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27 February 2012

Best ever WSBK result


Melandri achieves BMW Motorrad Motorsport’s best ever WSBK result


It was a fantastic start to the 2012 Superbike World Championship for the BMW Motorrad Motorsport team, as new recruit Marco Melandri posted the best result to date for the factory Superbike squad, with a second place finish in race one.

Having qualified only 13th on the grid, due to the cancelled superpole and the missed chance to challenge for a higher grid position, Melandri rode a near perfect race, moving his way confidently through the pack and passing rivals such as Jonathan Rea and Jakub Smrz in the early stages of the race. In front of him the circuit lap record was being smashed by Max Biaggi in pursuit of current champion Carlos Checa, who then crashed out of contention while leading the race.

By half race distance, the impressive Italian was up to fourth place and chasing down Sylvain Guintoli and Tom Sykes. An epic battle followed, with Marco passing Sykes and moving into a podium position with eight laps remaining. He then set off after Guintoli, who he passed on the brakes at the end of the Gardner Straight with just five laps still to run. Despite late challenges from the Frenchman, he held out to take second place, much to the delight of the Australian race fans and the BMW Motorrad Motorsport team.

There was also good news for the BMW Motorrad Italia Goldbet SBK team, as new signing Michel Fabrizio came out on top after a lengthy battle with factory Honda rider Jonathan Rea, eventually beating him by just 23 hundredths of a second to finish in sixth place. Leon Haslam took a pain-killing injection just before the race and was able to secure four championship points by finishing in 12th place, while Ayrton Badovini was forced to retire with just eight laps remaining, after struggling with rear grip issues.


Race two was just as entertaining. This time it was the injured Leon Haslam who made a lightning start from the third row of the grid all the way up to fourth place. With his RR superbike visibly sliding around Haslam was clearly pushing hard but ran wide on lap 3 and found himself down in sixth spot behind Sylvain Guintoli. However, he moved back past his French rival on lap 7, then managed to squeeze past Eugene Laverty on lap 10, and was then promoted back up to fourth place after Joan Lascorz crashed on lap 11.

With his own team-mate Melandri right behind him, Leon continued to push hard but ran wide on the Southern Loop on lap 12, letting Max Biaggi past. The remainder of the race saw the two RR riders successfully fighting off challenges from Frenchman Michel Berger to finish in fifth and sixth respectively.

Unfortunately, BMW Motorrad Italia’s Michel Fabrizio and Ayrton Badovini both failed to finish race two. Fabrizio crashed on turn four on the fourth lap, while Badovini was forced to retire with a similar problem to race one.

Today’s results mean that Marco Melandri is second in the championship standings on 30 points, while Leon Haslam is in eighth – a great result considering he underwent surgery just three days ago.

Marco Melandri: “I am really happy! Giving BMW their best ever result in only my first race on the RR is awesome. I still cannot believe that. The guys at the circuit and in the factory are working really hard and they have done a great job. We did not quite know how we would perform in the race as we had not done any long runs in pre-season testing. During the race I just tried to keep my rhythm and tried not to overpace as I knew I would have to look after the tyre. I had to wait for the right moment to pass Tom Sykes and Sylvain Guintoli. In the final two laps Sylvain was pushing a lot again, but I kept focused on myself and defended my position.

Race two was very difficult. It was warmer and I had to push harder to catch the guys in front of me, so it was not easy. But we finished the first weekend second in the championship, and that is better than expected. Now we have one month to analyse the data and to try to make even more improvements. We will go testing in Spain and all the guys are working hard. We all have the same goal and I very happy to see that motivation is high. Last, I want to send my sympathy to the family of Oscar McIntyre whom we lost yesterday.”

Leon Haslam: “I’m really happy overall. We had a problem in race one which I couldn’t ride around. Even though just scoring points was the objective, I knew I could have done better. The boys worked really hard between races: they changed engines, electronics and the balance of the bike and straightaway we were able to fight for a top five position. It’s a big credit to all the team and the medical staff who managed to get me out there in the first place! I also want to express condolences to the family and friends of Oscar McIntyre, who died in that tragic crash yesterday.


Bernhard Gobmeier, BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director: “Overall the weekend was very positive – Marco’s second place means the best result for BMW Motorrad in World Superbikes so far. The weekend was a bit of a rollercoaster, but in the end we proved that the work over winter paid off. Still, we are not where we want to be, and that we have some areas to work on. And this is what we will do over the next couple of weeks.

“I am very happy about the performance of our riders: Leon having finished the second race in the top five is very impressive and makes everyone at BMW Motorrad very proud. Marco’s second place in the first race has been the best result for BMW Motorrad in this championship so far. He did an outstanding job and proved his qualities, and is now lying second in the World Championship. On behalf of the entire team and BMW Motorrad, I wish to pass my condolences to the family and friends of Oscar McIntyre, who lost his life in yesterday’s crash at Phillip Island.”

Race One
1. M. Biaggi (ITA) – Aprilia; 2. Marco Melandri (ITA) – BMW Motorrad Motorsport; 3. S. Guintoli (FRA) Ducati; 6. Fabrizio (ITA) – BMW Motorrad Italia Goldbet; 12. Leon Haslam (GBR) – BMW Motorrad Motorsport; DNF – Ayrton Badovini (ITA) – BMW Motorrad Italia Goldbet

Race Two
1. C. Checa (ESP) – Ducati; 2. M. Biaggi (ITA) – Aprilia; 3. T. Sykes (GBR) – Kawasaki; 5. Leon Haslam (GBR) – BMW Motorrad Motorsport; 6. Marco Melandri (ITA) – BMW Motorrad Motorsport; DNF Fabrizio and Badovini – BMW Motorrad Italia Goldbet

Points
1. Biaggi (45); 2. Melandri (30); 3. Sykes (29); 8. Haslam (15); 11. Fabrizio (10)


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