Photography by Gold & Goose
In one of the dramatic World Superbike races in recent memory, BMW’s Marco Melandri won a wild and wet one at Moscow Raceway. The race saw a dry start, then sections of the track getting rain and eventually a torrential downpour took over causing all the riders, most of them with five laps to go, to pit for wet-weather tires. When the spray settled only 11 riders finished and it was Melandri winning over teammate Chaz Davies by 7.441 seconds. Ayrton Badovini took third on the Team Ducati Alstare, giving Ducati its first podium of the season.
In a further shakeup, championship leader Tom Sykes had his Kawasaki suffer a catastrophic failure on the third lap, with flames pouring out from the engine. His DNF combined with Sylvain Guintoli’s sixth, means that Guintoli is back in the championship lead going into Moscow’s race two today. Melandri’s win moved him to third and he is now just 32 points out of the series lead.
The race got off to a crazy hectic start and got even more complicated as the laps wore on. A couple of turns in Jules Cluzel clipped Carlos Checa both went down. Vittorio Iannuzzo and Lorenzo Savadori also both hit the deck on the first lap.
The problem for the riders was it was spitting rain, ever so slightly at first, making the traction spotty at best.
Davies took the early lead over pole winner Davide Giugliano. On lap two Giugliano’s day was done when he crashed his Althea Racing Aprilia. The Superpole winner was out.
By the third lap Davies had sprinted to a large lead. Just then on lap four championship leader Sykes slowed, ran off the track and then had his Kawasaki go up in flames, with an obvious blown motor.
If all of that early action wasn’t enough, on lap seven things got much more complicated for the entire field. It began raining progressively harder, but just on certain sections with others sections remaining completely dry. It made for one of the most schizophrenic track challenges the racers would ever face.
Leon Camier and Michel Fabrizio were the first to pit for rains, but they did it too early, because they weren’t able to improve their lap times since half of the track was still dry.
Eugene Laverty and Leon Haslam got caught out in the tricky conditions and both went down, Haslam limping badly away from the bike with his leg still healing from a broken leg suffered at Assen earlier in the season.
Davies had sprinted away to an eight second lead, but then the clouds opened up and with five to go it started pouring all over the 2.4-mile Moscow Raceway. All of the riders pitted for rains, with the exception of Kawasaki’s Loris Baz.
Baz actually led lap 21, but on the slicks he could only tippy toe around the turns and he was quickly passed and he was also forced to pit.
In the pouring rain it was Melandri who was clearly fastest. Just after exiting the pits he passed Davies for the lead and began to pull away. He took the checkered flag, pumping his fist in delight. Davies came home second and Badovini passing Rea with two laps to go to secure that momentous podium for Ducati. Rea and Fabrizio rounded out the top five.
It marked the third win of the season for Melandri.
“It really was an unbelievable race today,” Melandri said. “I had a good start, but Chaz was pulling away. He had an unbelievable lead in the dry. He was very consistent. So second for me was looking good, to finish the race like that. Then it start to rain, just on one part of the track. It was impossible to go on a wet tire because part of the track was totally dry. It was unbelievably difficult to ride a slick tire in the wet.
“I was thinking about the championship, so I was thinking about to finish the race in second for me was OK. But around five laps to go it started to rain all around the track and it was a good time to change to the wet tire. This time my feeling was pretty good and I catch Chaz because he was tired a little bit more than me. Then I just tried not to make mistake, because the last few laps it was raining unbelievable. It was so difficult to finish the race. My team made a perfect strategy and I’m so happy.”
With rains continuing it appears race two will be in the wet as well, so stay tuned.
Moscow - FIM Superbike World Championship - Race 1
1. Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 46'03.043
2. Chaz Davies (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 46'10.484
3. Ayrton Badovini (Team Ducati Alstare) Ducati 1199 Panigale R 46'15.797
4. Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike) Honda CBR1000RR 46'24.360
5. Michel Fabrizio (Red Devils Roma) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 46'50.499
6. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 47'04.042
7. Max Neukirchner (MR-Racing) Ducati 1199 Panigale R 47'07.805
8. Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 47'07.990
9. Leon Camier (Fixi Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 47'12.183
10. Jules Cluzel (Fixi Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 46'26.550
11. Federico Sandi (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 48'04.828
RT. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 26'02.247
RT. Leon Haslam (Pata Honda World Superbike) Honda CBR1000RR 26'04.095
RT. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 4'52.190
RT. Davide Giugliano (Althea Racing) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'37.722
RT. Lorenzo Savadori (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R
RT. Vittorio Iannuzzo (Grillini Dentalmatic SBK) BMW S1000 RR
RT. Carlos Checa (Team Ducati Alstare) Ducati 1199 Panigale R