World Superbike’s first visit to Russia at the new Moscow Raceway provided even more drama than has been usual in the WSB series this year.
A damp and drying track for the first race, of course a new circuit for everyone, and some desperation perhaps setting in at the top of the title chase, all made for two excitement-strewn races.
The first win went to Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes, his first in a race-long contest (his previous victory in a rain-shortened contest at Monza), celebrating his inking a contract extension for 2013. Marco Melandri grabbed the second victory, taking his BMW into the series lead for the first time thanks to previous leader Max Biaggi crashing out of the second race.
Mayhem was certainly the order of the day, with (among others) Carlos Checa, Jonathon Rea, Leon Haslam, Max Biaggi, Eugene Laverty, Davide Giugliano, Chaz Davies, and Sylvain Guintoli all hitting the pavement in one race or the other.
Sykes’ win in the first race was flawless, as he grabbed the lead on a drying track and simply motored away to a comfortable 8+-second win. Behind him came much of the day’s crash drama, eventually benefiting title contenders Melandri and Biaggi, who finished second and third.
In the second race, Melandri just beat Sykes, who was followed to third by Chaz Davies, but that one was as fraught with drama as the first. Davies lucked into his podium from sixth place when Eugene Laverty high-sided out of third on the last lap, taking out Jonathon Rea and forcing Carlos Checa off the track to avoid the mess. Rea managed to restart and finished seventh to collect some valuable series points.
Checa recovered to finish fourth, ahead of a surprising Leon Camier on the FIXI Crescent Suzuki, his best result of the year. Earlier, Max Biaggi badly misjudged a braking move on Rea and ran with locked wheels directly into an innocent Leon Haslam, putting both riders out of the race. It was not a move you’d expect from a multiple world champion rider.
In supersport action, Turkish rider Kenan Sofuoglu provided more joy for Kawasaki, winning his third race of the 2012 season and extending his championship lead to 33 points. Jules Cluzel (PTR Honda) shadowed him early, but Sofuoglu pulled the pin the latter stages and finished five seconds ahead.
Russian Vladimir Leonov (Yakhnich Motorsports Yamaha) delighted the local crowd by taking an unexpected third spot.
In the championship Sofuoglu has 173 points, Cluzel 140 and the luckless Sam Lowes (Bogdanka PTR Honda) 138, after he jump started and dropped to 12th in the race after taking a ride-through penalty.
World Superbike series standings after 11 of 14 events (21 of 27 races)
1. Marco Melandri, Italy, BMW Motorrad Motorsport, 308.5 points
2. Max Biaggi, Italy, Aprilia Racing Team, 290
3. Tom Sykes, U.K., Kawasaki Racing Team, 267.5
4. Carlos Checa, Spain, Althea Ducati, 233.5
5. Jonathon Rea, U.K., Castrol Ten Kate Honda, 212.5
6. Leon Haslam, U.K., BMW Motorrad Motorsport, 180
7. Eugene Laverty, U.K., Aprilia Racing Team, 173.5
8. Sylvain Guintoli, France, PATA Ducati, 127.5
9. Michel Fabrizio, Italy, BMW Motorrad Italia GOLDBET, 119.5
10. Davide Giugliano, Italy, Althea Ducati, 116.
Next race, September 9, Nurburgring, Germany.