Melandri cracks Biaggi for Aragon win
19 June 2011
Marco Melandri has taken his second World Superbike Championship win of the season after his relentless pressure on Max Biaggi was rewarded with a defining mistake by his rival with four laps remaining.
Biaggi led for almost the entirety of the race after snatching the lead from pole sitter Melandri on the opening lap, but the Italian pair would proceed to lap in formation as they diced for the win.
However, the pressure finally told with four laps remaining when Biaggi out-braked himself into that very corner, allowing Melandri to slip up the inside and assume the lead.
Up to that point, the duo had embarked on an intriguing battle that developed over the course of the race, Melandri staying close to Biaggi but never showing anything more than the occasional wheel.
Indeed, though Melandri seemed faster through the sweeping bends, the scant overtaking opportunities ensured any pass would likely occur into the braking zone of the hairpin at the end of the back straight.
However, a weaker entry to the straight and the Aprilia's apparent top speed advantage negated Melandri's slipstream with each lap, preventing him from getting close enough to attempt a pass. Even so, Melandri maintained the pressure throughout, particularly as the Pirelli tyres began to wane in the high temperatures.
It was a tactic that worked as Biaggi, who handed Carlos Checa victory last time out at Misano after making a mistake with only a handful of laps remaining, out-braked himself into the hairpin enough to allow Melandri to slip through.
It was the break he needed, Melandri unleashing his full pace quickly to break the tow to Biaggi and stretch away, the Yamaha rider crossing line a fairly comfortable 1.2secs up on his arch-rival.
A disgruntled Biaggi held on for his eighth second place finish of the season, though he can take some pleasure in having eaten a 20 point chunk out of Checa's advantage at the top of the WSBK standings following his rival's surprise DNF.
Starting from fourth position, Checa lost touch with Biaggi and Melandri early on as he grappled for third with Noriyuki Haga and Leon Camier, but once clear of the Aprilia duo, he began to close down the gap to the leaders.
Setting the fastest lap in the process, just as Checa appeared as though he was getting on terms with the lead fight, he crashed at turn ten. A huge disappointment for the Spanish fans, the crash marks Checa's first DNF since the second Nurburgring race in 2010.
His elimination promoted Camier to third, the Briton making the most of his front row grid slot to feature towards the front throughout. Indeed, having dropped more than four seconds off the leaders at the half-way stage in the race, Camier embarked on a charge during the latter stages, lapping faster than the leaders to end up just a second behind team-mate Biaggi at the chequered flag.
His third podium of the season, he was well up on an entertaining scrap for fourth, which changed hands throughout the race. Haga held the spot for the majority of the race, swapping with Tom Sykes towards the end, but it was Eugene Laverty that prevailed as he managed his tyres to pick off his rivals in the final laps.
Sykes dropped from fourth to seventh late on, but battled his way back up to fifth, missing out on fourth by a tenth of a second. Haga kept hold of sixth, ahead of Joan Lascorz on the second Kawasaki, while Ayrton Badovini had a lonely run to eighth.
Though battling lower than they would have preferred, BMW's Leon Haslam and Troy Corser enjoyed a dogged fight for ninth, with the Briton eventually winning over his team-mate, while Sylvain Guintoli kept a watching brief in 11th.
With just 15 riders finishing on the same lap – following accidents for Michel Fabrizio and Jakub Smrz too -, Chris Vermeulen, Maxime Berger, Roberto Rolfo and Mark Aitchison took the remaining points' positions.