Photography by Gold & Goose
If it couldn’t be an Italian motorcycle, then Italian fans got the next best thing and were thrilled regardless when Marco Melandri took an amazing last-lap victory over Tom Sykes and Eugene Laverty in World Superbike race-one action in Monza.
In a race that was nothing less than high-speed chess, it was Melandri earning a checkmate by figuring out how to go from third to first on the white-flag lap. His final pass didn’t come until the final corner, where he moved inside Laverty and held the throttle on his factory BMW S1000RR to the stops, all the while sliding through the high-speed corner. Melandri had just enough of a drive to hold off Sykes by .085 of a second with Laverty taking third.
For Melandri it was his 11th-career World Superbike win and he set a new World Superbike race record at the classic Italian circuit.
“For me to win a race here at Monza is something awesome,” said Melandri, who with the victory jumped from eighth to fifth in the series standings. “I want to thank my team because they did a very good job with the bike after a tough beginning of the season. Today we knew our pace could be good, but we were scared of the speed of the Aprilia. Fortunately with the slipstream the bikes were very close.”
It all came down to the final turn and Melandri described it from his point of view.
“During the last corner I had a memory of 2011 where I lose the race. I said to myself that I had to make something perfect. I went inside with Eugene, but I thought he could come back from the inside because I went a little bit too wide, but fortunately I did not see him. I was sliding a lot coming out, but it was full on throttle and I said ‘Please, please let me win!’”
The race started with Laverty going first into the first set of turns with Jonathan Rea late on the brakes coming second. At the end of the first lap both Melandri and Sykes moved past Rea while Sylvain Guintoli and Davide Guigliano also got by the Honda rider, who seemed to be struggling in the turns with a full fuel load.
Laverty held the lead until lap eight when championship leader Guintoli made a strong move past Melandri and Laverty coming from third to first. Sykes rain wide in a chicane and dropped to fourth.
There was an intense battle between Rea and a charging Chaz Davies mid-race for fifth, but Rea ran off the track in the chicane and was forced by race officials to drop back two positions, putting him out of contention for the win.
Jules Cluzel, on the Fixi Crescent Suzuki, was given a ride-through penalty for cutting a corner while running eighth, which put him out of the points. He finished 17th.
Melandri took over the lead on lap 11 and tried to break away, but with Monza’s long straights, the others were able to respond and get back in the fast BMW’s slipstream.
With four laps to go it was Sykes’ turn to move to the front and try a break. It looked at first like the Kawasaki rider’s move was perfectly timed, but again the Laverty and Melandri were able to gather him back, while Guintoli, perhaps not wanting to take any chances, fell back to a safe fourth, about 1.8 seconds behind the lead pack.
The last lap was an instant classic. Laverty led, Melandri slipped past Sykes and then moved to the front before being overtaken again by Laverty a couple of turns later. The three were virtually side by side coming through the final corner. It was Melandri who came in low and had the best drive to just nipped Sykes and Laverty for the victory.
There was a small gap back to Guintoli, then about five seconds more to Davies in fifth.
Guintoli continues to hold the championship lead, but it narrowed. He had 28 points on a three-way tie for second with Laverty, Davies and Sykes coming into Monza. After race one the gap from Guintoli to second-place Sykes is 21 points.
Monza - FIM Superbike World Championship - Race 1
1. Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 30'54.925
2. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 30'55.010
3. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 30'55.032
4. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 30'56.769
5. Chaz Davies (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 31'02.554
6. Michel Fabrizio (Red Devils Roma) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 31'03.332
7. Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 31'10.480
8. Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike) Honda CBR1000RR 31'11.390
9. Leon Camier (Fixi Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 31'11.593
10. Davide Giugliano (Althea Racing) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 31'21.745
11. Ayrton Badovini (Team Ducati Alstare) Ducati 1199 Panigale R 31'33.833
12. Max Neukirchner (MR-Racing) Ducati 1199 Panigale R 31'33.876
13. Fabrizio Lai (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 31'47.713
14. Kosuke Akiyoshi (Pata Honda World Superbike) Honda CBR1000RR 31'50.814
15. Federico Sandi (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 31'50.931
16. Mark Aitchison (Team Effenbert Liberty Racing) Ducati 1098R 31'51.752
17. Jules Cluzel (Fixi Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 31'54.470
RT. Vittorio Iannuzzo (Grillini Dentalmatic SBK) BMW S1000 RR 14'33.976