The BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK Team headed west to the famous “Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca” near Monterey, California for the 12th round of the 2013 FIM Superbike World Championship. The last visit of the series to the Californian circuit dates back to 2004 but it’s familiar terrain for both BMW factory riders. Marco Melandri (ITA) knows Laguna Seca very well from his years in MotoGP. He took part at the Laguna US Grand Prix six times, twice finishing on the podium. Chaz raced there several times with the American AMA and in 2007, he made his MotoGP debut at Laguna Seca. The local knowledge was helpful as Chaz came away with a second place in the first race and Marco with a third place in the second race.
The weekend’s schedule was unusual with the first race contested on Saturday and the second race held on Sunday. This meant the weekend started as usual with the free practice on midday Friday, but then both qualifying practices were held on Friday afternoon. After another free practice and the Superpole qualifying took place on Saturday morning before the first race at 2 p.m.
It was therefore a long but luckily successful Friday for the BMW Motorrad Team. Chaz started the day by setting the fastest time in the free practice, followed directly by Marco who finished the session in second. In the 45-minute qualifying practice one, Marco and Chaz were fourth and tenth respectively. The second qualifying practice in the late afternoon lasted for one hour. Marco was setting fast times with his RR throughout the session and put himself at the top of the time sheets in the final stages, setting a new record time of 1:23.775 minutes. Chaz lost track time halfway through the session, when the display on his bike failed. After his crew had repaired the failure, Chaz went out on track again and propelled himself from 13th into the front positions.
Saturday started with a free practice and the Superpole qualifying in the late morning. Chaz and Marco qualified fifth and seventh on the grid respectively. At the start of the race, both of them gained positions, with Marco improving to third and Chaz to fourth. On lap two, the Welshman overtook his teammate and on the following lap he set a new lap record. But on lap eight, the race was red-flagged for the first time. For the re-start, the grid was formed by the results of the last contested lap, meaning that Chaz started from third and Marco from fifth. This time, Marco improved to third, while Chaz slipped back to fifth when the lights went out. But the Welshman fought his way back and was third again directly in front of Marco after seven laps. On lap nine, the red-flag was waved again. After another break, the riders went out on the grid for the third attempt to complete the race which was shortened to 12 laps.
Chaz was third on the grid again, Marco now started from fourth. The BMW duo initially stormed to the front, with Chaz taking the lead and Marco improving to second. After six laps, the two RRs were still in first and second positions, but Tom Sykes (GBR) was pushing from behind. He overtook Marco on lap seven to take second. Chaz defended his lead until the tenth lap when he lost out to Sykes. But this did not mean the excitement was over. In the final stages of the race, both Chaz and Marco chased Sykes, fighting for the win. Chaz saw the checkered flag in second. Marco also was on course to the podium, entering the final lap in third position but the Italian then dropped back to fourth when he was passed by Eugene Laverty (IRL) in the “Corkscrew”.
“Second place is a good result; I am pretty happy,” said Chaz. “To be on the podium at Laguna is always great. At the second re-start, I made a great start to take the lead. For the rest of the race I was just trying to keep my head down and did whatever I could to stay in front. But it was difficult, from mid-race on I was struggling with the front and it was pretty slippery. I did not feel that I had the bike that I had in the cooler conditions this morning. There I was really happy with the bike; it was working great. I was able to do 1:23 laps on a really used tire but in the race, the bike was a bit more nervous and harder to ride. We will address that tonight and try to improve it for tomorrow.”
After Saturday’s race, the BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK Team analyzed the data and further improved Marco’s and Chaz’ BMW S1000RR motorcycles. Chaz was fifth on the grid, Marco started from seventh. In the beginning, both riders were racing in the leading group but after three laps, Chaz returned to the garage. He felt there was an issue in the braking system and decided to retire for safety reasons. Until he retired, he was in fifth, not far behind the leader. Marco was running in fourth for most of the race, never being more than one second behind the top three. In his typical manner, he started to catch up with the front group halfway through the race. He closed the gap with every lap and was soon directly within the closely fought leading group. In the exciting final stage of the race all top four riders were possible winners, Marco included. On the last lap, he overtook Tom Sykes and took third on the podium. The race was won by Eugene Laverty.
“Today was a quite positive day. It was not easy, even if I got the best result I could achieve.” said Marco. “Unfortunately during the first part of the races I struggled with the front, so I needed a long race to catch up with the guys in front of me. This was not possible yesterday as the race was not long enough. But today, I could push in the second half of the race and I got on the podium. There are still many points still available. It will not be easy, but I still want to win some more races.”
In the riders’ championship, Marco is fourth with 319 points, 42 points behind the lead. Chaz follows in fifth with 259 points. In the team standings, the BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK Team is second with 578 points and in the manufacturers’ classification, BMW is currently third with 390 points.