Marco Melandri (33) came into Nurburgring as the man to beat, but after crashing out of both races he slipped back down to second overall behind Max Biaggi.
The 2012 World Superbike title race was thrown wide open at the Nurburgring circuit in Germany this weekend. Championship leader Marco Melandri went in to the event as the man to beat given his benchmark performances in recent rounds that had seen him win six races since May. Having qualified on the front row alongside his two main title rivals Max Biaggi and Tom Sykes, Melandri was the man in form and expected to extend his 18.5 point championship lead, but against all the odds the 30-year-old Italian threw all the work he’d done in previous races away by crashing in not one but both WSB races on Sunday.
Tires were cited as a contributing factor to Melandri’s issues as well as a low grip track which saw a huge amount of front end crashes across all classes during the weekend.
Melandri said: “Today was my first time to have a double zero. It was two different races, but with the same result. I am very disappointed for the team, which is working so hard. In Race 1 I struggled a lot with rear grip and was losing a lot compared to the guys in front of me so I was trying to catch them in braking. I was braking very hard every time but in corner eight I took a bump and just lost the front. I don’t know yet what was the reason for my crash in Race 2. I was on the straight and lost the front. That was strange. Now I will recharge my batteries and fight back in Portugal.”
Melandri’s main title rival Max Biaggi had a better weekend but it was far from perfect. In recent races the five-time world champion had looked a shadow of his former self, but from day one at the Nurburgring he was a new man. Determined, committed and focused, the factory Aprilia rider secured his first pole of the 2012 season before going on to take the Race 1 win and regain the lead in the championship standings.
In Race 2 Biaggi looked set for a repeat of the victory only to crash out on lap one when he lost the front. This in turn threw the title race advantage back to Melandri before he crashed himself out of the lead. While Melandri failed to re-join the race, Biaggi picked his bike up himself got it out of the gravel and rode hard to salvage 13th place and three potentially crucial championship points.
“I hit the biggest bump in that corner, maybe at a different angle and the front let go immediately – I had no chance. In the end it’s ok. It could have been worse but it could have been better. I’m okay with my days work because we were able to be fast and consistent and we will be able to be strong until the last race.”
The man to capitalize on Melandri’s and Biaggi’s crashes was British rider Tom Sykes. Despite not having his best weekend the factory Kawasaki rider made no mistakes and secured fourth and fifth places to reduce his points deficit to the leaders from 41 at the start of the weekend to 17 by the finish.
While it didn’t go to plan for the three title rivals it was an epic day for former AMA man Chaz Davies, who in his rookie WSB season secured his maiden victory in Race 2. In what was an accomplished performance, Davies had worked his way up from tenth on the grid to second after overhauling Sykes and was matching Melandri every step of the way right up until the Italian crashed on Lap 9. From that point on, Davies was in complete control and rode a faultless 11 laps to pull out a comfortable three second lead.
Chaz Davies had a stellar weekend, taking third in Race 1 and scoring his maiden Superbike win in Race 2.
He said: “It’s an incredible feeling. I didn’t get a very good start but I let off the brakes into turn one and made up a lot of places and got away with the leaders. I had good ride in Race 1 so I knew I would be comfortable with the pace at the front. I didn’t expect the mistakes from Marco and Max and if they had stayed on I’m sure the race would have been a lot tougher. After that it was all about keeping my concentration. To get the win is the best way possible to repay my team for all their efforts.”
After taking his maiden win, Davies’s day got even better when he signed to ride for the official GoldBet BMW team in 2013 alongside Marco Melandri. Davies will ride the BMW S1000RR as a replacement for the outgoing Leon Haslam.
Another big winner of the day was Eugene Laverty who claimed two second places the same weekend as he was confirmed for another year in his factory Aprilia team. His teammate for the following season is jet to be confirmed but is expected to be Max Biaggi. The only factor that could change this is if Biaggi decides to retire.
Away from the racing, Ducati are seeking a change to the 2013 rules that will see a reduction in their minimum weight to 165 kg (373.8 pounds) – the same as their four-cylinder rivals. Following a change in regulations at the beginning of 2012 prompted by Carlos Checa’s domination of the 2011 title, Ducati were required to carry an additional 6 kg’s (13.2 pounds). And with the introduction of the Panigale they want to start on a level playing field in terms of weight.
Next year’s WSB calendar has begun to take place with new events scheduled in India as well as a possible return to Laguna Seca in favor of Miller Motorsports Park. The season finale is also likely to take place at Jerez in Spain leading to rumors that there will be 15 races in 2013.
The one-time four man Effenbert Ducat team shrunk to two riders at the Nurburgring after Czech rider Jakub Smrz parted company with the Italian squad. Frenchman Sylvan Guintoli left the team earlier in the year leaving only the team’s two paying riders Maxime Berger and Brett McCormick in the squad for the final two rounds of the series.