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06 September 2012

Melandri closes championship gap

Melandri closes championship gap at rain-affected Silverstone

Today’s two Superbike World Championship races at Silverstone took place in the trickiest weather conditions imaginable, with the most important outcome for the BMW Motorrad Motorsport team being the fact that Marco Melandri has closed the gap to championship leader Max Biaggi to just 10.5 points, thanks to a carefully managed strategy in both races.

Race one was red-flagged in the early laps and then delayed before being re-started as a ‘wet’ race. In one of the most thrilling races of the year, all the skill, talent and bravery of the WSBK competitors was tested to the limit as the constantly changing weather conditions made it impossible to predict who would be the strongest.

Leon Haslam enjoyed several spells in the lead - being out in front on his S 1000 RR for more than half of the race laps - and was looking good for his first WSBK race victory for the BMW Motorrad Motorsport team, but the local hero began to struggle with grip levels in the final laps as the increasingly wet surface took the heat out of his tyres. Despite this, he battled on to eventually finish race one in a creditable sixth place, just in front of his team-mate Marco Melandri in seventh. However, it was the turn of BMW Motorrad Italia Goldbet SBK Team riders Michel Fabrizio and Ayrton Badovini to shine, as they came from 15th and 18th on the grid to finish on the podium in second and third, behind race one winner Loris Baz.

Race two was just as dramatic, with the start delayed again and a wet race declared. In the extremely difficult conditions, a fascinating contest unraveled with positions changing every corner as some riders without championship aspirations took more risks than others. The trick was staying on, riding a smart race and thinking about the title, which was the exact strategy used by Marco Melandri, as he concentrated on staying ahead of his championship rival Max Biaggi.

Inevitably, some riders fell foul of the conditions and as the rain became heavier, the number of crashes increased, with Davide Guigliano, Ayrton Badovini, Jakub Smrz, Jonathan Rea, Carlos Checa, Maxime Berger, Tom Sykes and even race leader Loris Baz crashing out before the race was red-flagged for safety reasons and the results taken back one lap. In the end, there were just 17 listed finishers and half points were awarded.

After some delay, Sylvain Guintoli was declared the winner. Marco Melandri finished in eighth place and Leon Haslam - who had unfortunately crashed on some oil on the track but had remounted his S 1000 RR - was eventually credited with 17th place. Importantly for Marco, he finished in front of Biaggi for the second time today, as his fellow Italian had crashed out of race one earlier. This means that Marco is now within 10.5 points of the WSBK championship lead, with Leon in a clear sixth place. With today’s results and thanks to some intelligent race craft , BMW Motorrad has not only increased its WSBK title ambitions but also increased its lead in the Manufacturer’s Championship.

The next round of a thrilling 2012 WSBK Championship takes place in three week’s time when the series makes its debut in Moscow, Russia.

Marco Melandri: "This day actually was unbelievable. The two races were completely different, but they were both equally difficult. It was very important to finish today. Many young riders who are not involved in the championship fight were pushing very hard so the races were not easy. But I am so happy because we leave here without any damage and good points. Now I am looking forward to Moscow because the track is new for everybody. I just hope that the weather will be more stable there."

Leon Haslam: "It was another bad race day. There was no fault of the team or the bike. We could have won race one but were unfortunate with the weather and the tyre. In race two we had an issue during the first half of the race. There was something strange with the centre of the tyre when it was dry. The more and more it rained the tyre became better and I started to catch the guys again but then I crashed on some oil. I regained the race and got up to 14th but then it was red flagged and the race was classified on the result after lap eight, so I was out of the points. It is really frustrating. They should have stopped the race before."

Head of Race Operations Andrea Dosoli:"Overall we are happy because we increased our lead in the Manufacturer’s Championship and we reduced the gap to Max Biaggi. But we would have preferred to achieve this in a fair competition with proper track conditions. The conditions were extreme and dangerous for the riders. I am glad with the job done by Leon and Marco because they were able to manage two very difficult races. Unfortunately Leon crashed in the second race on some oil on the wet track, otherwise he would have been much further up in the results. In race one Leon deserved a better result because he was able to lead the race and we are sure that he can soon achieve his target and get this top result he deserves."

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