Marco Melandri (1:57.634) started on pole for the first time in World Superbike for the Race 1 at Motorland Aragon after dominating Friday and Saturday’s final Superpole session. Though he had some prior knowledge of racing at the Spanish track, after MotoGP made its debut their last season, the WSBK riders had an additional hairpin at the end of the back straight. Similarly, many teams tested there during the off season and extended break between some of the early races. Still, that did not keep Melandri from fending off Max Biaggi, Leon Camier, and Carlos Checa, who completed the front row.
They were joined by two factory Kawasaki riders, Melandri’s Yamaha teammate, and a satellite BMW on the second row as Ayrton Badovini outperformed his factory brethren to start eighth. Melandri led both the first free practice and the first qualifying practice on Friday, only to lose his lead to Checa in the final qualifying practice and Biaggi in the Saturday free practice. During Sunday’s morning warm-up, Biaggi led Checa, Camier, Haslam, and Sykes as the fastest five, with Melandri eleventh. Jonathan Rea did not ride or attend the Spanish meeting, having undergone surgery Monday after sustaining injuries in a warm-up crash at Misano last week.
Melandri led into the first turn, with Biaggi, Camier and Checa following, as Checa took third from Camier, then Haga fourth from the British rider. Soon, Biaggi slid through on Melandri to take the lead, with Camier fighting back behind him. He went around Haga, then capitalized as Checa went wide to take third from the Spaniard again. By the end of the first lap of the twenty lap race, Biaggi led Melandri by four tenths, with Camier, Checa, Haga, badovini, Sykes, Laverty, Lascorz, and Corser the top ten.
Biaggi’s lead continued to increase on the next lap, as well as the next. With Biaggi nearly a second ahead of Melandri, Checa and Camier were dueling over third three seconds behind Melandri. Checa took third, held it, and looked to be off after Melandri with sixteen laps to go. Five laps into the race, Biaggi had only three tenths on Melandri, with Checa, Camier, and Haga the top five. Checa was beginning to catch Melandri, just over two and a half seconds in front of him. Meanwhile, Smrz had crashed out of the race, but appeared to be unhurt.
Soon, both Melandri and Checa were catching the men in front of them, only for Checa to crash out himself while pushing hard after Melandri. Just as one Spaniard crashed, another pulled down pit lane. Xaus was in with some brake issues, only to rejoin the field many laps later. In the midst of fighting over eighth with Badovini, Fabrizio crashed out dramatically, bringing the field down to fifteen bikes.
At the halfway point, Biaggi still led Melandri, though that gap was down to three tenths, with Camier, Sykes, Haga, Lascorz, Laverty, Badovini, Corser, and Haslam the top ten. Quickly, Haslam fought his teammate over ninth, eight seconds behind Badovini. As the laps sped by, Melandri closed to under two tenths behind Biaggi, but looked comfortable waiting for the older Italian to make a mistake. A bit further back, Camier was catching the two leaders up, three and a half seconds behind with seven laps remaining.
Sykes began dropping back, with Haga overtaking him for fourth then Laverty for fifth with five laps to go. At the front, the gap between Biaggi and Melandri continued to fluctuate at around two tenths. That mistake Melandri spent the race looking for from Biaggi came with four laps remaining, as Biaggi ran a bit wide and Melandri struck quickly to take the lead. As they began the next lap, Camier was just over two seconds back, with Laverty and Haga still completing the top five.
While Melandri began pulling a lead over Biaggi, Laverty and Haga fought over fourth. In doing so, Haga also lost position to Sykes who used the slipstream to slide past the Japanese rider. In the end, Biaggi’s mistake was his undoing, as Melandri held the lead and took another win on his first WSBK season, with Camier completing the podium.
World Superbike Race Results from Race 1 at Motorland Aragon:
|1||33||Marco Melandri||Yamaha WSBK Team||–|
|2||1||Max Biaggi||Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team||1.572|
|3||2||Leon Camier||Aprilia Alitalia Racing Team||2.432|
|4||58||Eugene Laverty||Yamaha WSBK Team||10.799|
|5||66||Tom Sykes||Paul Bird Kawasaki Racing||10.847|
|6||41||Noriyuki Haga||PATA Racing Team Aprilia||11.931|
|7||17||Joan Lascorz||Paul Bird Kawasaki Racing||12.591|
|8||86||Ayrton Badovini||BMW Motorrad Italia||16.954|
|9||91||Leon Haslam||BMW Motorrad||24.205|
|10||11||Troy Corser||BMW Motorrad||24.694|
|11||50||Sylvain Guintoli||Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati||24.731|
|12||77||Chris Vermeulen||Paul Bird Kawasaki Racing||30.407|
|13||121||Maxime Berger||Supersonic Racing Ducati||34.107|
|14||44||Roberto Rolfo||Team Pedercini Kawasaki||37.233|
|15||8||Mark Aitchison||Team Pedercini Kawasaki||43.004|
|16||111||Ruben Xaus||Castrol Honda||3 Laps|
|84||Michel Fabrizio||Team Suzuki Alstare||11 Laps|
|7||Carlos Checa||Althea Racing Ducati||13 Laps|
|96||Jakub Smrz||Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati||15 Laps|
|57||Lorenzo Lanzi||BMW Motorrad Italia||18 Laps|
Source: WSBK; Photo: Yamaha Racing (Facebook)