Marco Melandri (ITA) negotiated tricky weather conditions at the tenth round of the 2012 FIM Superbike World Championship at Silverstone, Great Britain, to finish seventh and eighth. While not as exciting as a win, he picked up important points in the standings and closed the gap to leader Max Biaggi (ITA) in the standings. His teammate, local hero Leon Haslam (GBR), was on course to win race one but once again had bad luck and had to settle with sixth and 17th in the two races. BMW Motorrad extended its lead in the Manufacturers’ Classification.
Team BMW Motorrad Motorsport was welcomed by typically unpredictable British weather at Silverstone on Friday. The free practice started in dry conditions but saw rain before its end. The showers stopped and the sun came out in time for the first qualifying practice in the afternoon but the track dried slowly. Marco qualified provisional 12th while Leon was 13th. Ayrton Badovini and Michel Fabrizio (both ITA) of the BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet SBK Team finished 11th and 16th respectively.
“The weather conditions were difficult,” said Leon. “You always have in the back of your mind that it might rain and this morning we did just three laps in the dry and a couple in the rain so it was a kind of wasted session. This afternoon it stayed dry but during the first part of the session there were wet patches so it was difficult to do a full dry set-up but we made some good progress and I am positive for the rest of the weekend.”
The BMW racers fought tricky and dangerous conditions in Superpole qualifying on Saturday with both being declared “wet” and therefore shortened to 20 minutes each. In a nail-biting and closely fought Superpole 1, Leon and Marco qualified for the top eight who progressed into the deciding second part. Eight minutes into Superpole 1, Michel Fabrizio crashed but was able to return in the final minutes of the session and was able to set a fast lap time but crossed the finish line just 0.586 seconds after the end of the 20 minutes and therefore couldn’t continue into Superpole 2. Ayrton Badovini did not quality for Superpole.
In Superpole 2, another rain shower made the conditions very tricky with patches of water on the track and very slippery sections. Several riders crashed while fighting for the top positions on the grid. Leon would qualify fourth and start at his home races from the front row. Marco, meanwhile, qualified in sixth place on the second row. Michel and Ayrton would start the races from 15th and 18th respectively.
Race one started in dry conditions but black clouds were already hanging over the track. At the start Leon jumped from his fourth position to take the lead but the race had to be red flagged during the first lap as it had started to rain and several riders crashed. More than half an hour later the race was restarted as a “wet race.” The rain had stopped, but the track was still damp. Most of the riders opted for slicks, including Leon and Marco.
Leon took the lead on lap two, but slipped back to second behind Carlos Checa (ESP) on lap five. After that the Englishman was involved in an exciting fight for the podium places, and fought his way back into the lead on lap 13. He was then able to open a gap to the rest of the field. However, the rain became heavier, making the conditions tricky for the riders on slicks, and second placed Leon Camier (GBR) crashed on lap 15. As the race continued in the rain, Leon was struggling with grip as the temperature of his rear tire went down and he was not able to defend his lead against the closely packed field that was chasing him.
Michel and Ayrton, who started 15th and 18th on the grid, made amazing recoveries on a track with conditions that got worse lap by lap and became very tough on the final laps. After countless overtaking maneuvers among the top ten riders and also leading the race at various times, Michel Fabrizio crossed the line in second for his best ever result for the BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet Superbike Team in this class. It was an astonishing end to the race for Ayrton Badovini, after highsiding out of the last turn he was able to cross the line in third — scoring his first podium of his career in World Superbike and the BMW Italia team its first double podium.
Leon finished the race in sixth. Marco was struggling with the conditions from the start, but rode a steady race and crossed the line in seventh.
There was even more drama in race two. On the warm-up lap it started to rain lightly while a thunderstorm was getting nearer the track. The start was delayed and the race reduced to 17 laps. This time, Leon and Marco opted for rain tires and, in fact, the rain became heavier with every lap and the conditions worsened. In addition, on lap eight there was oil on the track causing one rider after another to crash. Leon also fell, but was able to continue. When the leaders were on their tenth lap the race was red flagged after several crashes. At this point, Marco was sixth and Leon had fought his way back to 14th. As some riders had not completed their ninth lap when the red flag was shown, the result was declared as the positions after lap eight. Marco was classified eighth and Leon 17th. Fabrizio was 13th while Badovini crashed on lap eight and received a DNF. For this race only half points were awarded.
“It was another bad race day.” said Leon. “It wasn’t the fault of the team or the bike. We could have won race one, but were unfortunate with the weather and the tire. In race two we had an issue during the first half, and there was something strange with the center of the tire when it was dry. The more and more it rained the better the tire became and I started to catch the guys again, but then I crashed on some oil. I was able to get back into the race and moved up to 14th, but then it was red flagged and the classification was based on the result after lap eight, so I was out of the points. It is really frustrating. They should have stopped the race before that.”
Marco added, “This day was actually unbelievable. The two races were completely different, but they were both equally as difficult. It was very important to finish today. Many young riders who are not involved in the championship fight were pushing very hard, so the races were not easy. However, I am so happy because we leave here without any damage and good points. Now I am looking forward to Moscow because the track is new for everybody. I just hope the weather will be more stable there.”
In the Riders’ Championship, second placed Marco now has 263.5 points and has reduced his gap to leader Biaggi to 10.5 points. Leon is sixth with 170 points. In the Manufacturers’ Standings BMW now has 316 points and has extended its lead to 13.5 points over Aprilia. The races were won by Loris Baz and Sylvain Guintoli (both FRA).
1- Loris Baz (Kawasaki) 40’46.128
2- Michel Fabrizio (BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet SBK Team) + 0.383
3- Ayrton Badovini (BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet SBK Team) + 0.459
6- Leon Haslam (BMW Motorrad Motorsport) + 2.619
7- Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad Motorsport) + 6.123
Race 2 (8 laps)
1- Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati) 19’42.051
2- Loris Baz (Kawasaki) + 0.881
3- Jakub Smrz (Ducati) + 1.671
8- Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad Motorsport) + 26.197
13- Michel Fabrizio (BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet SBK Team) + 32.746
17- Leon Haslam (BMW Motorrad Motorsport) + 58.530
DNF- Ayrton Badovini (BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet SBK Team) + 32.746
Both Sylvain Barrier and Lorenzo Baroni of the BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet SBK Team crashed during the Superstock 1000 Free Practice 2 on Saturday in a light rain. Sylvain, who was uninjured, took part into Qualifying 2 and obtained – in the very last lap of the session – the pole position. Lorenzo could not get back on track. After a checked-up at the Northampton Hospital, he was diagnosed with a fractured C5 vertebra, fortunately without any neurological damage, and a fractured right little finger.
Sylvain Barrier finished fourth in the Superstock 1000 race Sunday morning. The French rider fought until the end for the bottom step of the podium despite a less-powerful engine that’s top speed was down ten by 14 km/h, and was a replacement for the one damaged yesterday in his Free Practice 2 crash.