From disaster to euphoria for Ducati
Heading back to Italy for the seventh round of the season, Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) had all eyes on him, as he hoped to become the Italian rider who could take the 100th victory for his country in the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship. With minds now turning to the summer break, there was plenty for the WorldSBK riders to play for in the heat of Rimini, and the level of the fight was reaching new highs. But could Melandri hold off his team-mate and the Kawasaki pair?
Race one saw drama personified as crashes and heartbreak littered the opening race of the weekend. Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) got the race underway with a stunning start off the line and looked to be on for securing his first WorldSBK win, however a tyre issue led to a crash at turn 13 and heartbreak followed for the Dutchman. Boiling down to a final lap thriller, Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team), Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) and Melandri were locked in the battle for the podium spots. Melandri’s podium hope came to an end on the final lap, as a crash meant he would cross the line in 15th. But in ever dramatic fashion, Davies suffered a crash on the final lap in which Rea was caught up in. Resulting in a broken back, Davies was ruled out of contention for the rest of the weekend whilst Rea was able to rejoin and finish on the podium, behind surprise race winner Sykes and Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team).
Melandri won the hearts of thousands of Italians as he took his first victory since his return to the series. Starting from 10th position on the grid, the Italian had a big fight on his hands but he was able to pick his way through the pack, getting hold of the lead on lap 13 of 21 he was able to glide his Panigale to the line by over a second from Rea. Pole position man Jordi Torres (Althea BMW Racing Team) suffered misfortune with three laps to go, as he was forced to retire from the race with a tyre problem from second position. Racing on another level, no one could catch Melandri as he crossed the line 1.113s ahead of Rea in second position, who bounced back from the horror crash of Saturday.
With one round to go before WorldSBK hit the summer break, riders were beginning to cool off and prepare for a tough round at Laguna Seca, whilst Davies focused on recuperation ahead of the US Round.