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10 September 2012

Tough day at the office

Tough day at the office for BMW Motorrad Motorsport

It was a day to remember at the Nürburgring for BMW Motorrad Motorsport, but for all the wrong reasons. Marco Melandri had two uncharacteristic front-end crashes on his S 1000 RR which meant that he failed to score any points, while team-mate Leon Haslam’s seventh place in race one was the team’s best result of the weekend, as he also crashed out of contention in race two.

It was a difficult end to what looked like a promising start to BMW Motorrad’s ‘home’ round of this year’s WSBK series, with Melandri qualifying on the front row and looking forwards to defending the championship lead he had earned in Moscow a fortnight ago. Furthermore, in the earlier Superstock 1000 FIM Cup race, BMW Motorrad Italia Goldbet RR rider Sylvain Barrier had put his championship challenge right back on track with a decisive victory that brings him to within just six points of series leader Eddi La Marra.

Grip was definitely an issue at the 5.137-km German circuit today though, as the lap times were nowhere near what the top Superbike riders had been achieving in qualifying and Superpole on Friday and Saturday. Despite sunny and warm race day conditions, several riders crashed out in the early stages of WSBK race one, including Michel Fabrizio, Carlos Checa, Jonathan Rea and Davide Guigliano.

BMW Motorrad Motorsport’s Marco Melandri was next to pay the price, with an uncharacteristic crash on lap 5 when he lost the front-end on the approach into the bottom hairpin. This handed the advantage to his championship rival Max Biaggi, who went on to take his first win since Aragon in July and in doing so, regained the series lead.

Despite nursing a painful shoulder injury, Leon Haslam dug deep throughout the long race and produced a brave performance on his RR to finish in seventh place, with Ayrton Badovini coming home in ninth on the BMW Motorrad Italia Goldbet SBK Team RR.

In race two, a determined Melandri looked set to put the disappointment of race one behind him as he retook the provisional WSBK championship lead when Max Biaggi crashed on the second lap. With lots of heated battles soon developing throughout the pack, Marco looked in good shape as he moved up into the leading trio of riders that also included Tom Sykes and Chaz Davies.

The front three soon pulled a gap on their chasing rivals and Marco then took the lead on lap 7 when he out-braked Tom Sykes at the end of the start/finish straight. The determined Italian then immediately upped the pace, pulling a gap on the two riders behind him and looked set to control things from the front when, to the surprise of all around him, Marco crashed out of the lead on lap 8 at the MGK Chicane after losing the front end.

Just one lap later, team-mate Leon also crashed out of the race, but was able to walk away unaided. In the end, it was Ayrton Badovini who was the top BMW finisher, with another ninth place finish. Max Biaggi, who had remounted after his earlier crash, finished the race in 13th position, claiming three championship points that help him increase his lead over Marco by 9.5 points. However, with four more races in the 2012 series remaining, there is everything still to play for. This will be the team’s focus as it prepares for the upcoming round at Portimão in Portugal in two weeks time.

Race two was eventually won by Welshman Chaz Davies, who celebrated his first ever WSBK win in his debut season. BMW Motorrad Motorsport later confirmed that Davies will be lining up alongside Marco Melandri as his team-mate in the 2013 FIM Superbike World Championship.

Marco Melandri: “Today was my first time to have a double zero. It was two different races, but with the same result. I am very disappointed for the team, which is working so hard. In race one I struggled a lot with rear grip and was losing a lot compared to the guys in front of me so I was trying to catch them in braking. I was braking very hard every time but in corner eight I took a bump and just lost the front. I don’t know yet what was the reason for my crash in race two. I was on the straight and lost the front. That was strange. Now I will recharge my batteries and fight back in Portugal.”

Leon Haslam: “Race one was really bad. I felt I had the pace to run with Eugene Laverty and Chaz Davies. Earlier on I was struggling with the feel from the front and I found it quite hard to pass the other guys. But then midway through the race I was also really struggling to change direction and in the last six or seven laps I had zero grip. My lap times went up to high 59s and even two minutes in the end, while yesterday I did a race simulation all in 56s. So for me it was really disappointing because it should have been a podium but it was difficult out there with my injury and the lack of power in my shoulder.

“In race two I felt pretty comfortable. I was in a battle with Eugene and Leon Camier who eventually finished second and third. I made a mistake a few laps before the crash which dropped me back behind the Ducatis but I managed to get back past them and catch up to Camier. But then I just lost the front. I never really had any slides before, it was just in that lap and it put me down pretty fast. It was strange. In race one a lot of people crashed that way, in race two it was me and Marco. Normally the crashes are on braking, but this time it was off brakes. I don’t have any major damages, just a lot of bruises. I landed on the same shoulder again and hurt my elbow and finger but nothing too major. I am happy about a two-week break now and then we will work on to getting back to where we should be. Today we were in a battle for second or third coming from 12th on the grid with my injuries so I can’t be unhappy but I am disappointed for the crash.”

Bernhard Gobmeier (BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director): “It was a day to forget. Overall the weekend went well. We made big steps forward and the bikes were well prepared for the races. The riders felt comfortable on their RRs and we proved that our race pace as well as our qualifying pace was very competitive. But today we had bad luck on our side; neither the riders nor the team are to blame.

“A big thank you to our crews who again worked so hard this weekend. Marco was on his way to claim two more top positions, but it was not meant to be today. Hats off to Leon: despite his injury he fought so bravely. Now we are looking forward to Portimão. There are four more races to go with 100 points on offer. We will now focus on the coming races where again we will give our best.”

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