With the first round of the 2012 World Superbike Championship cloaked in tragedy following the death of 17 year-old Oscar McIntyre in one of the support races, the grid held a few surprises.
With Superpole cancelled, grid position was decided by earlier qualifying times. This put Tom Sykes’ Kawasaki ZX-10R on pole position with the BMW team some way back. Factory rider Troy Corser had retired and was replaced by ex-GP rider Marco Melandri, who has in position 13 on the grid. Teammate Leon Haslam was ahead of him in 12th despite having pins put in his fractured right tibia only four days before.
In his first race on the BMW S1000RR, Marco gained several positions in the first corners, working his way up the field as the race went on.
On lap 18 he’d improved to second, and defended this position against Sylvain Guintoli to the finish line.
In race one, despite his injuries, Leon was fighting for the top ten until the very last lap. At the start of race two, Leon catapulted himself to third and fought for the top positions over the next laps.
Marco meanwhile had a steady start, but improved his position lap by lap.
Halfway through the race he found himself directly behind Leon in fifth. The two factory riders then had an exciting inter-team battle, changing positions several times. In the end, Leon was able to hold on and finished fifth in front of Marco.
After the races, Marco Melandri said: “I’m really happy! Giving BMW its best ever result in my first race on the RR is awesome. I still can’t believe that. The guys are working really hard, and have done a great job. We didn’t quite know how we would perform in the race because we hadn’t done any long runs in pre-season testing.
“During the race I tried to keep my rhythm and not to override as I knew I’d have to look after the tires. I had to wait for the right moment to pass Tom Sykes and Sylvain Guintoli. In the final two laps Sylvain was pushing very hard again, but I kept focused and defended my position.
“Race two was very difficult. It was warmer, so I had to push harder to catch the guys in front of me, and it wasn’t easy. But we finished the first weekend second in the championship, and that’s better than expected.
“We now have one month to analyze the data and make more improvements. We will go testing in Spain and all the guys are working hard.
“I want to send my sympathy to the family of Oscar McIntyre who we lost yesterday.”
For Leon Haslam, he had similar sentiments: “Overall I’m really happy. We had a problem in race one, which I couldn’t ride around. Even though scoring points was the objective, I knew I could’ve done better. The boys worked really hard between races: They changed engines, electronics and the balance of the bike, and straight away we were able to fight for a top five position. It’s a big credit to the team and the medical staff who managed to get me out there in the first place!
“I also want to express my condolences to the family and friends of Oscar McIntyre, who died in that tragic crash yesterday.”
Michel Fabrizio from the BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet team came home sixth in race one, but wasn’t able to finish race two. Teammate, Ayrton Badovini, retired in both heats.
The races were won by Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa, respectively. In the riders’ championship, Marco lies in second with 30 points. Leon is eighth with 15 points. In the manufacturers’ standings BMW is third with 31 points.