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02 July 2012

Third WSBK victory

Melandri on top at Aragón with third WSBK victory for BMW Motorrad Motorsport

It was a day to remember for the BMW Motorrad Motorsport team today at the Aragón circuit in Spain, as Marco Melandri followed up a second place in race one with a superb victory in race two. In collecting 45 championship points out of a maximum 50, the Italian rider moved from fourth to second place in the points standings and reignited his 2012 Superbike World Championship challenge.

Race one saw Melandri make a good start from fifth on the grid and fight his way past pole-sitter Tom Sykes and Eugene Laverty to move into second place. In closing down race leader Max Biaggi, he set a new circuit lap record of 1:58.251 and by half distance he had closed the gap on his fellow compatriot. Marco then even managed to take the race lead several times in a tough fight with Biaggi, but in the final laps, he was visibly struggling for grip, having worn his tyre out in his race to the front. Biaggi retook the lead on the final lap and Melandri was forced to settle for second place and the vital 20 championship points on offer. Leon Haslam finished the first race in seventh place, just behind Michel Fabrizio, while Ayrton Badovini – who had been running as high as fourth place – crashed out of contention on the final lap.

Race two was undoubtedly the best of the season to date. Melandri again made a good start, passing his own team-mate on the first lap and joining the two factory Aprilia riders in front of him. In chasing down Eugene Laverty and Max Biaggi out in front, Marco posted the fastest lap of the race. Two laps later, he squeezed past Laverty, who had by now lost the lead to Biaggi. Aware of the need to conserve his tyres, Melandri didn’t panic when Laverty came back past and the three riders remained locked in battle until the final quarter of the race, when a third Aprilia rider – Chaz Davies – joined the party.

However, despite being outnumbered three to one by his rivals on Italian machinery, it was Melandri and his BMW S 1000 RR that came out on top in the frenetic closing stages. On the penultimate lap, with Biaggi piling on pressure behind him, Marco passed Chaz Davies and then made a move on Eugene Laverty on the final lap to take the lead, which he bravely held on to take the victory – by just 0.042 seconds. It was his seventh WSBK career win – and his third for BMW Motorrad Motorsport – after celebrating victories at Donington and Miller Motorsports Park earlier this year.

Team-mate Leon Haslam finished race two in sixth place, while Ayrton Badovini was ninth, and Michel Fabrizio 11th. The championship now moves on to Brno in the Czech Republic in three weeks time.

Marco Melandri: "It is just amazing. To win here is beautiful. I just want to say thanks to my guys, because we made another step with the bike. In race one we had a good battle and I just missed a little bit of speed in the end to try to beat Max. In the beginning I first had to overtake Eugene Laverty and Tom Sykes. Then I had to push hard to catch up with Max who was leading. Once I was there, I tried to overtake him, but it was not easy as I struggled with my rear tyre. When I was in front, I would have preferred to make it difficult to him to pass me back, but he overtook me quite easily. He was faster than me and on the last lap it was hard for me to follow him. It is always nice to be on the podium, but I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed after race one.

"In race two I put all my effort to get the win. It was not easy because the wind was very strong and the Aprilia guys were pushing hard. In the beginning, Max could not go as fast as in race one and for me it was similar. Eugene was very fast and suddenly with only a few laps to go, Max overtook me. I passed him back but went wide and so Chaz and Eugene went past me. And they were riding so strong and so fast that it was not easy. For the last lap I had no plan, because when racing against those guys you cannot think about a plan because they try to pass you every corner. So I just tried to find a good place for braking at the end of the straight. Now we will try some more things in the test tomorrow and keep working in this direction in the next races."

Leon Haslam: "In race one we chose the wrong tyre. In the warm-up in the morning the race tyre we had chosen only lasted seven laps so we made a last minute gamble to choose the hardest tyre which we had not really run over the weekend. We knew that the pace would not be so good in the beginning but hoped that it would be good at the end. My lap times stayed the same but I just had zero grip. It was the wrong choice, we missed out there because I felt we could have definitely challenged Carlos Checa for a podium in race one.

"In race two I had a better start and felt pretty good but then ran off the circuit and lost a lot of time. I pushed again and got back to battle with Carlos and Tom Sykes and a few other guys but ran off the circuit again. Every time I went a little bit deeper on the brakes I really struggled. I was pretty happy to finish ahead of Sykes and Checa, but I felt that we had a good pace - especially at the end of the race - to be in the leading group. I just made too many mistakes."

Head of BMW Motorrad Motorsport Bernhard Gobmeier: "It was a great start to the second half of the season for us. Again we proved that we are very competitive. It was also important to see that we were fighting at the very top in both races. In race one, we unfortunately chose the wrong tyres for Leon due to the changing temperatures. But overall we are very happy. Marco did an outstanding job, as did Leon in race two. In addition to that we had the fastest lap in both races. I am particularly delighted that we can welcome the new General Director of BMW Motorrad, Stephan Schaller, with these results. A big thank you to both riders and crews, the whole team did a great job."

Race one
1. Biaggi (ITA) Aprilia; 2. Marco Melandri (ITA) BMW Motorrad Motorsport; 3. Checa (ESP) Ducati; 6. Fabrizio (ITA) BMW Motorrad Italia Goldbet SBK Team; 7. Leon Haslam (GBR) BMW Motorrad Motorsport; DNF Badovini (ITA) BMW Motorrad Italia Goldbet SBK Team.

Race two
1. Marco Melandri (ITA) BMW Motorrad Motorsport; 2. Laverty (IRL) Aprilia; 3. Davies (GBR) Aprilia; 6. Leon Haslam (GBR) BMW Motorrad Motorsport; 12. Fabrizio (ITA) BMW Motorrad Italia Goldbet SBK Team; 13. Badovini (ITA) BMW Motorrad Italia Goldbet SBK Team

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