Melandri does the double
Marco Melandri again made World Superbike Championship history for BMW Motorrad Motorsport by taking an incredible first ever double victory for the team today at Brno in the Czech Republic. In doing so, Melandri collected a maximum 50 points and moved to within just 21 points of the WSBK Championship lead. Furthermore, with today’s excellent results, BMW Motorrad has also taken the lead in the Manufacturer Standings.
Today’s two races couldn’t have been more different. Following earlier downpours, race one started in the trickiest conditions imaginable, with riders having no choice but to opt for slick tyres on a rapidly drying track. Starting from the second row of the grid, both Melandri and Leon Haslam rode with caution in the early stages, searching out the dry parts of the track, rather than taking the racing line.
By the time Melandri found his rhythm, the leading pack had pulled a considerable gap, so the talented Italian had to take some risks to stay in contention, despite lots of visible damp patches still remaining on circuit. He passed Jakub Smrz on lap 5, then Maxime Berger and his own team-mate Leon a couple of laps later.
By half distance, he was about three seconds behind the leading bunch of riders, so he upped the pace once more, and was soon lapping nearly a second faster than leader Tom Sykes. With just six laps remaining, Melandri joined the back of a six-way battle for the lead. He passed Eugene Laverty on lap 14, then Loris Baz on lap 15 and then went in front of Carlos Checa on lap 16 to move into a podium position. Still on the hunt, Marco slipped past Jonathan Rea on lap 17 to move into second place and then went on to take the lead -- past Tom Sykes – on the penultimate lap, holding on to take his fourth victory of the year by 1.360 seconds.
Leon Haslam finished race one in seventh, just in front of BMW Motorrad Goldbet SBK team rider Michel Fabrizio in eighth.
Race two saw both BMWs make a great start into third and fourth place. It was Leon Haslam who seemed to have a good rhythm early on but he was pushed wide and lost several places which he found hard to make up, given the hot pace at the front. Well aware of the threat from Brno specialist and championship leader Max Biaggi, Marco Melandri was at this point in third place and intent on keeping in front of his fellow Italian – as well as chasing down his ninth WSBK career victory.
He slipped past Eugene Laverty and moved up into second place quite early in the race and then set after pole-sitter Tom Sykes, who had pulled a significant lead by this point. By half distance, however, Melandri was in touching distance of Sykes, although taking the lead was anything but easy. He found himself at the front momentarily on lap 13, only to have the lead snatched back on the very next corner.
With Sykes digging deep to hold on to the lead, and each rider posting near-identical lap times, the final six laps of the race were entertaining, to say the least. Marco re-took the lead on lap 15 and this time looked to have gained an advantage, when a rare mistake on the brakes on the following lap forced him to take evasive action, losing vital seconds and allowing Tom back into the lead again.
With time running out, Melandri tried everything he could to force his BMW S 1000 RR past the Kawasaki of Sykes. In the end, he succeeded on the very last lap when, with an element of surprise, Melandri took the lead into turn one and then rode an inch-perfect final lap to take a hard-fought, but well-deserved victory – his second of the day and fifth of the year for the team. Leon again matched his race one result with another seventh place finish.
For the first time in its WSBK history, BMW Motorrad has taken the lead in the constructor’s championship with 292 points, in front of Aprilia, Ducati, Kawasaki, Honda and Suzuki. Marco’s excellent results see him remain second in the title hunt, but now only 21 points behind Biaggi.
Marco Melandri: “I am living my dream today. Securing my first double victory here in Brno on this racetrack is something special. I am so happy because I already have five victories this season and nobody did expect it. Race one was already amazing. At the beginning the conditions were very difficult as it was wet. As we were riding with slicks, we just tried not to lose too many positions, but in the first few laps I struggled a lot. While I tried to improve my position I made two mistakes because I still was not feeling comfortable. When I saw that I was eighth I said to myself that I need to stay quiet and keep my rhythm to catch the front guys. It was not easy to overtake them. And when I took the lead with one lap to go I knew that I just needed to keep pushing as much as I could. I knew that I was faster than the others.
“Race two was even more difficult as Tom was doing a great race, and I had to spend a lot of energy trying to catch him. The tyre was working very well today, and I could keep the gap very small. Every time I tried to pass Tom he was braking so hard that it was nearly impossible. Once I finally passed him, I made a mistake and Tom passed me back. It was really tough to catch him again. Actually I did not expect to win, but being on the victory rostrum twice today is just amazing. Seeing BMW leading the manufacturers’ championship is unbelievable and it makes me proud. I also could close the gap to Max in the rider’s championship. But the season is still long, and we think race by race. I want to thank everybody at BMW Motorrad and in the race team who work so hard every day and put so much effort in the project. It was so unbelievable and emotional to see them smiling and happy. Now I just want to celebrate this result.”
Leon Haslam: “At the beginning of race one the conditions were tricky although it was the same for everyone, but we had some major issues. I really struggled with grip, especially compared to Marco when I followed him. Then from about five laps in we struggled with chatter. I managed to change my style towards the end of the race to get seventh position back from Michel Fabrizio but it was quite difficult.
“In the second race, the bike was feeling good. When me and Marco were battling I went on the grass. I lost a lot of places. However, I was happy with the bike and we should have beaten Eugene Laverty, but on the last lap I got a false neutral and I lost two places. The main thing is that overall I felt a lot better in this race. And now we are looking forward to Silverstone, a track that is always good for me.”
Bernhard Gobmeier (BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director): “It was a fantastic Sunday. Initially it seemed as it would be another weather and tyre lottery, but this time we relied on our feelings and chose the right tyres for both riders. Marco’s races were fantastic. In race one, he fought his way from eighth back to the front in a brave manner and also in race two he impressively showed his and the bike’s potential. Congratulations also go to Leon. Compared to last year, he was able to enormously improve on this track where he has always struggled in the past. Unfortunately he had a small technical issue on the last lap of race two, otherwise he would have been fifth. Overall it was an amazing team effort – the squad did a perfect job. A big thank you to everybody for their hard work at the circuit and back home who made these next milestones possible.”
1. Marco Melandri (ITA) BMW Motorrad Motorsport; 2. Sykes (GBR) Kawasaki; 3. Baz (FRA) Kawasaki; 7. Leon Haslam (GBR) BMW Motorrad Motorsport; 8. Fabrizio (ITA) BMW Motorrad Italia Goldbet SBK Team; DNF. Badovini (ITA) BMW Motorrad Italia Goldbet SBK Team.
1. Marco Melandri (ITA) BMW Motorrad Motorsport; 2. Sykes (GBR) Kawasaki; 3. Checa (ESP) Ducati; 7. Leon Haslam (GBR) BMW Motorrad Motorsport; 10. Fabrizio (ITA) BMW Motorrad Italia Goldbet SBK Team; DNF. Badovini (ITA) BMW Motorrad Italia Goldbet SBK Team.
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