Monday, May 14

BMW SCORES HISTORIC SWC 1-2

Marco Melandri made history at Donington Park on May 13, scoring BMW its
first Superbike World Championship race win.

MARCO MELANDRI BEATS HASLAM TO BMW'S FIRST SWC WIN IN DONINGTON THRILLER

By MICHAEL ESDAILE

It has been a long time coming but BMW finally won a race in the Superbike World Championship and works riders Marco Melandri and Leon Haslam did it in style with an action-packed 1-2 finish at Donington Park on May 13.

The win came in BMW Motorrad Motorsport’s 90th start in the Superbike World Championship and there have been a lot of changes in the team since the day it lined up with Troy Corser and Rueben Xaus at Phillip Island in 2009.

There have been pole positions, podium places and finally this year double podiums but it wasn’t until the end of 23 torrid laps in the first race at Donington that team boss Bernard Gobmeier could afford to smile as Melandri flashed over the line with Haslam in tow just over seven tenths of a second behind.

Pole sitter Tom Sykes, who earned his fourth Tissot watch for the season with a stupendous 1m 27.716s Superpole laps, was third on the Provec team’s Kawsasaki ZX1-R, nine tenths of a second behind Haslam.

Although Sykes got away well, it was Haslam who snatched the lead by going around the outside of the Kawasaki at Redgate. Melandri settled into third ahead of Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli (Team Effenbert Liberty Racing Ducati 1198), Max Biaggi (Aprilia RSV4 Factory), Johnny Rea (Honda CBR1000), Eugene Laverty (Aprilia RSV4 Factory), Leon Camier on the Fixi Crescent Suzuki GSX-R1000 with defending champion Carlos Checa ninth on the Althea Ducati 1198R.

For the first time since Imola the race was run in dry, albeit blustery, conditions, and Sykes was keen to do the business for Kawasaki after being pipped by Checa in both races at Imola, making his move on the fourth lap when Haslam ran wide at Goddard’s Corner.

Behind them the order was Melandri, Biaggi, Rea, Guintoli, Checa and Laverty, but that was about to change. First Laverty suffered machine problems with the factory Aprilia, fading back to finish 15th, then Guintoli was pounced by Checa and his young Italian team-mate Davide Giugliano while Camier also dropped back.

But Biaggi was on the move, closing in on Melandri, to make it two Englishmen leading a pair of Italians with an Irishman (Rea) and a Spaniard (Checa) trying to join the quartet out front.

Sykes kept the Kawasaki in the lead from laps four to 12 but succumbed to Haslam’s advances. Two laps after Haslam took the lead, Melandri, having got away from Biaggi, also made his move on Sykes as the Kawasaki man started to struggle for edge grip from his rear Pirelli.

The BMW team was ecstatic. The blue and white S1000RRs were running first and second. But Melandri wanted to be the man to go down in the record books as the first BMW rider to win a Superbike World Championship race, passing Haslam at Redgate Corner with seven laps to go. Haslam was back ahead before the lap was over, but the squabbling between the BMW men had allowed Sykes and Biaggi back into the frame.

On lap 19 off the 23, Melandri dived up the inside of his team-mate who ended up on the gravel but kept it upright to rejoin in third place, Sykes having scooted by on the Kawasaki.

Melandri now looked certain to win but Haslam wanted it as well, and somehow he found a way around Sykes to annex the runner-up spot with a lap to go. He then put his head down, turning lap time almost as fast as those he had been doing at the start in a determined bid to do the honours for BMW. However, he came up 0.728 seconds short so it was Melandri who went into the record books as the first BMW Superbike winner.

At the end of this thriller, third placed Sykes had edged to within a point of the world championship lead behind fifth place finisher Biaggi while Checa slipped to third on the points ladder, two points behind Sykes.

It had been thrilling opening race with five manufacturers represented in the top six but it was disappointment for Checa at a track that has seen no fewer then 17 Ducati race wins.

Melandri’s win repeated his first Superbike success: he won the first race at Donington last year, on a Yamaha YZF-R1.

For full results, click here:
Leon Haslam tried his hardest to score the win for BMW but came up a fraction of a second short...