Melandri leads 1-2 on Yamaha swansong
16 October 2011
Yamaha will exit the World Superbike Championship on the ultimate high after Marco Melandri and Eugene Laverty gave the manufacturer a fabulous 1-2 finish in its final race.
A magnificent end to the season for the Japanese firm, which announced in August that it will be curtailing its factory involvement in the series after this weekend, though Laverty led the majority of the race, it was Melandri who would out-last his team-mate with a pass three laps from home.
Melandri's momentum built as the race progressed, with little movement between the top five for three-quarters of the encounter.
Indeed, though Jonathan Rea got the hole-shot from Melandri at the start of the race, Laverty was past both at the start of lap two into a lead he would maintain for almost its duration.
Melandri followed through on lap three, and though Rea got back in front when the Italian made an error on lap five, it was a brief advance as his rival slipped straight back past along the start-finish line on the next revolution.
From here, Laverty, Melandri, Rea, Carlos Checa and Sylvain Guintoli held station in first to fifth, the quintet lapping almost identically, negating the opportunity for any passes to be made.
As such, it was only in the final four laps that the race came alive, Melandri renewing his pressure on Laverty to grab the lead for the first time on lap nineteen. With Laverty seemingly struggling with tyre wear, his victory challenge faded, with Rea instead latching onto him as they disputed second.
Melandri, meanwhile, was free to reel off his maiden WSBK season in style with a fourth victory of the year, a perfect conclusion ahead of his impending switch to BMW for 2012.
Laverty, meanwhile, held off Rea after the Northern Irishman's bold attempt to pass on lap 20 resulted in him going through, but running wide. Even so, though it was a superb 1-2 finish for Yamaha, and a fine run to what is Laverty's sixth podium of the season, Melandri's pass on the Irishman cost him the chance to secure third in the standings, with Laverty finishing equal on points with Max Biaggi, but losing out on count-back of second place finishes.
Behind Rea, Checa concluded his outstanding season in fourth position – only the fifth time he had finished of the podium all year -, ahead of Guintoli, whose lucrative points' haul at Portimao saw him snatch sixth in the final standings for Effenbert-Liberty Ducati.
That was at the expense of Leon Camier, who came through to sixth in the race, though he at least had the minor satisfaction of beating Aprilia team-mate Biaggi in a straight fight, the Italian finishing his tumultuous season in seventh.
Rookie Joan Lascorz sealed his status as the top Kawasaki rider in eighth place – complete with the fastest lap of the race -, ahead of Ayrton Badovini and Maxime Berger, the Frenchman giving Supersonic Racing a double top ten finish for the first time on its final WSBK appearance.
Outside the top ten, Noriyuki Haga, debutant Davide Giugliano, Jakub Smrz, Michel Fabrizio and Leon Haslam completed the points', the latter struggling to regain his ground after running off at the first corner.
Finally, Troy Corser's outstanding WSBK career would come to a somewhat unsatisfying conclusion after he finished 16th – and out of the points – in his 377th and final race…