Marco Melandri has taken the lead in the Superbike World Championship for the first time all season after Max Biaggi’s challenge unravelled in Moscow. The BMW man finished second to Tom Sykes in race one before beating the Kawasaki to race two victory while Biaggi threw away his advantage by smashing into Melandri’s teammate Leon Haslam.
It represents an incredible swing in fortunes since Biaggi’s last win at Misano which opened up a 55 point gap between himself and Melandri. The BMW man is 18.5 ahead with six races remaining and admits he has amazed himself with the comeback in recent weeks.
“It is an unbelievable day. To win here at the first ever round of the Championship in this country is something special and I am just very, very happy. This morning it was cloudy and raining a little bit, so it was not easy. Race one was very tough in the beginning with the slick tyre in the wet. And the fact that a wasp stung my leg made it even more difficult. It was a very tough race and to finish second was like a win for me. For race two the team made a small modification to the bike and I felt very good from the first lap. Once I saw Biaggi was out I understood I had the chance to try to get a win and I did. I was worried a little bit about my rear tyre, but it worked perfectly with my BMW. The team once more did a great job, thanks to everyone.”
Sykes has brought himself into contention too with a 45 point haul in Russia and is now just 41 off the lead with 150 still up for grabs. The Yorkshireman has refused to rule himself out and will look to carry on his strong form at the Nurburgring next up.
“Overall we should be very satisfied. Race one was great with maximum points and race two gave us another 20 points in the bag. I got a little bit carried away battling with Eugene behind me in race two and in trying to save my tyre I did not read the pit signals. When I looked there were two laps remaining and I wanted to push on and try to pressure Marco in the last few laps. I felt I had a good package today and could have done it, but when you are riding with guys of Marco’s standard you cannot leave things to the last minute. But, realistically, we are happy. A first and second, still third overall and the gap at the front tightening up. There are still a lot of points to play for.”
Carlos Checa’s chances of retaining his title seem to be fading after he crashed out of race one. The polesitter did salvage fourth in race two but is 75 points back. The Spaniard was involved in a dramatic finish when Eugene Laverty crashed out of third halfway around the final lap, wiping out Jonathan Rea and sending Checa onto the grass in avoidance. Having run sixth moments earlier, Chaz Davies couldn’t believe his luck as a podium fell into his hands.