An amazing performance by Marco Melandri on the works S 1000 RR at the Superbike World Championship round at Miller Motorsport's Park in Utah saw the Italian rider take a win and a second place to catapult him into second place in the points, just 18 behind leader Max Biaggi.
Race 1 saw Melandri burst through from ninth on the grid up into third place. The Donington Park race winner passed Carlos Checa at the beginning of lap two and took the lead on lap five, passing Tom Sykes in the process. With the now familiar sight of a BMW S 1000 RR leading a WSBK race, Melandri knew his main threat would come from Miller specialist Checa, already a four-times race winner at the American circuit.
True to form, Checa went to the front on lap seven and was able to pull a slight gap on Melandri, who was conscious of Max Biaggi and Jonathan Rea closing fast. By half race distance, Melandri had shaken off the challenges of the two behind him and stuck to his task of trying to stay in touch with Checa. Visibly pushing hard, the Italian RR rider narrowed the gap considerably, setting the fastest lap of the race in the process, but after making a couple of mistakes in the closing laps, he decided to play it safe and settle for the vital 20 championship points that another second-place podium finish brings.
Teammate Leon Haslam, who had started from 13th on the grid, finished the first race in tenth, just behind BMW Motorrad Italia Goldbet SBK Team rider Michel Fabrizio.
In glorious conditions and hot temperatures, Race 2 saw Melandri work himself up into second position again before the red-flags came out after several laps. After a lengthy delay to prepare the circuit for racing again, a restarted 18-lap race saw Melandri get the holeshot but Checa forced his way past on the first lap. However, the reigning WSBK champion crashed out of the race on lap 5 leaving Melandri leading the race.
Before long Melandri had Jonathan Rea and Chaz Davies for company, with Max Biaggi joining the battle several laps later. A four-rider thriller followed with Melandri losing the lead on lap 10 and slipping down to third before regrouping and retaking second place back from Davies. With Rea back in his sights, Marco upped the pace, setting his fastest lap of the race as he aimed for his second WSBK of 2012 on the RR.
It took until the 18th and final lap for Marco to take the lead again, which he then successfully defended in a thrilling battle with Rea. It was the race of the season so far and an extremely successful outing for Melandri, who collected 45 points out of a maximum 50 and moved up into second place in the points.
Leon Haslam rounded off a difficult weekend at Miller Motorsports park with an eighth place finish in Race 2. But it was a better weekend than at Donington, when Rea took the win by knocking down out Haslam, who in turn bumped down Melandri in Race 2.
“It was such a difficult race for me; I was lucky for sure when Carlos made a mistake," Melandri admitted. "I was struggling a little bit with a full fuel tank but after 50% of the race it was getting better. When Johnny passed me he was much faster than me, and I lost a bit of concentration, so Max passed me and then Chaz Davies did as well. So I tried to stay calm, take my rhythm and try to get a good feeling to catch Johnny. I was very lucky because my engine was so strong so I could pass him on the straight. Otherwise for me it would have been really difficult to pass him. So a podium in race one and a win in race two is really unbelievable.” -- Paul Duchene