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Vladimir Leonov makes top 10 riders at World Supersport

As we already reported on Motonews.ru, the 13th – and this year’s last – round of the World Superbike 2011 motorcycle racing championship was held on October 15-16 on the Portimao racetrack in Portugal.

Russia's Vladimir Leonov, number 65 on the Yakhnich Motorsport team, took part in the races in the World Supersport class after being nominated as a wildcard entry.

“I came here to learn a lesson. From the Portimao round, the team starts preparing for the 2012 season. I wanted to get into the strategy of racing in the World Supersport class, try my hand at competing against riders performing in this class, and gain the necessary experience in tuning my motorbike, engine and all other components required to be success in the World Superbike Championship race,” Leonov said.

“We had a lot of problems when we got started,” Yakhnich Motorsport’s head coach Claudio Corsetti added. “Problems with electronics, strategy, tuning. Overcoming all the obstacles was no easy task, and we spent training and even qualifying sessions looking for solutions, fully aware of the fact that the potential of our rider and our team in general was far above the 18th starting position allotted to Leonov in the race.

The preparations were difficult for everyone, and especially for Vladimir, who was aggravated by a cold he had caught a week before. But, just like in fairy tales with a happy ending, lady luck finally smiled on Yakhnich Motorsport during the morning warm up session. The team’s pit crew members had spent the entire night working, checking and fixing the problems. And on Sunday morning the team ‘saw a light at the end of the tunnel.’ Sure, they were out of time, and the motorcycle was not tuned up, but they were positive that everything was working like clockwork and no surprises were to be expected.

The choice of the racing tire compound was a much simpler task. With no chance of testing them during the training session, the team went for a soft compound tire for the rear wheel, and a hard compound for the front one. No other team made a decision in favor of the hard compound for the front. Yet, Yakhnich Motorsport went ahead with the combination in order to maintain confidence until the end of the race and collect as much information as possible.

Leonov’s 16th lap yielded the most important data. After a struggle with Portugal’s Miguel Praia (the two fought for the 14th, and later for the 13th position during a number of laps), both competitors showed a lap time equal to riders in 8th-11th places. Starting from the 10th lap, Leonov and Praia were almost half a second ahead of the group. As soon as they caught up with their competitors, Vladimir resolved to overtake them all…

And it certainly was the overtaking of the year! He out-distanced three rivals at once while making one of the most difficult turns in one of the world’s most technical and challenging racetracks to host World Supersport races.

With these accomplishments, the team could have even asked the rider to stop – there was no further need for information from the track. A potential champion was competing for the team!

But Leonov was not satisfied. He closed in on Fabien Foret, ready to attack, and decided to act. Once again, he managed to successfully outdistance his rival, and the Honda rider on a Honda Ten Kate was left behind. He was now eighth, with just one more lap to go…

The best imaginable result for Portimao! Not even the fact that the local rider, on a Honda that was much faster than Leonov’s bike, outstripped Vladimir just before crossing the finish line could spoil the victory.

In the end, it really does not matter whether he came in ninth or eighth. That weekend, we saw with our own eyes the birth of a new star of global motorsport –without a doubt, the future World Champion!

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