It was an exciting and successful Sunday for Team BMW Motorrad Motorsport at Motorland Aragón in Spain. The squad not only celebrated another victory in the FIM Superbike World Championship, but also a second place on the podium and two more fastest race laps. Factory rider Marco Melandri (ITA) won race two after being second in race one, and setting the fastest laps in both races on his BMW S1000RR. Ayrton Badovini of the BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet Superbike Team was fighting for third in the first race but ended in the gravel on the final lap.
Both teams prepared for the race (and the second half of the 2012 season) with two days of testing at Motorland Aragón the weekend before the races. Marco, Leon and BMW team test rider, Steve Martin (AUS), completed a total of 287 laps or 953 miles (1,534 km) of testing. They focused mainly on preparing race bikes for the upcoming race with new parts and settings to optimize the handling when turning into a corner and to reduce chattering. As Aragón is a demanding track for the brakes, the team tested several solutions for the braking system. In addition, the team worked on the electronic package settings.
The BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet Superbike Team riders worked on different areas. Ayrton evaluated new parts and tried to find a good base set-up for the race weekend ahead. Michel Fabrizio focused on finding a level of comfort with the front-end of the S1000RR on race tires.
It was a hot start to the race weekend in more than one way. Friday saw air temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (40°C) and track temps up to 140°F (60°C). Marco was equally hot racing to the provisional pole position in the first qualifying practice. His teammate Leon qualified fifth which put him on the provisional second row. BMW Motorrad Italia’s Ayrton and Michel each had a minor crash but finished the session in sixth and seventh which put four BMW S1000RRs on the first two rows.
Marco continued his hot streak during Saturday’s second qualifying practice recording the fastest lap at 1:57.491 min. Leon was fourth. In Superpole 1, both riders just did one flying lap on race tires and qualified easily for Superpole 2. In this second part, both did only one outing on qualifying tires, with Marco improving his own new best lap from the morning. In the deciding Superpole 3, Leon set the fourth quickest time, while Marco was fifth. This time it was Tom Sykes (GBR) who set another new best lap. Ayrton of the BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet SBK Team would start from 10th place and his teammate Michel from 13th.
Race day was only a little cooler than the qualifying practices at 90 to 105°F (32–41°C) on the track. Even starting fifth, Marco was able to catch up to the leaders in the early stages of race one. On lap four, he had improved to second place, one-and-a-half seconds behind race leader Max Biaggi (ITA). Marco gradually closed the gap, setting the fastest race time of 1:58.251 min on lap six. Less than halfway through the race he was already directly behind Biaggi and the two of them started a nail-biting battle for victory, breaking away from the rest of the field. Marco took the lead on lap 12, but was passed by Biaggi again one lap later. On lap 15, Marco again got to the front but on the penultimate lap Biaggi was able to bounce back. He crossed the finish line as winner, 0.278 seconds ahead of Marco.
Meanwhile, BMW Italia’s Ayrton was in a battle for third. Unfortunately, on the last lap Ayrton attempted to overtake Tom Sykes for third position in turn four and ended his day in the gravel. Leon, who started fourth, slipped back to eighth through the first few corners and struggled for grip during the race eventually crossing the line in seventh. Michel made a fantastic recovery after running off the track to a avoid a crash by Jakub Smrz and ending the first lap in last place. He moved his way up to finish in sixth place.
The second race was even more exciting. From start to finish, three or four riders were fighting at the very top, Marco being one of them. The lead changed between Biaggi, his teammate Eugene Laverty (GBR) and Marco. For the closing stages of the race, Chaz Davies (GBR) joined the trio in the fight for the win. In the 16th of 20 laps, Marco slipped back from first to third but during the intense battle he worked his way back and took the lead again in the final lap, defended attacks from Laverty and Davies and crossed the finish line scoring his third victory of the season. In the process, Marco had the fastest lap at 1:58.950 min. Leon had a good start and was fighting at the front at the beginning, being third after the first lap but he then ran off the circuit briefly and fell back to fourth. From then on he was involved in a strong battle with Jonathan Rea (GBR), Tom Sykes (GBR) and Carlos Checa (ESP), finishing the race in sixth.
Ayrton and Michel both had an uphill struggle when neither made a good start to race two and fell to 10th and 14th positions by the end of lap one. After a hard fought race Ayrton and Michel finished ninth and 11th.
In the Riders’ Championship, Marco collected 45 out of a maximum 50 points and jumped from fourth to second place. With 200.5 points he is just 48 shy of leader Biaggi. Leon is sixth with 142 points. In the Manufacturers’ Standings BMW sits in third with 242 points, 24 points back of leader Aprilia. Team BMW Motorrad Motorsport will stay at Motorland Aragón and to take part in official Infront testing at the venue.
BMW Motorrad supplies us with this video interview of Marco’s reactions after his two races:
FIM Superstock 1000 Cup
Lorenzo Baroni of the BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet Superbike Team took third in the FIM Superstock 1000 Cup race at Motorland Aragón, scoring his second consecutive top-three finish this season so far. Sylvain Barrier crashed on the third lap at turn 16, the tight hairpin placed at the end of the 1km long downhill straight, and was forced into early retirement three laps later. The French rider, despite the DNF, is still at the top of the standings with 75 points but now with only a single point advantage on the runner-up. Lorenzo Baroni moved up to fourth place and now is only 19 points back from his teammate.