Melandri ambushes Biaggi for Brno win
10 July 2011
Marco Melandri has won his third World Superbike race of the season after prevailing in a tense battle with title rivals Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa at Brno.
An immaculate display of precision riding from all three riders, Melandri and Biaggi circulated nose-to-tail for almost the entirety of the race, swapping positions on three occasions before the former struck the decisive pass with three laps remaining.
Indeed, Biaggi, having tailed Melandri for several laps, looked good for victory when he pounced at turn two with less than four laps remaining, but the Yamaha rider would nix any attempt by his rival to pull away with a masterful pass on the exit of the penultimate bend on lap eighteen.
Up to that point, the pair had provided close company for one another, resuming their battle from the previous round at Motorland Aragon, with Biaggi snatching the lead from pole position and Melandri giving chase once he dispatched fast-starting team-mate Eugene Laverty on lap two.
Swiftly onto Biaggi's tail, Melandri shadowed his rival before striking on lap nine with a pass into turn two. At this stage, the battle for lead was now a three-way, with Checa joining the conflict having made up almost two seconds in five laps.
Indeed, championship leader Checa's progress gave the impression he would be a factor in the fight for the lead, even more so when an error by Biaggi on lap 13 gifted him second place.
However, the Aprilia's superior straight-line speed over the Ducati would see Biaggi through again shortly afterwards, Checa's challenge seemingly fading from this point as he kept a close watching brief without getting embroiled in the lead challenge.
Instead, Biaggi turned his attentions back onto Melandri, making two failed passes on lap 15, during which Melandri simply cut back through, before making a move stick on lap 17, less than four laps remaining.
With Biaggi attempting a sprint to the finish line, Melandri stayed with his rival, pulling off a surprise pass on the exit of the penultimate bend and regaining the lead with two laps to go.
It would prove the crucial moment of the race, because while Biaggi attempted to respond, the constant presence of Checa in third would limit his options, the Aprilia man forced into second place, with the championship leader keeping a watching brief in third.
A third win of the season for Melandri, to go with his triumphs at Donington Park and Motorland Aragon, the victory helps him reduce the gap to Biaggi in the standings to 18 points. Biaggi, meanwhile, is now 39 points behind Checa.
Making the most of his highest grid slot of the season, Michel Fabrizio came home a fairly distant fourth place for Suzuki Alstare, the Italian lapping as fast as the leaders at one stage before settling for what remains one of his best finishes with the team.
Laverty finished an equally lonely fifth aboard the second Yamaha for another top five result that consolidates his fourth in the overall standings.
By contrast, the battle for sixth down to eleventh went to the wire, with several riders disputing the position right up until the final lap.
Tom Sykes held it down for a lengthy period of time, fending off the attentions of Jakub Smrz, but neither could challenge a charging Ayrton Badovini, who picked his way through the order having finished the opening lap down in 13th. Once again out pacing the factory BMW, Badovini's result moves him to eighth in the overall standings.
Leon Camier was another to suffer from a poor start, though he would climb to seventh at the finish, ahead of Leon Haslam, who put in a dogged display to recover from a mid-race lull and grab eighth on the final lap.
Capitalising on both Sykes and Smrz fading to tenth and eleventh, Joan Lascorz crossed the line as the top Kawasaki rider in ninth, the Spaniard performing well from 19th position on the grid.
Maxime Berger, Roberto Rolfo and Alex Lowes completed the top fifteen, the latter scoring a point on his WSBK debut for Castrol Honda. However, there was less fortune for team-mate Ruben Xaus, who crashed heavily on the opening lap after a spectacular high-side.