Twelve months ago, Marco Melandri and BMW separately left the 2011 edition of the World Superbike Championship at Miller Motorsports Park having suffered what would go on to be their worst weekend of season – one year later, the pair are together celebrating their best-ever results in unexpected circumstances…
Not only a measure of how far BMW has come this season, Melandri's race day performance came after a struggle in qualifying left him down in ninth position, a result that appeared to confirm the S1000RR was just not suited to the American circuit.
Nonetheless, excellent starts in both races negated his third row grid slot, Melandri establishing himself as the closest thing Carlos Checa had to a rival on each occasion. Though he wasn't quite quick enough to dethrone Checa from the top spot in race one – despite setting the fastest lap in the closing stages -, second place still marked a surprising turnaround in just 24 hours for BMW.
“In race one, I was pushing like in qualifying from the first lap until the end. The tyre was working very well until the end. Yesterday we were struggling a bit too much, but today fortunately the weather was better for us. And I was feeling even more comfortable on the bike with less fuel in the tank.
“I tried to make the life not easy to Carlos, but in some corners, I could not go his line with the four cylinder bike. I tried to catch him, but on the last lap I tried not to push too much because it was easy to make a mistake, and a second place and the podium was good after such a tough qualifying.”
With Checa eliminating himself from the running in race two, Melandri was elevated to 'favourite' when he initially assumed the lead, but he was unable to immediately respond to Jonathan Rea when he came charging through mid-race.
Despite this, Melandri rediscovered his turn of pace as the fuel lowered on the bike and he steadily worked his way back into contention, overtaking Rea on the long home straight at the start of the final lap, a decisive moment that would take him through to victory.
Though he admits he benefitted from Checa's misfortune, as well as the speed advantage of his bike of the Honda, Melandri was thrilled to be celebrating BMW's second win of the season just two weeks after breaking the manufacturer's WSBK duck at Donington Park.
“In race two, for sure I had a little bit of luck with Carlo crashing. I was struggling a bit in the beginning, and when Johnny passed me I lost the concentration. It took me some time to catch him. But again, when the fuel level dropped down I felt so much better on the bike and fortunately I could pass Johnny on the straight because my BMW engine was so strong. Otherwise it would have been very difficult for me to try to make a pass.