eating pork."
The penultimate round of the World Superbike Championship takes place at Magny Cours in France over the weekend of October 3rd to 5th.
Superbike Race One Result1, N Haga (Yamaha) 39m25.030s, 2, M Biaggi (Ducati) +0.129s, 3, T Corser (Yamaha) +0.535s, 4, M Neukirchner (Suzuki) +5.188s, 5, C Checa (Honda) +6.693s, 6, T Bayliss (Ducati) +7.993s, 7, M Fabrizio (Ducati) +16.976s, 8, R Rolfo (Honda) +18.359s, 9, Y Kagayama (Suzuki) +19.214s, 10, S Nakatomi (Yamaha) +19.386s, .14, G Lavilla (Vent Axia VK Honda) +31.799s. 18, C Walker (Vent Axia VK Honda) +52.420s.
Superbike Race Two Result1, N Haga (Yamaha) 39m10.265s, 2, M Fabrizio (Ducati) +1.507s, 3, T Corser (Yamaha) +2.268s, 4, M Neukirchner (Suzuki) +11.813s, 5, C Checa (Honda) +17.922s, 6, F Nieto (Suzuki) +18.281s, 7, Y Kagayama (Suzuki) +19.368s, 8, S Nakatomi (Yamaha) +19.717s, 9, R Laconi (Kawasaki) +23.868s, 10, R Rolfo (Honda) +24.198s.15, C Walker (Vent Axia VK Honda) +42.903s.
Championship Standings after Round 121, T Bayliss (AUS) 369pts2, T Corser (AUS) 290pts3, N Haga (JPN) 280pts4, M Neukirchner (GER) 280pts5, C Checa (ESP) 262pts6, M Biaggi (ITA) 212pts7, F Nieto (ESP) 206pts8, M Fabrizio (ITA) 201pts9, R Kiyonari (JPN) 193pts10, R Xaus (ESP) 160pts13, G Lavilla (ESP) 107pts31, C Walker (GBR) 3pts