Max Biaggi didn’t have the weekend he’d expected at Brno, starting from the fourth row after failing to advance past Superpole 1, taking sixth in Race 1 and fourth in Race 2.
The battle for the 2012 world Superbike championship heated up dramatically in Brno following a weekend of unexpected results. Championship leader Max Biaggi arrived at the Czech Republic circuit expecting to increase his already significant 48 point lead in the standings. Over the last two decades Biaggi has been virtually peerless at Brno, having been unbeatable there on a 250GP bike with wins in 500’s and MotoGP before continuing his winning pace in WSB. As a result he was expected to be vying for wins this year, but that didn’t go to plan.
After being caught out in Superpole 1, where his rivals utilized their qualifying tire, Biaggi was forced to start the race from 14th on the grid. Despite fighting his way up the field in both races to finish in sixth and fourth he never was anywhere close to the expected pace to maintain his winning record at the Czech track, citing tire issues and chatter for his slump in form.
And to add insult to injury Biaggi had to witness bitter rival Marco Melandri secure BMW’s first ever double win, which saw his championship lead drop from a commanding 48 points to 21 points with five rounds and ten races to go.
It was a sublime performance by Melandri who once again showed his brilliant race pace and utter commitment to racing. Historically Brno has not been a good track for the BMW S1000RR, but in recent rounds Melandri has clearly found something with the bike. He’s now won five races in
Marco Melandri (33) ahead of 2011 world champion Carlos Checa (7) and BMW teammate Leon Haslam (91).
2012 and is delivering results regardless of BMW’s own form guide.
He said: “I am living my dream today. Securing my first double victory here in Brno on this racetrack is something special. I am so happy because I already have five victories this season and nobody did expect it. Race 2 was even more difficult as Tom (Sykes) was doing a great race, and I had to spend a lot of energy trying to catch him. The tire was working very well today, and I could keep the gap very small. Every time I tried to pass Tom he was braking so hard that it was nearly impossible. Once I finally passed him, I made a mistake and Tom passed me back. It was really tough to catch him again. Actually I did not expect to win, but being on the victory rostrum twice today is just amazing.”
As a result of Melandri’s success BMW now lead the constructer’s championship for the first time since joining WSB in 2009.
It was also a brilliant day for Tom Sykes who showed his ability to run at the front especially at the end of a race. After securing his seventh pole position of the season the Kawasaki man kept Melandri honest in both outings despite opting for the wrong tire and being hit by Jonathan Rea in Race 1.
He said: “In Race 1 I had a soft front tire in and from half race distance I was struggling with the front and was running in deep and little bit wide. Going into Turn 10, Melandri made a pass and I was chasing him and I tried to go with him on the brakes and unfortunately ran a little bit wide but like normal if a rider runs wide they’re only going to square the corner off that’s what I did, but unfortunately Jonathan maybe went for a gap that wasn’t there trying go with Melandri.
World Superbike rookie Loris Baz earned his first podium in Race 1, claiming third ahead of a number of seasoned riders.
“I know it was a big crash and I’ve not seen him after the race, so I hope he’s ok. I spoke with Carlos (Checa) after the race, he said he saw it all and when Jonathan went for the gap he was saying to himself – “no, no, no!’ in his opinion there was no room but we’re all riders at the end of the day and you go for gaps that aren’t there sometimes.”
It was also an impressive performance by Sykes’s teammate and WSB rookie Loris Baz, who claimed a brilliant third place in the first race. Despite his relative lack of experience the 19-year-old held his own beating world champion Checa to the podium and ended the race just 1.7 seconds behind winner Melandri.
Away from the racing the big news that broke at Brno was the announcement from BMW that they would be re-aligning their WSB racing effort. For the 2013 season there will be no Munich-based factory team in the series, instead the factory squad will be run by the current GoldBet BMW Italia outfit. The new team will continue to be fully supported by the factory with engines, power train and electronics being supplied from Germany. BMW sensation Marco Melandri will continue his relationship with the German manufacturer and will join the GoldBet BMW team in 2013 along with the majority of his current team and engineers. Current factory BMW rider Leon Haslam is unconfirmed with his contract ending at the end of the 2012 season.
In other news Frenchman Sylvan Guintoli was told on his arrival to Brno that he didn’t have a ride with his Effenbert Ducati team. Despite winning a race in 2012 and holding eighth in the standings onboard a privateer bike, his team told him that his results were not good enough and terminated his contract. Effenbert’s decision to get rid of the highest paid rider only fueled speculation that the team are in financial difficulties.
While the provisional 2013 WSB calendar looks buoyant with a new race in India and a likely return to Jerez in Spain and Laguna Seca or even Austin in Texas, this year’s calendar could suffer a serious blow with Portimao being removed from the line-up. The Portuguese track is in financial difficulty and it is unclear if this year’s race will go ahead.