The sunshine decided to visit us at Donington Park this weekend, after some rain on Wednesday during setting up and then a shaky start to Thursday morning, we were just presented with the usual windy conditions but had the sun shining. This made tyre choices much easier than they had previously been for the teams and gave everybody high hopes for some actual racing this weekend rather than the constant fear of how dangerous it would be in the wet.
The first qualifying session saw Badovini and Zanetti crash at turn ten, with Baz hitting the gravel at turn twelve. Rea also crashed on turn ten later on in the session, but all riders walked away unhurt. The results of the session saw Smrz as fastest with Rea in second followed by Checa, Haslam, Camier, Sykes, Fabrizio, Biaggi, Giugliano, Badovini, Guintoli, Melandri, Davies, Aoyama, Berger and Laverty making up the provisional superpole entry list.
The second session had Mercado crashing and being taken to the medical centre on turn three, he carried on to race on the Sunday, however.
The results of the second session had Smrz fastest again with Sykes in second. Checa was third followed by Haslam, Melandri, Camier (who was at last topping the timesheets for a while), Fabrizio, Rea, Davies, Biaggi, Giugliano, Guintoli, Laverty, Canepa and Berger following up behind. This left the superpole entry list as Smrz on provisional pole, Sykes in second with Checa and Haslam making up the front four. Melandri, Camier, Fabrizio and Rea made the next four with Davies, Biaggi,Giugliano, Guintoli, Badovini, Laverty, Canepa and Berger rounding off the top sixteen.
Superpole’s first session had Biaggi starting off as fastest until Melandri took it from him. Checa took second and Camier third, pushing Biaggi to fourth. Sykes then went into second place with Rea third, so Checa ended up fourth and fifth. With less than six minutes to go, Haslam, Davies, Badovini and Berger were the ones to be knocked out of superpole two. Haslam then put in a fast time for fifth place, and Smrz went into second. By the end of the session, Melandri, Smrz, Sykes, Rea, Checa, Haslam, Camier, Fabrizio, Biaggi, Guintoli, Laverty an Badovini had done fast enough times to go through to the next session, knocking Giugliano, Canepa, Berger and Davies out.
The second session had Smrz taking the fastest time with Sykes in second and Checa third, Haslam slotting into fourth. Rea then went on to take the fastest lap but Melandri soon took it from him with Haslam pushing them both out the way. Guintoli briefly took fourth but Rea soon got it back from him, Sykes then took third with a one minute twenty eight and Smrz went into second. With five minutes to go, Fabrizio, Biaggi, Camier and Laverty looked like they were being pushed out of the third session. Camier, however, then went to take seventh and Biaggi fifth, pushing Checa out. This left Haslam, Smrz, Melandri, Sykes, Biaggi, Rea, Guintoli and Camier dominating the second session and Checa, Badovini, Fabrizio and Laverty knocked out.
So the third session started and Sykes set the fastest time with Sykes in second, Haslam third and Melandri in fourth with eight minutes to go. Biaggi then took the fastest time but Haslam then took it from him with Melandri in second and Guintoli third. Sykes then took the fastest lap with six minutes to go, setting such a fast time that it looked unlikely for anyone to be able to beat him. Biaggi set a time to take fourth place with fifty seconds to go, leaving Sykes in pole position at the end of the session. Haslam came into second, Melandri third and Biaggi rounded up the first row of the grid. Guintoli started off the second row with Rea sixth, Camier seventh and Smrz rounding them off.
Race one kicked off with, as per usual, Sykes taking the lead from the first corner, but Haslam cut across him to take the lead. Mercado ended his race by crashing at the second turn. This left the standings as Haslam, Sykes and Melandri. By lap three Giugliano was ahead of Camier in ninth place, with Checa in eighth. Biaggi and Rea also overtook Guintoli to take fourth and fifth place. Melandri then had a go at overtaking Sykes, but failed as Haslam ran wide to allow Sykes in front. Giugliano soon overtook Laverty by lap five, Camier now hot on his tail whilst Hopkins' stand-in Hickman had to pit in and end his race. By lap seven Camier had overtaken Laverty and Checa overtook Guintoli, with Giugliano following. Fabrizio had soon overtaken Laverty, as Guintoli overtook Giugliano again. Fabrizio went on to overtake Camier into ninth place, with Davies now ahead of Laverty in eleventh. Giugliano won the battle between himself and Guintoli, holding seventh place. Meanwhile, back at the front of the pack, Biaggi had caught up with Melandri and started to look into overtaking into third place.
Canepa hit the gravel on lap thirteen, rejoining the race. Haslam then overtook Sykes going into the esses. Biaggi had an attempt at overtaking Melandri but was blocked off, Melandri even held out his hand as a fake apology. In the mean time, Camier had overtaken Fabrizio again. Melandri soon overtook Sykes, and the battle for BMW’s first race win began. On lap sixteen Melandri overtook his team mate Haslam, the Pocket Rocket staying hot on the Italian’s tail. Haslam overtook Melandri again on lap seventeen, with Biaggi overtaking Sykes and Sykes overtaking him back on the inside of the next corner, blocking further attempts. Rea then overtook Checa into fifth place on lap eighteen. Lap nineteen saw Melandri overtake Haslam again into first place, Haslam ran off onto the gravel and zooms across the corner to stay in second place, but lost time on Melandri. Biaggi also briefly ran off, losing time on Sykes. Sykes then overtook Haslam on lap nineteen, Haslam looking go overtake again with all attempts being blocked off. Sykes was finally overtaken by Haslam on lap twenty-two, as Sykes clipped the kerb allowing him past. They soon started to battle, going neck and neck into every corner but Haslam soon managed to pull ahead slightly and Biaggi started to chase Sykes. Biaggi, however, ran wide on lap twenty three allowing Rea to jump into fourth place. This left the end results as Melandri, Haslam and Sykes taking the podium. Rea, Biaggi, Checa, Giugliano, Guintoli, Camier and Fabrizio rounded off the top ten.
