Veterans Marco Melandri and Tom Sykes shared the world superbikes wins in Misano while young gun Jake Dixon charged onto the British superbike scene with two wins at Knockhill in what was a topsy turvy weekend of racing.
The weekend started in dramatic fashion with three top riders all being ruled out of contention for Scotland’s only superbike round, with Glenn Irwin, Leon Haslam and Christian Iddon all visiting A&E with injuries that would keep them out of Sunday’s races. Haslam was knocked out briefly and sustained two cracked vertebrae, Iddon required surgery to clean out wounds on his elbow, while Irwin suffered a dislocated elbow and shoulder. All three are looking to be back on the grid at Snetterton in two weeks’ time.
Over in Misano, Saturday’s opening world superbike race proved to be even more dramatic, with the top three riders going into the last lap all crashing out before the flag.
Before then, Dutchman Michael van den Mark had been cruelly denied a shot at a first world superbike win when he crashed as a result of a rear tyre failure. The Yamaha man had been holding a surprising yet comfortable lead when he crashed on lap 15 of 21. On board TV footage from the following Jonathan Rea’s bike clearly showed that the tyre had come off the race leader’s wheel rim, with manufacturer Pirelli later confirming that a fault had occurred.
That left Rea battling with his regular adversary Chaz Davies for the lead, with Melandri poised to join them on the podium, in third.
However, the Italian slid off as he negotiated turn four for the final time, with even greater drama yet to follow. Leader Davies fell off at the low speed right hander of turn 14 and found himself run over by the helpless Rea. The incident handed the win to Sykes, who started the final lap in fourth, with Alex Lowes salvaging a second place on the other Yamaha. Rea was able to pick up his Kawasaki to take third, sportingly stopping to check on his stricken rival as he completed his cooling down lap. Davies was taken to hospital and diagnosed with a broken thumb and injured vertebrae, which kept him out of Sunday’s race.
That race proved to be much less dramatic, but not without incident. World superbike’s reverse grid saw Spanish rider Jordi Torres start on pole position (as a result of finishing fourth on Saturday) and the BMW man contested the lead with fellow countryman Xavi Fores in the opening laps, only for both to drop out of potential podium finishes with mechanical problems.
That left Melandri to make amends for his Saturday mishap and take his first race win since 2014. Rea, who was awarded an MBE last week, was a determined second – overcoming serious vibration and chatter from an out of balance rear tyre – with Sykes third.
“I am really satisfied with the results today but unfortunately we could not challenge for the win because I felt we were struggling a little bit, as the rear tyre was completely out of balance,” Rea confirmed after the race. “I was having a lot of rear vibration and chatter. That was really difficult to manage. I focused on trying to pass Tom for many laps and when I went through I tried to hunt down Torres in second place but, unfortunately for him, he had a problem and could not finish. We have to be very satisfied with the result and go back into the garage now to understand exactly why we struggled more today. Yesterday’s bike felt much better but the set-up was virtually the same each day. In the championship standings we are in a good position right now. I also wish Chaz Davies a speedy recovery from injury.”
“This win means so much to me,” Melandri added. “It’s my first with Ducati and first on Italian soil but also the 100th by an Italian rider in world superbikes. It’s the result of a lot of efforts, a composed attitude during some difficult moments, and great teamwork. We never stopped to believe in ourselves, and this result is a payback for all the sacrifices. We made a small change to our setup this morning, and before the start I was sure I could have a go at it. During the race, I tried to manage my pace and, once I took the lead, to ride smoothly. I hope Chaz recovers soon, he had a nasty crash but fortunately without serious injuries. I hope to be able to fight for another win, this time with him on track as well, at Laguna Seca.”
With Davies failing to score, Sykes is now Rea’s closest challenger, albeit 50 points adrift with 14 of the 26 races completed.
Meanwhile, in the British superbike championship, Dixon took a dominant double win at Knockhill to put himself in contention for a place in the title deciding showdown.
The 21-year-old from Dover, whose previous best finish was sixth, qualified second and dominated proceeding. Fellow Kawasaki rider Luke Mossey finished second and fourth to overtake Haslam at the head of the points standings, with champion Shane Byrne taking two thirds on his Ducati to overtake Iddon in third. Dixon lies eighth, 12 points of a top six showdown place.