The long awaited next milestone has been achieved with Team BMW Motorrad Motorsport climbing onto the top step of the podium. At Donington Park in Great Britain, the team not only celebrated its first victory in the FIM Superbike World Championship but also its first ‘one-two’ in the series. Factory riders Marco Melandri (ITA) as winner and Leon Haslam (GBR) in second gave BMW Motorrad the perfect finish in race one of the fifth round of the 2012 season.
It was close to being a dream Sunday for the Bavarian team, as the riders were once again set up for a one-two victory in the second race. But it ended on the final turn as another rider forced both BMW Motorrad Team riders to crash.
The BMW Motorrad Motorsport Team worked hard to reach the victory milestone. Troy Corser (AUS) claimed the team’s first pole position and podium finish back in 2010. This season, with a new-for-2012 S1000RR as the base motorcycle, Marco Melandri finished runner-up in his very first race for BMW Motorrad and Leon Haslam shone with two podium finishes at the Imola race weekend. Now the team is celebrating its first win in the elite class for production-based motorbikes. Marco triumphed in the team’s 88th race.
The speed of team’s S1000RR motorcycles was seen from the beginning of the weekend. On a very windy, cold but dry Friday at “Donington Park Circuit,” the team provisionally qualified for the first row. Leon finished the closely fought first qualifying practice on his home track in fourth. Just six-tenths of a second separated the top 10 riders. Leon’s teammate Marco qualified provisional 12th. He was prevented from putting in a close to ideal lap time throughout the session and his final attempts to improve were hindered by dirt on the track after other riders had crashed. In the free practice session, Marco was fifth and Leon sixth.
BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet SBK Team rider Michel Fabrizio (ITA) finished the first qualifying practice in seventh; his teammate Ayrton Badovini (ITA) was tenth. Ayrton had crashed out at “Fogarty Esses” on just his second lap of the afternoon and was forced to pit, emerging after repairs with only 12 minutes remaining.
In Superpole, Team BMW Motorrad Motorsport celebrates its most successful qualifying ever in the FIM Superbike World Championship. Local hero Leon qualified second, immediately followed by Marco who finished third. It was the first time both factory riders would start from the front row.
In the first part of the Superpole qualifying, Marco only needed one quick lap on race tires to set the best time and qualify easily for the second session. Leon meanwhile struggled with some issues but was then able to post the sixth fastest time on qualifying tires. In Superpole 2, Leon was quickest with a new fastest lap on the “Donington Park Circuit” of 1:28.032 minutes, while Marco finished third. In the final and deciding Superpole 3, Leon did another new fastest lap in 1:28.012 minutes but he was beaten by Tom Sykes (GBR) from the Kawasaki Racing Team who was the first rider to get under 1:28 minutes. On his last attempt, Leon rode a 1:27.864 lap on qualifying tires to secure his second position, while Marco finished third.
Both BMW Motorrad Italia Goldbet SBK Team riders had minor crashes on Saturday leading up to the Superpole qualifying. Michel escaped uninjured from a crash at the “Melbourne Hairpin” with 20 minutes to go in the morning’s Qualifying 2. Aytron crashed in the afternoon’s Free Practice 2 with the team managing to fix the S1000RR quickly and allowing him to take part in the Superpole. Ayrton would start tenth with Michel 11th on the grid.
It was an exciting race day leading to the historic first victory for BMW in race one. Starting from second, Leon took the lead immediately by passing pole-sitter Tom Sykes (GBR). Marco maintained his third position. At the end of lap four, Sykes passed Leon again, while Marco was successfully defending attacks from Max Biaggi (ITA). On lap 12, Leon fought his way back into the lead, and when Marco passed Sykes on lap 14 for second, the two BMW riders started their nail-biting battle for victory, changing positions at the very top several times. Then, with three laps to go, Leon went wide onto the grass, slipping back to third behind Sykes. Marco was able to open a gap and get the first victory, while Leon did not give up the fight and overtook Sykes for second at the beginning of the last lap, securing the double triumph for BMW Motorrad.
“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 dreamt of this when I was young,” said Marco. Leon added, “What a day. I had a good pace in race one. In the end, I have to say that I am kind of disappointed with the second place. I had a big wobble out of Coppers 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 that caught me out but fair play to Marco. A BMW one-two result is just fantastic.”
In the second race, Leon was on his way to victory with Marco second going into the last corner, but racing can be more than tough: They were denied another well-deserved victory when an over-optimistic maneuver by another rider forced both to crash. From the start, they fought a breathtaking battle with Sykes, Biaggi and Jonathan Rea (GBR) for the top positions. With seven laps to go, Leon took the lead, determined to celebrate the next BMW victory on his home soil. Meanwhile Marco succeeded in the battle for second and there was just one corner to go to another ‘one-two’. In this last corner, Rea tried to squeeze by Leon on the inside but made contact and forced him to crash. Leon’s bike slid across the asphalt and hit Marco’s RR with the Italian’s race ending in the gravel. Leon was classified 15th and Marco as retired. Rea continued on and won ahead of Biaggi and Sykes.
“Right now I just want to forget race 2,” said Leon. “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 well deserved victory. The crash was not my fault at all… Anyway, that’s racing, and we’re now looking forward to the next round.”
“I was trying to pass Leon in the final corner, although I knew it would be difficult but I am a racer and I had to try,” said Marco. “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 of us but that’s racing. We now have to keep our heads up high and look forward to Salt Lake City where we hope to be fighting for wins again.”
Michel and Ayrton of the BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet Superbike Team finished race 1 with a 10th and 11th place, while in the second race they crossed the line in 13th and 6th respectively. In the first race, Michel maintained a consistent pace during the first half before pain from his earlier crash limited his performance. Ayrton had a small collision with Jakub Smrz at turn 1 and consequently lost positions and found himself 18th at the end of the first lap. Once he got back into his rhythm, he managed to make a comeback to an eleventh final place.
Michel Fabrizio jump-started race 2 and was therefore awarded a ride-through penalty. Michel rode through the pit-lane at the end of lap four, getting back on track in twentieth position and finishing the race in thirteenth place. Ayrton, who made a fairly good start from the third row, kept his race pace and, despite suffering from early wear of the soft front tire, finished sixth.
In the Rider’s Championship, Marco is fifth with 97.5 points, followed by Leon, who is sixth with 89 points. In the Manufacturers’ Standings BMW improved to second after race one, but slid back to third with 131 points after race two.