At the iconic “Automotodrom Brno” in the Czech Republic, Team BMW Motorrad Motorsport reached another two historic milestones. For the first time, factory rider Marco Melandri (ITA) rode his BMW S1000RR to victory in both races and, for the first time ever, BMW is leading the Manufacturers’ Classification of the FIM Superbike World Championship.
The ninth round of the 2012 FIM Superbike World Championship started well with Marco finishing the first qualifying practice in second after being quickest for some time. His teammate Leon Haslam (GBR) had bad luck with the unstable weather and qualified provisional tenth. Light rain started to fall 15 minutes into the session. While this had little impact on lap times initially, when Leon was on a quick lap with six minutes to go, the rain got heavier and it was no longer possible to put in the fast lap times. BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet SBK Team’s Ayrton Badovini and Michel Fabrizio (both ITA) finished the session in seventh and eighth respectively.
A delay of nearly one-and-a-half hours and unstable weather conditions made Saturday’s qualifying a challenge for riders and teams. Marco, who almost missed the second qualifying practice in the morning due to a crash, only needed one flying lap on race tires to set the best time in Superpole 1. He then returned to the garage and prepared for Superpole 2. Leon also started on race tires and then switched to the qualifying tires, setting a time that promoted him to the next session. Superpole 2 had to be red flagged after only a few minutes, as a bike had dropped oil on the track causing several riders to crash. It took an hour to clean the track and just when Superpole 2 was about to resume, light rain started. This caused another delay and Superpole 2 was declared “wet,” meaning there was only one session of 20 minutes in which the 12 riders fought for the final starting positions on the grid. In difficult conditions with a still partly dirty track and drops of rain it was a kind of lottery, with Marco finishing fifth and Leon being seventh.
Michel Fabrizio of the BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet SBK Team finished qualifying in eighth place. His teammate Ayrton Badovini was one of the riders who crashed because of the oil and was classified 12th. Fortunately, he escaped without any major injuries despite the high-speed impact against the tire barrier. He suffered a mild concussion from the accident and he had no recollection of how the impact happened. The post-accident check-up ruled out any breaks, despite the pain in his left hand, right ankle and neck. An early morning visit to the Medical Center the following morning declared him “fit to race.”
Race day started with tricky conditions. After it had rained throughout the night and the morning, the clouds cleared one hour before the start. In the early stages of race one, the track was partly wet and partly dry, making tire choice a difficult task. The BMW riders opted for slicks. At the start, Marco improved from fifth to second and Leon from seventh to sixth, but after lap one they were eighth and ninth respectively. With slicks on their RRs it was difficult for them in the mixed conditions. Halfway through the race Leon was seventh and Marco eighth. While Leon kept struggling with grip and fought for seventh, Marco was able to start an impressive fight back. Lap by lap he made up positions and with three laps to go he was third, chasing the leading pair of Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea (both GBR). On the penultimate lap Marco took the lead and opened up a small gap of a second to cross the line as the winner.
Michel Fabrizio had a difficult start and was 12th at the end of lap one. As the race progressed and the track started to dry Michel was able to make the most of his slick tires and at times was the fastest rider on track. He finished the race eighth. Ayrton Badovini, despite being declared fit to race, couldn’t start because of vision problems blamed on his contact lenses.
In race two, conditions were dry and consistent. Leon catapulted himself from seventh to third at the start and took second place on lap two directly in front of Marco, with both riders battling in the tight field of frontrunners. Marco passed Leon on the inside forcing him wide and onto the grass. While Marco took second, Leon slipped back to sixth. From then on, Marco chased leader Sykes. He reduced the gap with every lap and briefly took the lead for the first time on lap 14, only to slip back behind Sykes again. For the rest of the race, the pair had a nail-biting battle with the lead changing several times. At the beginning of the final lap, Marco got himself in front again and defended the lead until the checkered flag. Leon was on course for fifth but had a false neutral on the final lap so slipped back to seventh.
Michel had a good start from eighth in race two and was eager to stay with the front runners. While he overtook some riders and managed to stay with the lead pack early, lack of grip meant he wasn’t able to ride at his best and so rode defensively finishing the race in tenth. Ayrton Badovini took part in race two despite his physical condition. Starting from 12th on the grid he maintained a good pace for the first few laps until on lap six his vision blurred and he was forced to retire.
“I am living my dream today,” said Marco. “Securing my first double victory here in Brno on this race track is something special for me. I am so happy because I already have five victories this season and nobody expected that. Race one was already amazing. At the beginning the conditions were very difficult as it was wet. As we were riding with slicks we just tried not to lose too many positions, but in the first few laps I struggled a lot. While I was trying to improve my position I made two mistakes because I still was not feeling comfortable. When I saw I was eighth I said to myself I needed to be quiet and keep my rhythm to catch the front guys. It was not easy to overtake them, but when I took the lead with one lap to go I knew I just needed to keep pushing as much as I could. I knew I was faster than the others.
“Race two was even more difficult, as Tom was having a great race and I had to spend a lot of energy trying to catch him. The tire was working very well today, and I was able to keep the gap very small. Every time I tried to pass Tom he was braking so hard that it was nearly impossible. Once I finally passed him, I made a mistake and Tom passed me back. It was really tough to catch him again. Actually I did not expect to win, but doing that here twice today is just amazing. Seeing BMW leading the manufacturers’ championship is unbelievable and it makes me proud. I was also able to close the gap to Max in the riders’ championship. But the season is still long, and we plan race by race.”
In the Riders’ Championship, second-placed Marco has reduced his gap to leader Max Biaggi (ITA) to 21 points — less than the 25 points available in one race. Marco now has 250.5 points to his tally. Leon is sixth with 160 points. In the Manufacturers’ Standings BMW took the lead with 292 points, two points ahead of Aprilia.
1. Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad Motorsport) 41’59.808
2. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) + 1.360
3- Loris Baz (Kawasaki) + 1.948
7. Leon Haslam (BMW Motorrad Motorsport) + 11.293
8. Michel Fabrizio (BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet SBK Team) + 11.945
DNS. Ayrton Badovini (BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet SBK Team)
1. Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad Motorsport) 40’12.837
2. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) + 0.140
3. Carlos Checa (Ducati) + 6.801
7. Leon Haslam (BMW Motorrad Motorsport) + 12.547
10. Michel Fabrizio (BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet SBK Team) + 25.332
RET. Ayrton Badovini (BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet SBK Team)
Superstock started well but ended in disappointment for the BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet Team. Sylvain Barrier and Lorenzo Baroni were second and ninth after the first qualifying session. They bettered those positions in Superpole with Sylvain Barrier getting pole position — his fourth time out of six rounds so far this season — and Lorenzo Baroni moving up to fifth place.
The Superstock 1000 race, held in wet conditions, saw Sylvain Barrier crash at turn seven on lap four through no fault of his own when another rider tried to overtake him. Lorenzo Baroni had to retire at the end of lap seven due to a sore right forearm muscle.
“We were not expecting such a difficult Sunday.” said Serafino Foti, BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet Superbike Team Sporting Director. “The Superstock 1000 race was a disaster, as both riders didn’t make it to the checkered flag. On the Superbike side, Ayrton’s weekend was compromised by his heavy crash in Superpole, and the consequences of this didn’t allow him to finish race two. We were expecting a bit more from Michel as this is his favorite track, but the bad start in race one and a tire issue in race two meant he was not in a position to get a better result.”