The BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK Team stepped onto the podium at the Turkish debut of the FIM Superbike World Championship. Factory rider Marco Melandri (ITA) finished second on his BMW S1000RR in Sunday’s first race at “Intercity Istanbul Park.” In race two, he was fourth. His teammate Chaz Davies (GBR) had issues in race one and finished eighth. It went better for him in the afternoon, when he crossed the line in sixth.
The 11th round of the 2013 season, and the first ever Turkish round of the FIM Superbike World Championship, started well for the BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK Team. Marco finished second in Friday’s first qualifying practice, qualifying on the provisional front row. Chaz finished seventh on the provisional third row. For a large part of the session, Marco and Chaz were first and fourth respectively and only dropped back in the closing minutes. In the morning Free Practice, the session was extended from 45 to 90 minutes to give riders and teams the opportunity to get acquainted with the track, a new addition to the calendar. In this session, Marco and Chaz were also placed second and seventh.
It was not a particularly easy Saturday for the team, however. It was raining during this morning’s second qualifying practice and Marco and Chaz opted not to go out on track along with many other riders. For the free practice at midday, the rain had stopped but conditions were still wet. The BMW duo spent most of the session in the garage waiting for the surface to dry and only went out on track for a short time.
In the afternoon, it was sunny again and Superpole started with dry conditions. Both Marco and Chaz did their first outing on race tires. Chaz’ lap time was good enough to bring him into Superpole 2 and he returned to the garage after a couple more flying laps. Marco was on course to set the fastest time on his first lap but crashed in the final section. He re-joined and rode back to the pits. With six minutes to go, he started a second attempt, again on race tires. He set the second fastest time of the session and progressed to Superpole 2. In the next session, it took Marco one outing on race tires to qualify for the final and deciding session. Chaz went out twice, once on race tires and then on qualifying tires to reach Superpole 3. In the final session, Marco put in his first qualifying tires but he returned to the pits immediately to change to his second. With this, he set the seventh fastest time. Chaz only went out with five minutes to go, using his second qualifying tire. But he had a sensor failure and qualified eighth, only a few thousandths of a second behind Marco.
“I expected a better result because on race tires we were quite fast, on a single flying lap as well, as we saw in Superpole 1,” said Marco. “But we were not able to improve the time with the qualifying tires because as soon as we put those on the bike became difficult to ride. I am looking forward to tomorrow in a positive way. The bike works better with race tires, so this is an advantage. But tomorrow’s races will be quite unpredictable. We have two new types of tires and it will be important to choose the right one. The races will be very long. I am not starting from a good position and I will have to attack. To be fast on this track you have to ride smoothly and this is my riding style, so overall I’m quite optimistic for tomorrow.”
“…In Superpole 3 I immediately felt that there was an issue. There was a sensor failure in the shifting system and I had to use the clutch again. That did not allow me to push as I wanted to so unfortunately we are eighth on the grid,” said Chaz. “Tomorrow will be quite interesting. I think a lot of people are in the dark a bit. I guess no one has done a full race distance so far. In addition, the circuit is changing every time you go out, so tomorrow there could be more grip but it could also be harder on the tires. The main thing is to make a good start and then we will see.”
At the start of race one, both BMW factory riders gained positions. Marco improved from seventh to fifth, Chaz from eighth to sixth. After the first lap, Marco was in fourth while Chaz was sitting in seventh. In the early stages, Marco lost a bit to the leading trio, but halfway through the race he started to catch up and closed the gap to the top three with every lap. On lap 14, he overtook Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) to take third, entering lap 16 he passed Tom Sykes (GBR) for second. He then tried to close the gap to leader Laverty but the Irishman was too far away to catch him up in the remaining laps. Marco rode his RR to second on the podium behind Laverty. Chaz meanwhile was fighting in a group of four and was temporarily lying in fifth. But a massive lack of grip meant he could not hold the position. Throughout the race he lost positions and crossed the line in eighth.
In race two, Marco was sixth after lap one, Chaz seventh. In the early stages of the race, they were involved in several battles, gaining positions. After lap six, Marco was fourth and Chaz sat in sixth. But this time, Marco struggled to catch up with the front runners and the gap increased throughout the race. In the end, he rode a lonely race to finish fourth. Chaz had a better feeling on his RR in this race. On lap 16 he improved to fifth, but lost one position again on the final lap to come home in sixth.
“In race one, I lost a lot of time in the first laps,” said Marco.”With a new tire our bike is always very nervous. On the first lap I had to shut the throttle on the straight as the bike was shaking too much. But then after ten laps, because there was less fuel the bike became lighter and it was easier to ride. At that time I was quite fast and I caught up with the top guys. But when I passed Tom, Eugene was already very far away and for me, second place was already a very good result.
“After race one, we made some changes to the setting of the bike but, probably because of the higher track temperature, the grip went down. We tried to balance the bike with some changes to the rear but as consequence, I started struggling with the front. I couldn’t be fast entering the corner and I had some issues trying to brake. In the end I could not get the same result as in race one. We have still three races to go and, even if it’ll not be easy, I continue to believe. I want to fight and give my best in each race.”
After 11 rounds of the 2013 season, Marco is fourth in the riders’ championship with 290 points, 33 points behind the lead. Chaz follows in fifth with 239 points. In the Manufacturers’ classification, BMW is currently third with 354 points. Both races today were won by Eugene Laverty (IRL).