If you have read my blog long enough, you know that I love classic circuits. You know the sort: twisty, technical, fast, challenging, and absolutely mind-boggling. None of that post-modern stuff for me, thank you very much. Needless to say, I squealed with delight when WSBK headed to Nürburgring.
Kawasaki, The Green Hornet, at the Green Hell: I couldn’t have asked for more. I had hopes. After all, Tom Sykes was stunning at Moscow, scoring his first win despite a track riddled with damp patches. Marco Melandri may have taken the win at the second race, but Sykes took the 2nd spot.
So yes, I had hopes. But that’s the thing with classic tracks – they throw a curveball when you are least expecting it. So Max Biaggi grabbed the pole, his first since the race at Brno last year. But all is not lost, I told myself.
Race day dawned under a deep blue, sunny sky. The forests gleamed in the distance and the red lights went off, as the bikes growled to life. This was it, that moment. Sykes took the lead, pushing hard, racing ahead, Biaggi snapping at his heels. But the power gave way, fizzling out as Biaggi charged ahead to take the smoothest podium ever. It wasn’t meant to be a green day. Instead, it was a day of firsts, of new beginnings, and dreams coming true.
Sykes held on to his 2nd spot, but Eugene Laverty and Chaz Davies passed by making it Aprilia 1-2-3 – its first ever. Marco Melandri also fell victim to Lady Bad Luck. Melandri had worked really hard in Moscow, pushing his way up into the Championship lead. But, the BMW racer crashed out at lap 6, frustration evident, as he threw his hands up in the air.
The second race should have been one of redemption – for Melandri and Sykes. But that’s the deal with Lady Bad Luck. She has no mercy. The race started and Laverty hit the track running, even as Sykes and Biaggi followed suit. Davies however was close behind, surging ahead, jumping up places. The race had just started, we were still into the 1st lap when, a gigantic curveball was thrown right at us. Sykes flew past Laverty, who ran into the gravel trap, even as Biaggi lost his front end to slide into the gravel. Laverty managed to hold on and rejoined the race, even as Biaggi struggled to lift his bike, its wheel spinning in the gravel. It was an incredible feat as Biaggi rejoined the race. Sykes was in the lead now, with Melandri and Davies close behind.
You would think this was excitement enough. The lead switched hands again as Melandri took the 1st spot. Then came the shocker. Melandri crashed… AGAIN. That was it. Melandri slid down the Championship standings even as he walked back to the pits. He had recorded his first double DNF in his career. You wouldn’t really want to set such a record. The race wasn’t over however. But Sykes was not the man of the moment. Davies grabbed the lead, even as Leon Camier came up to the 2nd spot. But Laverty made a last-minute push to grab that slot, even as Camier slid down to the 3rd position. The Kawasaki slid down at an alarming rate, losing the 4th to Jonathan Rea. Biaggi meanwhile, recovered from his accident to finish 13th.
It was a phenomenal day for Davies, a first win for the Welshman and his team. He became one of 8 different winners this season, the first time since 2008. Davies later said in a press release, “What a feeling! I got an average start and went the long way round at the first corner. It was risky, but it worked and I was 4th. I was comfortable all race, and knew if I could just get away with the front guys, I thought I could stay, and that was the case…but I didn’t expect mistakes from Marco and Max. In the end, it was just a concentration game with myself, keeping the lap time consistent.”
The surprise win though was Camier whose win finally placed Suzuki on the podium for the first time this season. He told WorldSBK.com, “I got a horrible start in race 2 and once again had to work my socks off getting through the pack. I got up to 3rd place after 13 laps and passed Laverty 2 laps later, but a bit of a ‘moment’ in the final chicane, one lap from the end, let Laverty back through, and although I gave it everything I had, he just held me off.”
The season is winding down. The end is near and there are two more races to go. But the Championship is still open. The Roman Emperor is in the lead with 318 points. Melandri is close behind with 308.5 and Sykes is at 291.5. The gap isn’t much. But it will take some phenomenal racing by Melandri and Sykes to close that lead and come out at the top. For Melandri, barring bad luck, the Championship could well be within grasp. But Sykes will now need to push his Green Hornet hard and bring home victories, if he wants to beat Biaggi. One thing’s for sure. This season has shown us extremely competitive and evenly matched manufacturers. Any one could be crowned king.
Welsh meets German
Chaz Davies has had an incredible debut in the Superbike Championship with four podium finishes. He has now signed up with BMW Motorrad for the 2013 season, pairing with Melandri. Andrea Buzzoni, general manager, BMW Motorrad Italia told WorldSBK.com, “On his way through the ranks, Chaz showed how talented and fast he is. His title win in the Supersport World Championship in 2011 was impressive proof of that…we are convinced that Marco and Chaz will form a premium rider line-up, and that in combination with the BMW S 1000 RR, we will have one of the strongest packages in the World Championship.”