It was a black Sunday for Team BMW Motorrad Motorsport at Portimão, Portugal. At the 13th and penultimate round of the 2012 FIM Superbike World Championship, factory rider Marco Melandri (ITA) crashed on the opening lap of race one. As he was lying on the tarmac, he was hit by the bike of Chaz Davies (GBR) who fell when trying to avoid him. In severe pain after the heavy impact, Marco was taken to Portimão Hospital for precautionary checks. He returned to the team that afternoon shortly after the second race. The examinations showed he suffered no major injuries but has painful contusions on his back.
His teammate Leon Haslam (GBR) finished a more than difficult first race in 19th. In the second race he had to retire due to an electrical issue. Ayrton Badovini (ITA) and Michel Fabrizio (ITA) of the BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet Superbike Team finished 9th and 10th places in the first race and 6th and 8th place in the second.
The weekend started well with Team BMW Motorrad Motorsport securing the provisional pole position in sunny and hot conditions. Marco set the fastest time in Friday’s first qualifying practice with Leon finishing the session in fifth. Michel and Ayrton finished in ninth and 11th respectively.
“The lap time was very good,” said Marco, “but at the moment I am still worrying about the race. We struggled a lot with chattering and the race tire did not work so well for us. I can do one fast lap, but I cannot be consistent so we have a lot of work to do to try to make the bike smoother for the race. This morning the grip was not so good. This afternoon, when it was much warmer, the grip was better but we had more vibrations. We will now try to fix this issue but it is not easy.”
The following day in Superpole 1, both riders only did one fast lap with race tires fitted to their BMW S1000RRs to safely progress to the second session. Then both of them used qualifying tires for their first outings but struggled to make full use of the extra grip they offered. While Marco’s time was nevertheless good enough to bring him directly to Superpole 3, Leon needed another attempt on his second qualifying tire. He finished the session in eighth and, therefore, also progressed to the final and deciding part of the Superpole. In this third session Marco qualified fourth on his second qualifying tire and Leon sixth on a race tire.
“I think our starting position is better than we expected because we were struggling to get a fast single lap, though we did improve a little bit with the qualifying tire,” said Marco. “Tomorrow’s races won’t be easy. We are still not happy with the handling of the bike on race tires. Every time we have more chattering we struggle a lot. I have to be careful in every corner, and with every braking. In addition to this, it is a very bouncy track and the bike moves sideways a lot. There are many fast turns, and the last corner especially is difficult. The races will be tough, but we will try to improve the bike for tomorrow and make a good start. I will try to overtake right at the start and then we have to see how good our race pace will be.”
Both Ayrton and Michel ended their Superpole qualifying after the first session as both were out of the top 12 at the end of the 14 minutes of track time. Both riders would start the races from the fourth row, having qualified 14th and 15th respectively.
While the track was sunny and warm during qualifying, the conditions changed completely on race day with heavy rain in the morning. The rain stopped just before the start making this first race a tire lottery. Marco opted for front and rear rain tires on his S1000RR, while Leon went out on a rain tire on the front and an intermediate on the rear. He hoped for the track to dry up and to then have an advantage.
Right after the start, Marco was in the leading group but crashed on lap one while fighting for position. Leon was struggling with his intermediate rear tire in the wet in the early stages of the race and fell towards the back of the field. He did not get the chance to catch up because after six laps the race was red flagged due to oil on the track.
“Once more it was a very bad day for me,” remarked Marco. “When Max Biaggi passed me I kept my inside line and I did not really see him. I just heard the sound of somebody touching the front of my bike and I went down and I felt something hit my back. I was very worried about my back, kidney or liver because it hurt very badly. Fortunately the medical exams show that everything is okay. Now it is a bit better because I took a lot of painkillers, but I still don’t feel very well.”
After 45 minutes the race was restarted with grid positions determined by positions on track before the red flag. This meant that Leon was 20th on the grid. As the track was still wet he opted for rain tires on both front and rear but again in the second part of the race Lady Luck was not on Leon’s side. He got a ride through penalty for a jump start and entered the pits after three laps. In the meantime conditions had bettered so he decided to change his rear tire to an intermediate but this did not reap benefits as shortly afterwards light rain started again. On top of that he still had to take his ride through penalty. He did so after lap seven and finished the race in 19th.
At the restart, Ayrton moved off well from his 11th grid slot and gained one place at the end of first lap. After a difficult mid-part of the race, he managed to finish in 9th place. Michel made good progress in the early stages and was up to seventh place. Then a drop in grip saw him fall back and cross the finish line in 10th place.
For race two the sun was shining again and conditions were dry. Leon started from fifth but lost some places. His bike then stopped due to an electrical issue. He pushed it back to the pits but had to retire when the race was in its third lap.
Ayrton Badovini made a good start in race two and managed to quickly get into the top ten — thanks to a pace that, at times, matched the leader’s. He then climbed to sixth place at the checkered flag. Michel, who also started the race from the fourth row, finished the race in eighth place.
With no points again in these races, Marco falls back another spot to third with 308.5 points in the Riders’ Championship. He stands 38.5 points behind leader Max Biaggi (ITA). With just 50 points available at the final round at Magny-Cours, Max needs to just finish in the top five in both races to claim his second world title.
In the Manufacturers’ Standings BMW is second with 394 points, 28.5 points behind Aprilia. The races were won by Tom Sykes (GBR) and Eugene Laverty (IRL) respectively.
1. Tom Sykes – Kawasaki 31’42.011
2. Carlos Checa – Ducati +0.300
3. Sylvain Guintoli – Ducati +2.732
9. Ayrton Badovini – BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet SBK Team +31.507
10. Michel Fabrizio – BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet SBK Team +31.587
RET. Leon Haslam – BMW Motorrad Motorsport
DNF. Marco Melandri BMW Motorrad Motorsport
1. Eugene Laverty – Aprilia 38’35.105
2. Jonathan Rea – Honda +0.162
3. Max Biaggi – Aprilia +3.766
6. Ayrton Badovini – BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet SBK Team +23.152
8. Michel Fabrizio – BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet SBK Team +35.682
RET. Leon Haslam – BMW Motorrad Motorsport
DNS. Marco Melandri – BMW Motorrad Motorsport
FIM Superstock 1000 Cup
In Superstock 1000, Sylvain Barrier of BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet STK Team scored another pole position after setting the fastest overall lap time in the combined qualifying classification. He used that success to ride a smart race without taking too many risks and claim another podium finish — crossing the line in second. His rival Eddi La Marra finished fifth which allowed Sylvain to regain the championship lead.
“Sylvain was smart not to take too many risks and we’re back on top of the standings, even though by only three points which mean almost nothing with one race to go. The title will be thus be decided at Magny-Cours in two weeks,” said Serafino Foti, Team Sporting Director.