Team BMW Motorrad Motorsport had its first victory in the Superbike World Championship within reach, but it slipped away with the riders finishing fourth and fifth. After experiencing highs and lows in the rain-hit first race, factory riders Marco Melandri (ITA) and Leon Haslam (GBR) both fought for the race two podium right to the finish line. Overall, Team BMW Motorrad Motorsport proved one fact today: its ability to win races on its own merit with both riders, no matter what the conditions.
The “TT Circuit Assen” in the Netherlands hosted the third round of the 2012 FIM Superbike World Championship and the second round of the FIM Superstock 1000 Cup. Team BMW Motorrad Motorsport had a positive start to the weekend. In the first free practice Melandri was fastest on his BMW S1000RR. His team-mate, Haslam finished the practice in sixth. Times from the first qualifying practice in the afternoon fell short due to rain showers. Only a few minutes after the start of the session it started to rain and all riders returned to the pits after having completed just a couple of laps. It continued to rain throughout the session so it was not possible to improve on lap times. Marco’s time was the eighth fastest, while Leon qualified a provisional 14th. Marco and Leon both did their laps on used tires while many of their competitors went out on fresh rubber.
The BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet Superbike Team completed its first day of with Michel Fabrizio (ITA) and Ayrton Badovini (ITA) taking fourth and seventh positions respectively at the end of Free Practice 1, while in the afternoon qualifying, they finished sixth and seventh.
The unpredictable Dutch weather continued into Saturday as Superpole qualifying turned out to be a kind of lottery with Team BMW Motorrad Motorsport having mixed fortunes. The qualifying was held under the new “Wet Superpole” format that was introduced for this season. When a Superpole is declared wet by the race director, it is reduced to two individual sections, each of which lasts 20 minutes. The fastest eight riders from the first section progress to the second and final section. In Superpole 1, conditions were changing throughout with slight rain in the beginning, a heavy shower halfway through and a dry track in the final minutes. In these tricky conditions, Haslam was fourth quickest and qualified for Superpole 2, while Melandri was ninth and only just missed out on the second section.
“I felt quite happy with this morning. We were consistently one of the fastest guys out there,” said Haslam. “In dry conditions this weekend we have issues with the rear of the bike giving me some chatter. This is something we are working on hard, but as the conditions have been changing a lot it has been difficult to have a full session to properly resolve it.”
BMW Motorrad Italia Goldbet SBK Team’s rider Fabrizio finished both Superpole mini-sessions in sixth place, earning sixth spot on the grid. Ayrton crashed in the early stages of Superpole 1 at “Haarbocht,” the first turn after the straightaway. Fortunately he was uninjured and started the race from sixteenth place on the grid.
Sunday’s race one turned out to be an emotional rollercoaster ride for the BMW Motorrad team. Starting seventh and ninth, both Haslam and Melandri quickly fought their way up to the very top. In still dry conditions, they started a thrilling battle to win the first race for BMW Motorrad in the Superbike World Championship. Then Lady Luck began to leave the team. While Melandri was leading, it started to rain heavily and after the Italian, and several other riders, crashed the race was red flagged. It was restarted under wet conditions with nine laps to go and with Marco on pole position. Haslam started fourth and soon took the lead, opening a big gap of several seconds to the rest of the field. However the team’s well-grounded hopes of celebrating the first victory shattered on the third lap, when Haslam crashed in the tricky conditions.
As the race went on, it saw a third BMW rider in the lead, Badovini from the BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet SBK Team. Unfortunately, Badovini also suffered a heavy crash. He escaped with no injuries other than some back pain. Melandri meanwhile found absolutely no grip in the wet, neither on the straights nor in the corners and finished the race in ninth position.
“Race one was pretty good for us when it was dry,” said Melandri. “I had a very good start and I was following Tom Sykes. I was waiting for the best moment to pass him, when he had an engine failure. There was a bit of confusion and after that, Leon was leading, but I passed him. I saw that some drops of rain had come down. My dream was that they would completely stop the race, so I tried to stay at the front. Suddenly there was a turn where it was wet, I did not see the water and went down. Unfortunately our race was compromised by the wet conditions after the re-start. I did not have any grip, so it was difficult to be confident.”
Race two was declared a wet race but the rain had stopped before the start and the track was drying so tire choice was a gamble. Haslam’s crew decided to use an intermediate front and a slick rear tire while Melandri’s crew counted on slicks for both the front and the rear. Leon catapulted himself from seventh to second in the first corners and held this position halfway through the race but with his intermediate front tire losing grip, he then slipped back to fifth. Melandri meanwhile lost a few positions in the opening lap but then started to catch up. In the final stages of the race, he had closed the gap to Haslam. It was the start of another exciting battle, with both Haslam and Melandri fighting with Eugene Laverty (GBR) for third place on the podium. The three of them crossed the finish line wheel-to-wheel, but the two BMW riders missed the podium by the small margin of one tenth. Melandri was classified fourth with Haslam fifth.
Both Fabrizio and Badovini decided to race on slick tires for race two. Fabrizio, who moved off from sixth place on the grid, had a problem with his right boot which came unzipped twice, an issue that cost him a lot of time, and finished tenth. Badovini, who started the race from the fourth row, had a good race pace from the sixth lap onwards which allowed him to recover many positions and to finish in seventh.
The races were won by Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) and Jonathan Rea (GBR). In the riders’ championship, Marco lies in fifth with 66 points, equal with fourth-placed Sylvain Guintoli. Leon is seventh with 58 points. In the manufacturers’ standings BMW improved to third with 86 points.
2012 FIM Superstock 1000 Cup
In the second race of the 2012 FIM Superstock 1000 Cup, Sylvain Barrier (FRA) of the BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet Team celebrated his second victory of the season. The French rider was in first position across the finish line at the end of the eighth and last lap completed, as the race was stopped prematurely. A rider suffered a mechanical problem which resulted in a considerable amount of oil on the finish straight, and which gave the Race Director no option other than to red flag the race. Thanks to this victory, Barrier maintains the lead in the standings with 50 points out of 50, while Lorenzo Baroni (ITA) is currently in seventh place with 12 points. Markus Reiterberger (GER) of Team Alpha Racing finished fifth on his BMW S1000RR in front of Barrier’s teammate Baroni.