Inside Motorcycles exclusive from Colin Fraser- BMW Motorrad Motorsport first year pilot Marco Melandri of Italy scored the long-awaited breakthrough win for the S1000 RR model in the opening race of eni Superbike World Championship round five action at Donington Park in the United Kingdom on May 13. Third fastest qualifier Melandri held off team-mate and second quickest Q man Leon Haslam for the important victory, marking a dominant result for the works BMW squad. Haslam had recovered from an off-track trip late in the race to make an all-out push for the win.
However things reverted to previous unlucky form for BMW in race two, where a crazy last lap saw Haslam look set for the win until second placed Melandri tried a desperate out-braking maneuver, running both BMWs wide on the final left hand hairpin turn. Haslam tumbled after contact with the Honda of hard charging Jonathan Rea.
Melandri couldn’t avoid his team-mate sliding machine and crashed too, and the factory Ten Kate CBR1000RR of Irishman Rea ducked underneath to score his second victory of the season. Fastest over the final laps after running off track, Rea spent most of the hairy final lap in fourth!
Haslam remounted to place 16th and last, just outside the points, while Melandri could not rejoin and was not classified in the second 23 lap world round of the day.
Popular race two victor Rea was followed into second by World Championship points leader Max Biaggi on the lead works Aprilia RSV4 Factory. Earlier in the race, always busy Rea had run off after colliding with Melandri at the hairpin, too.
Just half a second behind the winner, runner-up Biaggi wound up safely clear of third place finisher Tom Sykes aboard the Tissot SuperPole Award winning Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja. All three of the podium finishers moved up the results and points standings thanks to the works BMW squad’s drama exiting the final turn. Both Biaggi and Sykes seemed less concerned with joining the war for first, their points collecting strategy perhaps paying dividends later in the season.
Initially unwilling to discuss the last turn incident, Rea later told a spectator group that “there were five guys out there covered by two seconds, and we all wanted to win. There was one guy making big, big lunges (meaning Melandri – Ed.) and he came into the last corner hot and took Leon wide.”
“That created a gap for me, that I turned my bike into. Unfortunately, me and Leon came together, and he went down.”
“It is nice, but it’s not nice, to win a race like this. Leon is a friend, and it is not nice to see him go down. That’s the hardest fought race of my career, we were all giving 110%, and to come out on top is amazing.”
Race two opened with drama, World Champ Carlos Checa’s Althea Ducati 1098R and the second factory Aprilia of Eugene Laverty bumping in the frantic first turn. Checa fell, taking out the Liberty Racing Team Effenbert Ducati of unlucky Jakub Smrz and Checa’s team mate Davide Giugliano, too.
Laverty didn’t stay up much longer, suffering a huge crash while running in sixth mid-race. Meanwhile, as has been his custom in 2012, Sykes was pulling clear of the pack on his factory Ninja. However as tire wear for the Pirelli slicks became an issue as the race progressed, Sykes was caught by Biaggi, Haslam and race one winner Melandri.
The lead group diced for the second half of the race, Haslam looking ready for his first BMW victory until the final turn melee. The charging Rea won, while the factory FIX Crescent Suzuki GSX-R1000 squad found form for the first time in 2012, Leon Camier earning a solid fourth, just four seconds behind the winner.
Race one was less dramatic, but still featured a five rider dice up front including early leader Sykes, the BMW duo, as well as Biaggi and Rea. Again, just two seconds covered the top five. Behind the BMW combo of Melandri and Haslam, Sykes hung on for third, Rea charging late to move up and snatch fourth from a cautious Biaggi. First rider behind the lead group was Checa in sixth, five seconds back.
“It means a lot to me to win for such a good factory like BMW,” confirmed Melandri. “It is history, and something that I could only dream about when I was young. We have been working so hard and we never gave up even when we encountered difficulties. At the beginning of the race I was not so fast, but fortunately Tom and Leon were fighting a lot so they lost a bit of time and we could catch them again.”
Heading into the next round, the sole North American stop for the tour at Miller in Utah, Biaggi stays first in the standings with 128.5 points, Sykes up to second with a total of 123.5. Rea is next in third at 108, followed by former leader Checa with 105.5 points. Fifth belongs to top BMW man Melandri with 97.5.