Having been considered the favourite to win the 2012 World Superbike Championship title as recently as two rounds ago, Marco Melandri now heads into the final event of the year simply looking to turn around the run of dismal form that has all but ruled him out of contention.
The Italian commanded an 18.5 point lead over Max Biaggi heading to the Nurburgring just one month ago after a superb run of form over the summer period, but two crashes in Germany proceeded to set him back behind his rival leading to Portimao.
Even so, BMW rider Melandri was still in close contention when he crashed on the opening lap of the first lap, the subsequent collision with the unsighted Chaz Davies also ruling him out of race two entirely with back and rib injuries.
With four failures to score in succession, Melandri's once comfortable advantage has been turned into a 38.5 point disadvantage heading to the final round in France. Though still mathematically able to win the title, he will need to rely on bad luck to strike both Max Biaggi and Tom Sykes if he is to emerge as champion.
Indeed, Melandri makes no mention of a title charge in his pre-event quotation, insisting he simply wants to end his year on a high.
“I spent the time after Portugal back home taking a rest and recovering from my injury,” said Melandri, who suffered back contortions and cracked ribs in the Portimao accident. “It still hurts, but I am feeling better with every day and cannot wait to head to Magny-Cours. The last two race Sundays were difficult, but they are behind us now and we are as motivated as ever to fight on.
“The final round of the season will definitely not be an easy one, as it is fiercely competitive at the front of the field. It is important for us to work hard from the first day on in order to prepare as well as possible for the races.
“I like the Magny-Cours circuit. Last year I raced there for the first time and had two very good races. It is a difficult but interesting circuit, which offers a combination of everything. When I first rode there, it took me some time to find the best way of braking for the slow corners, but then I found a good feeling and was riding pretty fast. I also like it because the surface is very smooth.
“I had a lot of fun there last year and that is my target for this year, too. I want to enjoy the final round and finish the season with the best possible performance and the best possible results.”
Melandri will remain with BMW for 2013 when the manufacturer switches its factory allegiance to the current satellite 'BMW Italia' operation.