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Melandri resists Rea as Checa chucks it

28 May 2012

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Marco Melandri has taken a hard fought second World Superbike Championship win of the season at Miller Motorsports Park after capitalising on Carlos Checa crashing out of a comfortable lead and making the straight-line speed of his BMW count on the final lap.

An absorbing race that was thrown wide open when Checa crashed out of the lead on lap five, Melandri and Rea were just half of an exciting four-way tussle for victory between themselves, Max Biaggi and Chaz Davies, the satellite Aprilia rider putting in a magnificent ride to run at the front of the Superbike race for the first time.

Prior to that though, victory looked to be heading the way of Checa for the second time today, the Spaniard shrugging off an hour-long red flag period - to clean up fluid spilled by Hiroshi Aoyama's stricken Honda three laps into the first race two start - to assume a fairly comfortable lead.

However, his 1.7secs advantage meant little when a costly mistake sent both himself and the Althea Ducati down on lap five, a fourth non-score of the season that undoes much of his hard work in race one.

The consequence of his demise, however, would be a revitalised battle for the lead, with Melandri initially assuming the advantage. Indeed, the Italian had taken full advantage of starting third on the reformed grid (which was decided by the positions at the end of lap three when the first start was halted) to run up the front from the start, even if he was unable to break away from the chasing pack.

That pack was made up of Rea and Davies, the latter complementing his excellent start by putting some bold moves on Max Biaggi and Tom Sykes to run third. With Biaggi quickly catching up to broaden the lead group to four, the battle for victory was well underway.

Indeed, Melandri was struggling to establish an advantage over Rea, but while the Honda rider certainly looked feistier in the bends, the superior straight-line speed of the BMW repeatedly prevented the Ulsterman from getting through.

Undeterred, Rea kept up the pressure and was rewarded on lap 11 when he dived into the lead for the first time at Demon. With Melandri flustered by Rea's pass, a determined Davies also forged his way through into second place, dropping the Italian into the clutches of Biaggi.

Davies's promotion was shortlived, however, when Melandri streamed through into turn one on lap 13 and quickly set about bridging the gap to Rea in the remaining five laps.

A series of fast lap times were successful in bringing Melandri onto the tail of Rea as the closing stages approached, but while Rea certainly had the measure of his rival over the majority of the circuit, the lengthy home straight made him easy prey as could do little about to stop the BMW from cruising past well before turn one into the final lap.

Rea attempted to respond, but Melandri's inch-perfect lines meant it would be the BMW rider passing the chequered flag in first position for a result that marks a second win for the manufacturer just two weeks after it celebrated its maiden triumph at Donington Park.

Despite having to settle for second place, Rea – together with Melandri – find themselves well in the fight for the title on 141 and 142.5 points respectively, just 19.5 and 18 points adrift of overall leader Max Biaggi.

Though he has now not won a race since the season opener at Phillip Island, a pair of third places sees Biaggi extend his overall lead. Even so, he was made to work hard for the podium as he fended off the attentions of Davies, the Welshman proving he has come of age at Superbike level with his breakthrough run to fourth position.

Having faded dramatically in race one, Tom Sykes maintained a steadier pace for fifth position, the Kawasaki rider holding off Eugene Laverty after a race-long battle.

Davide Giugliano was another to fare better in race two in seventh place, the Italian finishing ahead of Leon Haslam, who ended a fairly anonymous weekend down in eighth position.

Poor starts once again determined the outcome of Jakub Smrz and Sylvain Guintoli's races, the Effenbert Liberty Ducati pair failing to build on promising qualifying performances to finish a distant ninth and tenth.

Having started 20th, Leon Camier salvaged decent points in 11th, ahead of BMW Italia duo Michel Fabrizio and Ayrton Badovini, while French counterparts Loris Baz and Maxime Berger rounded out the points' paying positions in 14th and 15th.


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