BMW Motorrad Motorsport’s Marco Melandri was the best BMW rider during Superpole qualifying at Miller Motorsport Park circuit in Utah where the latest round of this year’s World Superbike Championship is taking palce. The Donington Park race winner was ninth fastest after two Superpole sessions and will head the third row of the grid for tomorrow’s WSBK races.
Tyre grip issues and mixed weather conditions seemed to affect all the BMW S 1000 RR riders today, with BMW Motorrad Italia Goldbet SBK team rider Ayrton Badovini failing to make the top 16, leaving his team-mate Michel Fabrizio and the two BMW Motorrad Motorsport riders to contest Superpole.
A cold but bright day close to Salt Lake City greeted the riders for the traditional 3pm start of Superpole.
With an air temperature of only 14 degrees, getting heat into the tyres was vital, but Leon Haslam had more serious issues to deal with, losing a significant amount of the session nursing his RR back to the pits after suffering a puncture in SP 1.
Unfortunately this limited the time he could spend on track and the British rider was unable to secure a qualifying time fast enough for SP2, eventually finishing in 13th place, which means he will head the fourth row of the grid tomorrow.
Having finished SP1 seventh fastest, Melandri was one of the remaining 12 riders all vying for a spot in SP3 and a place on the front two rows of the starting grid. As riders targeted fast laps on qualifier tyres, it was clear that grip was an issue, with most bikes visibly sliding around in the cool conditions. In the end, it was four-times Miller Motorsport race winner Carlos Checa who was the only rider able to dip into the 1:47 bracket in the closing stages of the session. Marco’s time of 1:48.422 was good enough for ninth, so he will start from this position in tomorrow’s two races, just in front of compatriot Michel Fabrizio on the BMW Motorrad Italia Goldbet SBK team RR.
Miller Motorsports Park’s reputation as a circuit that favours Ducatis proved true in the final session, where four out of the top six qualifiers were riding the Italian marque, including pole-sitter Jacub Smrz, who scored his first Superpole win of the season with a time of 1 minute 47.626 seconds. The front row of the grid was completed by Carlos Checa, Tom Sykes and Davide Giugliano.
Marco Melandri: “It was a very tough Superpole for us. In SP1 we were struggling with the first tyre, and when I put the qualifier on in SP2, I suffered with chatter. I went to the pits and put a race tyre on and was confident to improve, but on my first lap another rider was in my way in the middle of the corner, so I lost time. The lap after, I pushed more and was quite fast in the first sector, but every time we have more grip, we struggle a bit with the engine braking. So in turn 5, I could not stop the bike, went out and lost the chance to do another lap. But anyway, I am positive for the race. The start can be good for us, because the straight is very long and we can use our powerful engine. I hope to be able to pass as many riders as I can. Also, during the race you can overtake at some of the braking points.”
Leon Haslam: “Everything that possibly can go wrong this weekend has. From the first session on we were struggling with the electronics package. But this morning, I had a good feeling with the bike. We used a harder race tyre and did a good race run, and I was not far off the pace, which was good. In the free practice we were again struggling with the electronics, and then in Superpole 1 I had the puncture. So it was one thing after another. We then went for the qualifying tyre, but had some issues again, and that was kind of the first flying lap I had all day. It was a crazy day!”
Andrea Dosoli (Head of Race Operations): “For sure, starting from the third and fourth row is not what we expected, but we believe that the grid positions do not represent the potential of our two riders and of our RR. Leon had a tough time, he was not lucky. During this morning’s qualifying practice he had improved his feeling for the bike. But then he had a lot of bad luck, including the puncture in Superpole 1, so he could not make it to the second Superpole. But with a good start he can fight with the top guys tomorrow. Marco has been fast in any conditions in all the sessions so far, and he has a good pace with the race tyre. So even if he will start from the third row, we believe that he too will be able to fight for the top positions. We were not lucky in the Superpole, but we are confident that we can perform well tomorrow.”