The BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK Team had their first victory and then a second as their new for this season factory rider, Chaz Davies (GBR) won both races at the second round of the 2013 FIM Superbike World Championship on the Motorland Aragón track in Spain. His teammate Marco Melandri (ITA), who started from eighth, jumped on the podium in third place in race one. In the second race, Marco finished fifth.
The team had a good start to the race weekend with a first place for Marco and second place for Chaz in Friday’s free practice session at noon. In the first qualifying practice of the afternoon, Chaz topped the time sheets until the closing seconds and finished second putting him on the provisional first row for the race. Marco returned to the garage a couple of minutes before the checkered flag in third place. However, during the last few minutes of the session, he slipped back one position and finished fourth, placing him on the provisional second row.
The following day in Superpole 1, both riders easily qualified for the next session by setting one fast time on race tires. In Superpole 2, the team started to have mixed fortunes. While Chaz set another fast lap on race tires to be third and comfortably progress to the final and deciding session, Marco was struggling. For his first outing in Superpole 2, Marco opted for the qualifying tire but he was nearly one second slower than his teammate. Marco improved his time on race tires in a second outing and finished ninth to progress into Superpole 3. Both riders started the deciding session on qualifying tires. While Chaz again was third fastest, Marco set the eighth fastest time. The Italian returned to the garage and settled for the eighth grid position. Chaz used his remaining qualifying tire to make another attempt in the closing stages of the session but went wide on one corner and could not further improve his time.
Chaz remarked, “I am really happy, it was a good step forward. It is my first front row in World Superbikes – last year I barely managed to get on the second row never mind the front row. Qualifying has always been the weakest part of my weekend. I think people underestimate what it takes to learn a superbike and the difference it makes when you come back to a circuit after having the experience of racing here last year. The front row feels great actually. It is the result of the work that BMW have done over the last month since Australia. In addition, I am getting used to my RR. I am very happy but I have to remember that tomorrow is the most important bit which I am looking forward to.”
Marco added, “Unfortunately we struggled a lot with vibrations today and despite several different set ups we tested, we did not find the one which allowed me to ride as I wanted. I feel like I am riding on the wet. I am pretty slow in the corners because I do not really feel comfortable. We need to find the right way – even a small change could bring a big result and allow me to ride better, to be more confident and ultimately to go faster. I had no problem with my shoulder today, because it was not over stressed. Because we were looking for the right set up I came to the garage very often so I never rode for a long time in a row. Tomorrow morning we will see which solution is the best for the races.”
In both races on Sunday, Chaz was on for the victory from the word go. In race one, the Welshman took the lead on lap five, while his immediate rivals, Eugene Laverty (IRL) and Tom Sykes (GBR), ran into difficulties. Once at the front, Chaz grabbed the chance to secure his first season victory with both hands and lap by lap he increased his lead which brought the win. Marco improved from eighth to sixth within the opening lap, but went wide when fighting for positions and consequently fell back to ninth place. The Italian once more showed great determination and caught up: on lap five, he was already third, taking second place on lap 13 by overtaking Sylvain Guintoli (FRA). Unfortunately on lap 16 he went wide again and dropped a number of positions, only to fight his way back onto the podium crossing the line in third place.
The second race was shortened to 19 laps after the start was delayed. This time, Chaz took the lead on the second lap and began building the gap in front of his pursuers. He kept a cool head and rode a determined race to secure his second victory of the day. Not only this, but he also rode the fastest lap of the race. In the opening stages it seemed that both riders of the BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK Team would be on the podium as Marco had a brilliant start and took third place on lap two. But he then experienced some issues and was not able to hold the position. Consequently, Marco slipped back into fifth which was the position he held until the checkered flag.
“For me it is just an amazing day,” said Chaz. “I cannot explain how happy I am. What a weekend! My first victory with BMW and then the double win — this is something I was hoping to achieve this year but I did not expect it to happen this early. I want to thank BMW and everybody who supported me. I knew coming here that we are going to be strong. BMW has done a fantastic job over the last month we had off since Australia, and everybody was working very hard. In addition, I now really feel that the RR is mine, I feel so comfortable on it.
“In race one, the DNFs by Tom and Eugene definitely made it easier. In race two it seemed that I had a comfortable lead, but to be honest I had to push a lot. One of the most impressing things is the fact that we have done a lot of testing in Jerez but not here in Aragón, where nearly everybody else has been. So to win with that up against us, is quite impressive and it is credit to the work BMW has done. We will now keep being focused, continue to work hard and look forward to Assen, another race track I really like.”
“For me, it wasn’t the best weekend,” said Marco. “After race one I was still pretty happy. At the start I wasn’t very comfortable with the front end and I made a big mistake trying to catch the guys in front of me at the end of the main straight. After that I got into a good rhythm and improved into second place. I thought that would be my position in the end but unfortunately the bike went into neutral between third and second gear. But I finished in third place which was not so bad for me. In race two, based on my experience with the 16.5 inch tire, I chose a harder tire for the front. But with the 17 inch tire, it worked differently to how I expected. I had less grip and could not ride properly. In the beginning I pushed very hard, but then I preferred not to risk too much. I had no pain in my shoulder, but by the end of the race I had no strength left in my arms. I am looking forward to the next race in Assen, when we will be in a better shape. Congratulations to Chaz. He rode awesome – well done!”
In the Riders’ championship, Chaz has now climbed into second place with 63 points, while Marco sits in fourth with 43 points. In the Manufacturers’ classification, BMW lies in second with 79 points.
FIM Superstock 1000 Cup
In the FIM Superstock 1000 Cup, reigning champion Sylvain Barrier (FRA) rode to victory at the season opener at Aragón. This meant that the BMW Motorrad GoldBet STK Team rider secured the first ever international victory for the brand new BMW HP4. The bike is equipped with the Dynamic Damping Control DDC, meaning this was also the first ever victory of an electronic damping system in the history of motorcycle racing. Sylvain’s team mate Greg Gildenhuys (RSA) finished tenth. In addition, Jörg Steinhausen and Grégory Cluze won the first round of the 2013 FIM Sidecar World Championship with their LCR BMW S1000RR.
“Thanks to the development work that the team have done over the last three months, BMW wrote an important page in the history of motorcycle racing as it is the first bike to win with an innovative electronic damping system,” said Andrea Buzzoni, General Manager BMW Motorrad WSBK. “I want to congratulate both the team along with our colleagues in Munich for developing the system and Sylvain, who knows how to make perfect use of this new technology: Sylvain dominated the whole weekend right from free practice up until this morning’s race.”