BMW Motorrad can check off another track where they’ve been victorious in the FIM Superbike World Championship. The BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK Team and factory rider, Marco Melandri (ITA), celebrated a victory in the first race at Portimão in Portugal last weekend. It was Marco’s second and the team’s fourth victory of the season. In race two, Marco struggled with rear tire wear issues and finished 12th. His teammate Chaz Davies (GBR) finished a difficult first race in sixth place. For race two, he and his crew improved the set-up of the BMW S1000RR meaning Chaz felt more comfortable and finished fifth.
At the last few rounds, the teams of the FIM Superbike World Championship faced bad weather on Fridays, which lost important time for setting up the bikes. However, in Portimão it was different. It was partly cloudy on Friday but after a short rain shower in the early morning, it was dry. Marco and Chaz used the day to start setting up their BMW S1000RRs for the sixth round of the season. In the first qualifying practice in the afternoon, Marco qualified sixth on the provisional second row, directly followed by Chaz who was seventh on the third row.
In Saturday morning’s second qualifying practice conditions started dry but at noon, light rain started. As a consequence, the riders waited until the track had dried again to go out in the free practice session. With only a few minutes to go, Chaz lost control over the rear coming over a crest and crashed. He suffered a cut to his right arm which was stitched up at the Clinica Mobile.
The Superpole started in dry conditions. Both Marco and Chaz did their first outing on race tires. Then Chaz opted for his first qualifying tire, setting the second fastest time of Superpole 1. Marco also did another outing but on race tires, finishing sixth. For their first laps in Superpole 2, both BMW factory riders chose qualifying tires. But during the first flying lap for the riders, the session was red flagged due to a rain shower. It was bad luck for Chaz as the red flag ended his attempt on his second and last qualifying tire.
The format of the qualifying was changed to “Wet Superpole.” Therefore, instead of Superpole 2 and 3 there only was one “Final Wet Superpole” session, with a duration of 20 minutes, in which all 12 riders who had qualified for Superpole 2 took part. Marco went out firstly on race tires, then switched to his second qualifying tire and rode the fourth fastest time. Chaz also first went out on a race tire, then replaced it with the then already used second qualifying tire. He struggled to ride a consistent fast lap and finished 12th.
“It was a rather positive qualifying session but we are not completely ready for tomorrow,” said Marco. “The positive thing is that, for the first time, we were able to push properly with qualifying tires. Today we improved the rear end of the bike but regarding the front, we made a slight step backwards. The track surface is in a really bad condition and unfortunately we lose stability in the dips between the bumps. For tomorrow we need to put together the best package in order to have a good race pace. In the race it will be important to start in the best way. It is no problem to be in the second row; I just have to be within the leading group immediately after the start in order to compete for the front positions.”
“It’s been frustrating because before the crash I felt that the bike was better,” said Chaz. “This was part of the reason why I crashed because I carried more speed across the crest but I think it was a bit too much speed for the set-up of the bike we had at that time. The bike kind of took off over the top so it was a pretty hard crash. I have a hole in my elbow and I banged my head pretty hard so I did not feel too great before Superpole. Anyway, we made it through the first part with a decent lap time. Then we had the red flag, but that was the same for everybody. In the final session I could not make the best use of the qualifying tire and I made a mistake in my best flying lap with it. I think the tire was six laps old by then which is way over the hill for a qualifier. For tomorrow we need to further improve. We still need to work on the set up and find something I am comfortable with and which helps to absorb the bumps. That’s the priority for tomorrow.”
Race one was an exciting thriller. After starting from fourth place on the grid, Marco improved to second soon after the start, right behind leader Tom Sykes (GBR). He dropped back to third place on lap three when Eugene Laverty (IRL) overtook him. Halfway through the race, Laverty was forced to retire, and almost simultaneously, Marco took the lead from Sykes. Over the next few laps, Sykes was pushing from the back and the gap to Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) in third declined. Entering lap 17, Sykes passed Marco with a close maneuver and the Italian BMW factory rider had to take evasive action and leave the track to avoid a collision. As a consequence, he dropped back to third but began to catch up straight away. On lap 19 of 22, Marco overtook Sykes and Guintoli to take the lead, however the Frenchman fought back successfully. Entering the final lap, Marco retook the lead. It was hard work for Marco to defend it, but in the end he crossed the finish line with an advantage of 0.007 seconds in front of Guintoli — the fourth closest finish ever in the history of the Superbike World Championship. Chaz, who started from 12th place, lost two positions at the start and had to fight battles in the middle field during the beginning stages of the race. Over the course of the race he gained positions as his race pace was close to the leaders, but he was too far back to fight for the podium and finished in sixth place.
In race two, Marco experienced excessive wear on his rear tire from the very beginning. During the early laps he was able to hold third position, but from the eighth lap onwards he started to drop back. Without the correct level of grip, he was unable to fight back against his competitors and lost positions and after 22 tough laps he finished 12th. Meanwhile Chaz was feeling a lot better on his RR in comparison to race one. He made a good start and improved from 12th to eighth soon after the start of the race. He overtook Davide Giugliano (ITA) on lap three to take seventh place and then fought a long battle with Giugliano and Carlos Checa (ESP). On lap 12, he improved to sixth place by passing the struggling Marco, and on the penultimate lap Chaz overtook Checa to secure fifth place before the checkered flag.
“To win in race one was not easy because at the beginning I was struggling a lot with the traction but after 10 laps this improved and it was easier for me so I got closer to the front again,” said Marco. “When I was leading, it was very difficult, because it was very windy so it was hard to stay in front. When Tom passed me, he closed the line. Maybe he thought he was in front of me but he just pushed me out of the track. When I came back, I did not have any plan so I just pushed as much as I could. I tried to overtake Tom very quickly because Sylvain was very fast and tried to pull away. When I caught Guintoli I took the opportunity to pass him. The last lap is very difficult to explain, it was just very close and I pushed as much as I could. I am so happy and thank you to everyone at BMW. In race two, I could certainly have been on the podium but instead the rear tire began to vibrate from lap two onwards. From lap three I started losing grip and then the tire deteriorated. As a consequence the whole bike started to vibrate and it was difficult to ride. I did the best I could do in that situation. Now I am looking forward to Imola.”
After six rounds of the 2013 season, Marco is fourth in the riders championship with 156 points, directly followed by Chaz who is fifth with 133 points. In the Manufacturers’ classification, BMW climbed back up to second place with 211 points.
FIM Superstock 1000 Cup
In the fourth race of the 2013 FIM Superstock 1000 Cup, Sylvain Barrier (FRA) from the BMW Motorrad GoldBet STK Team celebrated his second win of the season and retook the lead in the Rider’s classification. It wasn’t easy, however. The Frenchman had a massive crash at the beginning of Saturday’s second and final qualifying practice. The lap time Sylvain did with his BMW HP4 in Friday’s first qualifying practice was still good enough to secure him pole-position.
The team worked all night to repair the BMW HP4 and their hard work was well rewarded. Sylvain once more proved the potential of the new bike by dominating most of the race. His teammate Greg Gildenhuys (RSA) defied the pain caused by a fractured left heel he received after a crash as Monza and collected important points finishing 12th.