Fellow Italians – but emphatically not friends – Max Biaggi (Aprilia) and Marco Melandri (BMW) split the wins at the most recent World Superbike race at the relatively new Aragon circuit in Spain.
A tailwind down the long straight led to some hair-raising speeds on race day; Chaz Davies on his ParkinGO Aprilia was clocked at 339 km/h (210 mph).
Davies also collected fourth and third-place finishes, his first podium in WSB, definitely a sign the Welshman’s recent form was no fluke.
In the first race polesitter Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) initially led, but Biaggi was soon past, eventually being caught up by Melandri. The two swapped positions several times late in the race with Biaggi eking out a narrow win. Poor Sykes was a good third and in line for a podium when he was hit from behind by Ayrton Badovini on the last lap, both riders crashing out.
That let a surprised Carlos Checa into third; given Aragon’s long straight and the Ducati’s relative lack of top-end speed, he’d said before the race he’d be lucky to collect a top five finish.
A tangle in the first corner had several riders who’d normally be up front either crash out or run off and get delayed, including Jonathon Rea (Castrol Ten Kate Honda) and the Effenbert Liberty bikes of Sylvain Guintoli and Maxime Berger.
Race 2 finished beautifully, with an intense scrap between Melandri, Biaggi’s team-mate Eugene Laverty, Davies, and Biaggi, finishing in that order. Laverty looked to have the win but one of Melandri’s wild outside passes caught him by surprise on the last lap, pushing the Irishman back to second. Laverty said before the race that the team had finally sorted an electronics issue that had been slowing him, and he definitely looked to be back on form this weekend.
Jonathan Rea prevailed in a similarly entertaining tussle for fifth, the Honda rider coming from ninth in the closing stages to resist Leon Haslam, Carlos Checa and Tom Sykes, the pole sitter receiving just eight points for his troubles on a frustrating day for the Kawasaki rider.
Sykes’s Race One sparring partner Ayrton Badovini finished just behind in ninth, with Checa’s Althea Ducati team-mate Davide Giugliano completing the top 10.
The weekend left Max Biaggi with a solid grip on the title, but Marco Melandri has been riding in an inspired fashion and the BMW electronics seem finally go have caught up with the rest, so it’s by no means over yet just past the half-way point in the series.
World Championship Point Standings (after 16 of 28 races):
1. Max Biaggi, Italy, Aprilia Racing Team, 248.5 points
2. Marco Melandri, Italy, BMW Motorrad Motorsport, 200.5
3. Jonathon Rea, U.K., Castrol Ten Kate Honda, 183
4. Carlos Checa, Spain, Althea Ducati, 175.5
5. Tom Sykes, U.K., Kawasaki racing Team, 172.5
6. Leon Haslam, U.K., BMW Motorrad Motorsport, 142
7. Eugene Laverty, U.K., Aprilia Racing Team, 126
8. Sylvain Guintoli, France, Effenbert Liberty Racing Ducati, 110
9. Davide Giugliano, Italy, Althea Ducati, 94
10. Chaz Davies, U.K., arkinGO Aprilia Racing, 78
Next race July 22, Brno, Czech Republic