BMW Motorrad Motorsport’s Marco Melandri scored a historic first Superbike World Championship victory on the S 1000 RR today at Donington Park circuit in the UK, with team-mate Leon Haslam just a few bike lengths behind in second place. This momentous race one result is the best to date for the factory team.
Having both qualified on the front row of the grid for today’s races, it was Haslam who took the early lead, swooping around the outside of pole-sitter Tom Sykes at Redgate Corner, with Melandri settling into third. In dry, but blustery conditions, Sykes was pushing Haslam all the time, finally taking the lead when Leon ran wide on the fourth lap at Goddards.
With Max Biaggi closing in on Marco Melandri, there were soon two Brits leading two Italians, with Jonathan Rea and Carlos Checa trying to join the quartet out in front. By half distance, it was Melandri who began to look the most composed, fighting off challenges from rival Max Biaggi and then following his team-mate past Tom Sykes at the Melbourne Loop to move up into second place behind Haslam.
Now, with two BMW S 1000 RRs at the front, it was a race to be the first rider to make history and claim the first ever WSBK victory for BMW. With seven laps remaining, Melandri passed Haslam into Redgate Corner, but Haslam retook the lead later the same lap. With both riders visibly pushing hard and in danger of tripping each other up, there was no margin for error with Sykes and Biaggi now back in the frame.
Unfortunately for Leon, he was forced into the gravel trap to avoid a braking manoeuvre by his team-mate, but was somehow able to stay upright and rejoin the race, albeit behind Sykes. Melandri now had a clear lead and it was left to Haslam to try and find a way past the Kawasaki rider, which he did at the Foggy Esses, with just one lap remaining. Despite a blisteringly fast last lap by Leon, he was not close enough to challenge his team-mate for the victory and Melandri crossed the finish line 0.728 seconds in front to celebrate a truly historic maiden win on the RR and the first ever for BMW Motorrad Motorsport.
It was a thrilling opening race that saw five manufacturers in the top six. BMW Motorrad Italia Goldbet SBK team riders Michel Fabrizio and Ayrton Badovini finished race one in tenth and 11th place respectively.
Race two was full of excitement and drama, which lasted until the final corner of the final lap. Having treated thousands of his British fans to yet another thrilling race at Donington, Leon had fought his way right to the front and was just seconds away from his maiden WSBK win for the team when another rider collided with him and knocked him off the track, due to his over motivated maneuver, which caused Haslam to take out his team-mate in the consequence crash. All Haslam could do was pick up his RR and push it over the line for a single point.
Despite this unfortunate incident, it was nevertheless a historic day for BMW Motorrad, who are now third in the WSBK manufacturer standings and will go into the next round at Miller Motorsports Park in the USA in two weeks time full of confidence. BMW Motorrad Italia’s Ayrton Badovini finished in a solid sixth place in race two and his team-mate Michel Fabrizio recovered from a ride-through penalty to finish in 13th place.
Marco Melandri: “It is an awesome feeling for me to put my name in the history books of a factory like BMW Motorrad. I could not have imagined dreaming of this when I was young. I just want to say thank you to BMW Motorrad in Germany, to the team at the track and to everybody involved in the project. We have been working so hard and we have never given up, even when we were encountering some difficulties. We will keep pushing, and I am more than happy.
“I am disappointed with the result of the second race of course. I was trying to pass Leon in the final corner although I knew it would be difficult. Anyhow, I am a racer and I had to try. I ran a little wide and expected Leon to pass me back – finishing second would have been ok for me. Then Leon was hit and he crashed. His bike hit me and I crashed too. I feel sorry for both Leon and me but that’s racing. We now have to keep our heads high and look forward to Salt Lake City where we hope to be fighting for wins again.”
Leon Haslam: “What a day. I had a good pace in race one. In the end, I have to say that I am a bit disappointed with the second place. I had a big wobble out of Coppice and it actually put me on the right hand side of Marco instead of the left, and he braked a bit earlier that lap. I had nowhere to go, so I opted for the gravel. It was kind of a combination of things which caught me out. But fair play to Marco, a BMW 1-2 result is just fantastic. Right now I just want to forget race 2. I feel a bit frustrated because I was going for my first win for BMW Motorrad – at my home round. But we were denied that deserved victory. The crash was not my fault at all… Anyhow, that’s racing, and we now look forward to the next round. Hopefully we can turn things around at the next race meeting in Salt Lake City. I want to dedicate my race 1 result to Robert Fearnall, who was a close friend of the family.”
Bernhard Gobmeier (BMW Motorrad Motorsport Director): “The first race was absolutely thrilling. We saw bike-to-bike action and our opponents gave us a hard time on track. Marco’s race was impressive: he organized his race excellently, showed great overtaking abilities and subsequently deserved the victory. For us it is even more satisfying to see that Leon was also able to showcase his talent. He also showed great battles on the track and completed BMW Motorrad’s first double victory in World Superbikes. This 1-2 is the result of hard work of all the people involved in this project – in Munich, in Stephanskirchen and at the track. A big Thank You to our riders and the whole team.
“The second race again was great – until the last corner. It is just too disappointing to see both riders crash guiltlessly when leading the pack in the final corner of the race. But now we have to keep our heads up and look forward to Salt Lake City. We hope to fight for wins there as well.”
1. Marco Melandri (ITA) BMW Motorrad Motorsport; 2. Leon Haslam (GBR) BMW Motorrad Motorsport; 3. Sykes (GBR) Kawasaki 10. Fabrizio (ITA) BMW Motorrad Italia Goldbet SBK Team; 11. Badovini (ITA) BMW Motorrad Italia Goldbet SBK Team
1. Rea (GBR) Honda; 2. Biaggi (ITA) Aprilia; 3. Sykes (GBR) Kawasaki; 6. Badovini (ITA) BMW Motorrad Italia Goldbet SBK Team; 13. Fabrizio (ITA) BMW Motorrad Italia Goldbet SBK Team; 15. Leon Haslam (GBR) BMW Motorrad Motorsport; DNF. Marco Melandri (ITA) BMW Motorrad Motorsport.
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