The 2012 World Superbike
championship season provided countless instances of that edge-of-the-seat excitement that makes being a fan of professional motorcycle racing so rewarding. Whether it was Tom Sykes
looking to sustain the lead pace over the entire race distance, Max Biaggi
charging through the pack after a bad start to maintain his points lead or Marco Melandri
’s dramatic string of terrible luck through the final rounds, 2012 was, to say the least, a historic season. With the 2013 opener at Phillip Island just weeks away, we decided to look back and highlight some of the most memorable moments of 2012, to help get you as pumped for the upcoming season as we are.
Highs and Lows at Donington for BMW Motorrad
Marco Melandri came tantalizingly close to giving BMW Motorrad its first premier-class win in World Superbike during the opening race of the season in 2012, missing the mark by seven seconds behind the eventual champion, Aprilia’s Max Biaggi. Things got worse in Race 2, with Melandri taking sixth behind his then teammate, Leon Haslam. Though Haslam went on to earn three podiums in the subsequent three rounds, that initial achievement at Phillip Island would remain the German marque’s high point until Donington
From the outset, there was magic in the air in Great Britain. Melandri was the fastest rider in Superpole 1, Haslam took the honor in Superpole 2 and by the end of the day they’d earned the second and third starting spots on the grid for Sunday’s races. The two Beemer pilots traded punches with Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes in the shuffle out front during Race 1, but Melandri made a late race push to the front that stuck, giving the Italian rider his first win of the season and the first victory ever for BMW in World Superbike. To top it off, Haslam secured second-place in the contest, making it a one-two declaration that the S1000RR
was a force to be reckoned with.
“It is something really special,” said Melandri following the event at Donington. “When I joined BMW Motorrad, my target was to help to make the RR a winning bike and to get the first victory ever and this is what we, the team and the people at the factory achieved. I have to thank all the people involved in the project; the management of BMW Motorrad, the race department and the people at the track, just to name a few. We had some difficult times, but we never gave up and were very focused on our job. We concentrated on progressing step by step and now I am very proud that my name is in the BMW history book.”
Race 2 was a dramatic reversal of fortune for the BMW teammates. As if an omen of things to come, Ducati’s Carlos Checa and Aprilia’s Eugene Laverty made contact with one another early on, causing both riders to hit the ground. Out front, Sykes, who led for much of the race, had Haslam, Melandri and Biaggi jostling for position close behind. Honda’s Jonathan Rea was in the mix as well in fifth, but he didn’t make his move until late in the contest.
During the final laps, Melandri and Haslam appeared to be on pace to repeat their Race 1 showing. Haslam had taken over the lead while Melandri drifted between second and third in a battle with Biaggi. Both BMW riders went slightly wide on late-race turn and Rea pushed hard for the inside line from fourth-place, making contact with Haslam in the process and sending the British rider into Melandri’s line, effectively taking out the entire BMW Motorrad team in one fell swoop. Haslam was able to salvage a last-place finish, but Melandri left with a DNF.
Following the Donington round, Melandri’s and Haslam’s roads diverged, with Melandri going on to secure five more race wins, five additional podiums and become a legitimate threat to win the 2012 title. If it hadn’t been for a dismal string of luck in the final three rounds, taking three DNFs in four races and missing Portimao entirely after a big crash early in Race 1, the Italian would likely have taken the 2012 championship. Haslam struggled as the season progressed; only breaking the top-three once more through all the remaining rounds and falling outside the top-10 on more than one occasion. Melandri returns to see if he can claim the title for the propeller brand in 2013 while Haslam has moved on to Pata Honda, but 2012 will go down as a breakout year for BMW thanks to the efforts of both riders and their performance at Donington Park.
Want to get in on the 2013 World Superbike action? Play Motorcycle USA’s Fantasy Superbike for a chance to win prizes like a VIP trip to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and $50 gift cards from Motorcycle-Superstore.com. Get in on the action before it’s too late, Round 1 at Phillip Island is set for February 24th!