The BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK Team was back to its winning ways at Italy’s “Autodromo Nazionale di Monza” which hosted the fourth round of the 2013 FIM Superbike World Championship. Factory rider Marco Melandri (ITA) rode his BMW S1000RR to victory in race one and a second in race two while claiming the fastest race lap. His teammate Chaz Davies (GBR) finished fifth in the first race, but crashed out of race two.
Friday’s qualifying started with rain and during the first free practice at noon, both Marco and Chaz did not risk too much in the wet conditions and used the session to gather information. Marco returned to the garage after three laps and Chaz completed seven laps in the rain. In the afternoon, the sun came out and the surface dried for qualifying practice. However, the riders needed to be patient before they could go out on the track again as a delay in the schedule meant the first qualifying practice began one and a half hours later than planned with parts of the circuit still damp.
The BMW factory riders made the most of the time they did have with Marco setting the fastest time of the day. Chaz was also on course for a top position, but for him the qualifying practice came to an early end when he crashed 15 minutes into the session and was classified 13th.
“It has not been a particularly productive day,” said Chaz. “The rain was one thing and the delay another, but a crash so early in the weekend is frustrating. The track was probably not completely clean. I lost the front but I saved it, but then I think I hit some bumps and the front went again. At one point I thought I would save it but it was too close to the outside of the circuit and unfortunately I had a big crash. Until then my times had been good and the bike felt pretty good. I could have done with a few more laps just to get a feel for it, but then I crashed and did not manage to get back out. So tomorrow, I need a little bit of more track time to catch up but if the weather is good then it should be fine.”
Saturday saw a thrilling Superpole qualifying for the The BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK Team. While Chaz had an easy progression through the first session directly to Superpole 2, it was harder on Marco’s side of the garage. An electronic issue prevented the Italian from going out on track straight away. His crew did a great job to resolve the issue within shortest amount of time and sent Marco out with five minutes to go. The Italian’s time was good enough to proceed to Superpole 2. There, both riders opted, again, for race tires. Marco did one outing and finished eighth, Chaz went out twice and finished seventh. With the fastest nine riders qualifying for Superpole 3, both riders reached the final session and opted for qualifying tires. Marco did two outings and rode the fifth fastest time. Chaz went wide in the chicane, meaning his first lap time was deleted. He stayed out on track and rode more laps on the now used qualifying tires and as a result finished ninth.
Race one, which was recorded as the fastest average speed World Superbike race ever, was a breathtaking thriller from the start flag until the finish line. Marco, who started from fifth, pushed forward from the word go and took second position on lap two. Until the checkered flag, he fought an exciting battle with Eugene Laverty (IRL), Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) and Tom Sykes (GBR). Positions between the four changed constantly. On lap 11, Marco took the lead but slipped back to third on lap 15. The battle continued and reached its climax on the final lap. Marco took the lead but lost it a few corners later, however he did not give up the fight. With a brilliant maneuver he regained first place with only a few hundred yards to go and defended his lead until the end. In a photo finish, he had an advantage of just 0.085 seconds to Sykes in second place and 0.107 seconds to Laverty in third. Chaz, who started from ninth, also gained several positions in the early stages of the race. He was involved in a battle with Jonathan Rea (GBR) and Davide Giugliano (ITA) and soon took fifth place, a position he successfully kept until the finish of the race.
Race two saw the same four protagonists, but this time the quartet did not change positions as much, they instead seemed to wait for the closing stages to start their final battle for victory. Marco was in third place for the majority of the race, and on the penultimate lap he started his charge forward and overtook Guintoli for second place. Laverty however defended his lead up until the finish line, winning the race 0.143 seconds ahead of Marco. Chaz had a more difficult race than race one. In the early stages, he again improved to fifth, but then went wide in the chicane and dropped back to eighth. The Welshman fought his way back to fifth, but a crash on lap 12 ended his hopes of another top result.
“It was an unbelievable day for me. To finish first and second here in Monza is just awesome and it feels great after we had a difficult start to the season,” said Marco. “Race one was unbelievable. I knew that my race pace was quite good, even if we struggled a bit in qualifying. When we started, I knew that it would be very tough until the last corner. When Eugene passed me on the last lap, I thought it would be impossible to pass him back again, because he was very good in the turns and he was pulling away. But in the last corner I was quite close, I knew that I could go a little bit faster than the others and so I overtook him and, even though I was a little bit wide, I kept full throttle until the finish line. Until the checkered flag, I was talking to my RR, telling her ‘go, go, go’ – that was incredible.
“In the middle of race two I was a little bit faster than the two guys in front of me, but I could not try to pass. But when Sylvain made a little mistake, I overtook him and then tried to catch Eugene, but he was a bit too far away. Anyway, I was also very happy with second place. Now I am confident because I feel that the feeling with the bike is coming back. I can brake and go into corners aggressively, it is my riding style. I am sure that from now on we can fight with the top guys at every race.”
“Race one was a fun race but not ideal,” said Chaz. “It was fun to battle with Jonathan and Davide, but there is no need to fight around here because the front group goes away too quickly and you lose everything, especially in the slipstream which is very important. You have to take a few tenths every lap in the slipstream. I was quite happy with my pace in the middle of the race, I could see that I was closing a little bit on the front group but in the end it was not possible to catch them. I would have liked to see how the race would have ended if I would have been able to go with them. In race two I lost time fighting with Davide again. It was fun, but it cost me half a second a lap to the top group. I thought I could close the gap and was pushing to fight for the race win and not to finish fifth. In the end I was pushing too hard and lost the front. Obviously I am disappointed to crash, but I am happy because we improved the bike step by step and were going in the right direction.”
In the Riders’ Classification, Marco climbed to fourth with 96 points. Chaz is fifth with 94 points. In the Manufacturers’ classification, BMW lies in second with 144 points.
FIM Superstock 1000 Cup
In the 2013 FIM Superstock 1000 Cup, championship leader Sylvain Barrier (FRA) was able to grab the pole-position for the third round of the season on his BMW HP4. Not only did the BMW Motorrad GoldBet STK Team rider set a clear best time in the final qualifying session, he also set a new track record for the Superstock class. His team-mate Greg Gildenhuys (RSA) finished qualifying in seventh.
It was an unlucky race day for the team, however. The FIM Superstock 1000 Cup race ended prematurely for both riders after Sylvain and Greg were involved in a heavy crash in the first corner which involved a number of motorcycles. Both had to be taken to the Medical Center to be assessed. Sylvain luckily escaped unhurt, Greg was suspected to have fractured his right leg, but further examinations showed that he fortunately just twisted his ankle.