Moscow Raceway on the eve of the inaugural World Superbike round where BMW Motorrad’s Marco Melandri took over the championship points lead from Max Biaggi.
The inaugural World Superbike round at the Moscow Raceway in Russia will go down in history for two reasons. It became the first ever World Championship road racing event to take part on Russian soil and it was also the day that saw BMW Motorrad take the lead in the overall standings thanks to a brilliant performance from Italian Marco Melandri.
Now in its fourth year competing in WSB, BMW hadn’t even won a race up until May this year, but since then Melandri and his new team have now won a total of six races. With a growing momentum and belief behind them they look favorites to go all the way and become WSB champions come the final round of the championship at Magny Cours in France in October.
Melandri’s second place and race win saw him outscore his arch rival and season long championship leader Max Biaggi to the tune of 29 points meaning that the BMW man has a 18.5 point lead with just three rounds and six races to go.
Melandri said: “To win here at the first ever round of the Championship in this country is something special. It’s the first time I have led the world Superbike Championship and also the first time for BMW so you could say it’s been a good day! After Race 1 we made a change to the bike and from the beginning I felt very confident. My bike was sliding a lot in the closing laps and I could see that the guys behind were catching me but I was able to hold on. My team did a great job and we are very motivated for the rest of the season, but there is still a long way to go.”
Max Biaggi went into the dirt during Race 2, hitting Leon Haslam. Both riders retired from the race after the incident.
In stark contrast to Melandri’s near perfect weekend, title rival Biaggi had a shocker. Off the pace from the start of Race 1, he eventually got into fourth place after a number of his faster rivals crashed or ran off track and eventually picked up a podium when his Aprilia Racing teammate Eugene Laverty honored pre-agreed team orders to let Biaggi through at the final corner.
In the second race Biaggi looked more comfortable on his factory Aprilia and was in the lead group battling for position. But on Lap 10 the five-time world champion clipped Jonathan Rea as he passed him down the 873-meter back straight. This caused the Italian off line and onto the dirty part of the track meaning he couldn’t stop for the penultimate corner and slammed into the back of the luckless Leon Haslam. Biaggi was immediately back on his feet but the un-expecting Haslam looked hurt and lay by the side of the track, but after a short delay managed to get up and walk away.
Biaggi said: “I got onto the dirt and just could not slow down enough. The front of the bike was jumping and there was nothing I could do to avoid Haslam. I am very sorry for this I went and saw his straight away to see if he was okay and also after the race. It’s been a difficult day today losing the championship lead, but the fight is not over.”
Biaggi’s crash not only saw him lose the championship lead but means that he is now under pressure to hold second place in the standings following Kawasaki man Tom Sykes win and second-place in Russia. The British rider has been a revelation in 2012 and continues to deliver impressive qualifying and race results week in week out. In the opening race which started on a wet track, Sykes was in a class of one, pulling a one second gap on the first lap which he extended to a massive 8.8 second by the checkered flag.
“We’ve had a good day and to come away with a victory in race one is fantastic and I guess you can say we made history today by taking the first ever win at this track. In Race 2 I had a small issue with my front on corner entry and that really did affect my race. At the end of the race I had a good package but I misjudged the number of laps. My plan was to have a really big push with five laps to go but unfortunately I missed that window. I’m frustrated with myself but we have to be realistic and I think we’ve done a god job this weekend.”
Former AMA rider Chaz Davies continued his impressive rookie WSB season onboard the MTC ParkinGO Aprilia by securing his second podium of the year in Race 2. The British rider was in contention for the podium in Race 1 up until a collision with fellow countryman Haslam forced him off track. But in Race 2 his fortunes were better and he was able to capitalize on a last lap incident which saw Eugene Laverty and Honda man Jonathan Rea crash and Carlos Checa run wide.
He said: “I was fortunate to pick up a podium in Race 2, but after some of the bad luck we’ve had this season I think I might have been owed some good luck – so I’ll take it. We’ve still got work to do with the bike and myself, but as a team we’re definitely making progress and at the moment every change we make seems to be in the right direction which is really positive.”
In Supersport, Deltafin Lorenzini Kawasaki rider Kenan Sofuoglu tightened his stranglehold on the world championship by taking the win and extending his championship lead to 33 points with just three races to go. The Turkish rider is gunning for his third WSS crown and was helped when closest title rival Sam Lowes jumped the start and finished 12th after having to complete a ride through penalty for his infringement.