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Melandri leads BMW 1-2 at Donington
13 May 2012 CLICK HERE
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Marco Melandri has won BMW's first-ever World Superbike Championship race at Donington Park after prevailing in an intense four-way tussle with his team-mate Leon Haslam, Tom Sykes and Max Biaggi.
The front row starters were barely separated by more than a second throughout the race as they lapped in tandem, but it would take a mistake from Haslam with five laps remaining to give Melandri the breathing space he needed to go on for victory.
Marking BMW's first victory in 45 attempts, the manufacturer is also celebrating a 1-2 after Haslam fought back from his earlier mistake - when he ran across the gravel at Esses whilst battling with his team-mate - to snatch second from Sykes on the penultimate lap.
Prior to that, the trio - together with Biaggi - had embarked on a thrilling fight for positions, with Haslam initially taking the lead before Sykes pounced on lap four when the BMW rider ran wide into Goddards.
Keeping a close watching brief in third and fourth, adversaries Melandri and Biaggi were engaged in their own battle for supremacy, the latter getting the edge on lap ten at the Esses, only for his rival to respond immediately with a late dive into the Melbourne hairpin, Melandri even going as far to apologise to his countryman for the rather rash move.
Biaggi nosed ahead again on lap eleven with a dive up the inside at Starkey's, but Melandri chose the Melbourne hairpin again to get the position back.
With Haslam almost simultaneously doing the same to Sykes, Melandri was quickly charged into action as he also found a way past Sykes on lap 13, yet again at the Melbourne hairpin.
With the S1000RR now running 1-2, Melandri set about challenging his team-mate for the honour of securing BMW's first-ever WSBK victory, hinting at his intentions with a pass into Redgate on lap 16. Though Haslam countered that with a re-pass straight away, a similar overtake on lap 18 would prove more successful for the Italian.
With inter-team honour at stake, Haslam immediately set about trying to recover his position, but would find himself too close to Melandri in the braking zone for the Esses chicane. Forced to let off the brakes, Haslam went skating across the gravel trap, allowing Melandri to escape his clutches.
Fortunately for him, Biaggi had done something similar in his attempts to pass Sykes, holding both riders up and allowing Haslam to re-join still on the tail of the Kawasaki, while Biaggi was also able to recover in close company.
However, the error had served to break up the lead pack and Melandri commanded almost two seconds over the renewed battle for the podium positions with just four laps remaining. It was all the advantage he needed to complete a repeat of his 2011 victory.
An important moment for BMW after more than three seasons of trying, it is their first victory in 45 rounds and 89 races.
With Melandri away, attention turned to the battle for second, a chasing group that had swelled to four after Jonathan Rea's decision to opt for hard tyres saw him pull more than three seconds on his rivals in less than six laps.
His charge was enough to get him ahead of Biaggi on the final lap, but he would not quite have the measure of Haslam and Sykes, the local man completing BMW's historic day by recovering to second position, ahead of the Kawasaki rider.
Rea took fourth, while Biaggi had to make do with fifth, the Aprilia rider doing just enough to retain the championship lead, though his advantage is now just one point over Sykes.
Further back, Carlos Checa endured a lonely race in sixth after losing touch with Rea, while his Althea Racing team-mate Davide Giugliano recovered from a lowly grid position to finish a fine seventh.
Going in the other direction, Sylvain Guintoli couldn't maintain his good start as he slipped to eighth, while Leon Camier and Michel Fabrizio completed the top ten positions on their respective Suzuki and BMW bikes.
A fairly quiet race in the lower half of the field, Ayrton Badovini was 11th, Chaz Davies 12th, Maxime Berger 13th, Jakub Smrz 14th – after running off at the Esses on the first lap – and Eugene Laverty 15th, the Irishman's dismal weekend continuing in the races.