Race two started with a bang as Biaggi took the lead into Redgate, with Smrz, Checa and Giugliano all going into the gravel, all crashing out from the race. Fabrizio was given a ride through penalty after a jump start, as Sykes overtook Biaggi into first place by the end of lap two. Haslam was sat in third place with Melandri clipping Rea as he overtook on the inside into fourth place. Rea overtook again and Melandri went to overtake again but was blocked off, causing the bikes to almost collide again. Melandri, however, managed to pass Rea coming into lap six and they came very close to hitting as they went through the last bend. When taking his ride through penalty, Fabrizio fell from seventh to seventeenth place.
Mason hit the gravel on lap seven, re-joining in last place, whilst the stand-ins for Kawasaki and Suzuki Loris Baz and Peter Hickman sat comfortable in eleventh and thirteenth place. Biaggi started to look in on Sykes for a possible overtake whilst Camier overtook Laverty into seventh place.
By lap ten Melandri had overtaken Haslam into third place. Laverty crashed at Craner Curves in lap eleven, completely demolishing the Aprilia but walking away unharmed. Melandri and Biaggi, meanwhile, started to battle for second place. Melandri overtook Biaggi but was repassed through the next chicane, then Melandri managed to overtake again, and keep it, on lap thirteen. Biaggi, however, was having none of that and overtook Melandri again on lap fourteen, with Haslam starting to have a look in as well. Haslam had a look at overtaking but was blocked off. Berger retired from the race in this lap with a technical problem.
Come lap fifteen, Melandri and Haslam both overtook Biaggi exiting the Melbourne Hairpin,while Rea then overtook him at the next corner, Goddards, pushing him back to fifth place. Biaggi tried to overtake Rea back but was blocked off, and Haslam managed to get in front of Melandri. Rea ran wide coming into the straight, leaving Biaggi space to get back in front of him. Haslam soon started to have a look in at overtaking Sykes, and barged him out of the way on the inside with Melandri following suit as they came into lap eighteen. Melandri then overtook Haslam, and Biaggi overtook Sykes. Haslam took first place back, with Biaggi sneaking up on Melandri. Rea also overtook Sykes to chase the front three. Rea overtook Melandri into third place, but Melandri took it straight back with Camier still working his way up and in sixth place ahead of Guintoli. Rea then overtook Melandri and Biaggi into second place, running slightly wide but keeping it. Biaggi then overtook Rea on lap twenty two, with Melandri also passing on the inside and knocking him out of the way.
Then we got to the final lap of the race, where we thought the results were clear. Melandri overtook Biaggi at the Melbourne hairpin and then made a huge lunge to overtake Haslam coming into Goddard's. Melandri’s speed coming around the corner meant he couldn’t turn, pushing Haslam into running wide and running even wider himself, however, as Haslam is incredibly used to this circuit he slammed on his brakes and managed to aim back to where his racing line should have been. This would have been fine if Rea had not spotted the gap left through Melandri’s mistake and gone to take it. Haslam was unable to see Rea, of course, and carried on turning in until they collided, lifting his wheels off the ground and dropping him. His bike then slid out to where Melandri had run wide, also knocking him off. This left the unexpected end results as Rea winning the race with Biaggi in second and Sykes third. Camier, Guintoli, Badovini, Davies, Baz, Hickman and Aoyama rounded off the top ten. Haslam still managed to gain a point from pushing his bike across the line with the help of a few marshals.
As far as the championship is concerned, it's closed things up rather between the top four but Melandri's mistake has also pushed the Italian and Haslam further out of touch with the leading group, costing them twenty and twenty five points respectively as well as gifting Biaggi and Sykes podium finishes which gave them more points. It would have been interesting to hear the conversation in the BMW garage after Race 2, where a perfect weekend of a pair of 1-2s was ruined by a stupid, impetuous and ultimately doomed to fail overtake attempt by someone who should have known better.
The next round is Miller Motorsport Park at Salt Lake City - a good track for Ducati. There's no Supersport racing there, which is probably a good thing as Sam Lowes, now running second in the championship after his maiden win this weekend, needs the time to recover from a weekend which, as well as the undoubted highs, saw the likeable twin losing part of his little finger in a practice crash and spend all weekend suffereing from a particularly aggressive stomach bug...
1 Marco Melandri (BMW)
2 Leon Haslam (BMW)
3 Tom Sykes (Kawasaki)
4 Jonathan Rea (Honda)
5 Max Biaggi (Aprilia)
6 Carlos Checa (Ducati)
7 Davide Giugliano (Ducati)
8 Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati)
9 Leon Camier (Suzuki)
10 Michel Fabrizio (BMW)
1 Jonathan Rea (Honda)
2 Max Biaggi (Aprilia)
3 Tom Sykes (Kawasaki)
4 Leon Camier (Suzuki)
5 Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati)
6 Ayrton Badovini (BMW)
7 Chaz Davies (Aprilia)
8 Loris Baz (Kawasaki)
9 Peter Hickman (Suzuki)
10 Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda)
after five rounds:
1 Max Biaggi 128.5
2 Tom Sykes 123.5
3 Jonathan Rea 108
4 Carlos Checa 105.5
5 Marco Melandri 97.5
6 Leon Haslam 89
7 Sylvain Guintoli 85
8 Eugene Laverty 65
9 Davide Giugliano 50
10 Jakub Smrz 44.5