Report for round eight of the eni Superbike World Championship at MotorLand Aragon, Spain
BMW Motorrad Motorsport’s Marco Melandri had a strong day at round eight of the eni Superbike World Championship at MotorLand Aragon today, earning first and second place finishes in the two series races. Melandri’s big day on the works S1000 RR moved him up to second in the series points standings. Max Biaggi continues to head the standings at 248.5 points, now trailed by runner-up Melandri’s 200.5 total.
In race two, Melandri scored his third victory of the season after a wild battle with the factory Aprilias of Eugene Laverty and Biaggi, as well as the privateer Aprilia RSV4 Factory of ParkinGO-backed class rookie Chaz Davies.
Laverty, finally finding form after a bumpy start with Aprilia, lead from the start of race two, team-mate and Championship leader Biaggi soon taking over the point. Melandri stayed in the top three, briefly leading on lap 15 of 20, before Laverty regained first just past half distance.
Melandri only lead for two laps, but his other top tour was the last one, the former MotoGP ace getting the best of Laverty by just .04 in the chase to the chequered flag. Laverty earned second, while Davies edged Biaggi for third.
This result was the first career podium for reigning SuperSport World Champ Davies in the feature SBK class, Biaggi completing the top four, separated by just under half a second at the finish.
After a rough weekend, Jonathan Rea on the factory Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR worked his way through the pack to net fifth, six seconds back from the leading quartet. Moving up from ninth, Rea came out on top of a fight with the second works BMW of Leon Haslam, the sixth place finisher.
Early in race two at Aragon, the fifth place fight involved Tissot SuperPole winner Tom Sykes on the works Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja, Haslam and reigning SBK series World Champ Carlos Checa board the Althea Ducati 1098R. However, as has often happened in 2012, Sykes faded late in the race, winding up eighth. Sykes earned pole Saturday with a lap .7 of a second beneath the previous circuit class record.
Checa, trying to make up ground in the standings after several recent problems, had a bad start but worked his way up to net seventh at a venue where the Ducatis struggled. Checa’s charging effort in race two moved him up to fourth in the series points, dropping Sykes to fifth.
Race one took place in relatively cool conditions compared to practice and qualifying, Sykes leading from pole on the first lap. Soon Biaggi and Laverty moved in front, and then Sykes lost third to on-the-move Melandri on lap four.
In trouble early was Rea, the sixth quickest qualifier crashing the lead Honda on the opening lap. While he was able to remount, Rea finished on the lead lap in 16th, just outside of the points scoring positions.
Back at the front, Melandri took the lead from Biaggi on lap 12, the pair setting up a fight for first as Laverty faded from the lead pace. After trading the top spot, Biaggi got past Melandri for keeps with two laps to go, winning by .278 of a second. The win was Biaggi’s fourth of the season, and third straight.
Sykes looked set for third, but a collision with the BMW Motorsport Italia Goldbet entry of Ayrton Badovini took both riders down with just over a lap to go. This drama moved Checa from fifth to the podium for third, albeit over nine seconds back from the winning duo.
“To reach the podium was pretty unexpected, to be honest,” admitted Checa. “It’s always good to do well in your home event. We had a little luck – I was sorry for what happened between Badovini and Sykes, and I’m happy they were not hurt. It was difficult; I have to force every manoeuvre, pushing so hard in the last part of the track to make up for what you loose on the straights.”
Davies netted a strong fourth in the Aragon opener, matching his best result of the season (so far), and getting the edge on fifth runner Laverty’s works Aprilia. 12th quickest qualifier Jakub Smrz crashed the Liberty Racing Team Effenbert Ducati early and went to the medical centre for care. Smrz did not contest race two.
So a strong, consistent, first and fourth effort further strengthened Biaggi’s run to a potential second career SBK world crown. The next SBK event takes place in Brno in the Czech Republic, July 22.
Story by Colin Fraser