Remember Marco Melandri back in '12 and '13? He won WSBK races on the feisty BMW RR. Then, BMW quit racing, pissing off just about everybody, from the actual teams to we lowly race fans. Why 'lowly'? Because we are simply not taken into the decison, BMW even going so far as to quit before the season was over. But now, BMW 'graduates' Melandri and Chaz Davies are both set to attack the 2017 season from the front row on the resplendent Ducati Panigales. Chaz Davies said when he was told BMW was quitting in '13: "I was gobsmacked! Nobody saw that coming. We were so close...." When Melandri won Race 2 at Miller in Utah in 2012, BMW was ecstatic. And so were we race fans. Here we see up close and personal the top guys at Motorrad Motorsport carrying Marco to the podium! Incidentally, Race 1 was conquered by retired Carlos Checa, on Ducati. Carlos' race team? Althea Racing (now Althea BMW Race Team!) The musical chairs played by the top world fast guys is fascinating.
Now, last year's WSBK team Milwaukee BMW have changed marques from the BMW S1000RR to the Aprilia RSV4. Able Irish fast guy Eugene Laverty was selected to ride the Aprilia and did so with great success recently at Jerez at the pre season test, despite a bad crash when he was hit by another rider. This guy grew up racing on the streets, which is where they race over there for the most part: Isle of Man, and the rest of the highly dangerous road courses they have lived with in the British Isles since gas was twisted via throttle. Laverty is fearless. Milwaukee selected Aprilia. Former BMW heros Melandri and Davies are on the Aprilia.
So far, that leaves Althea BMW Race Team for 2017, race fans. Stay tuned as the 'silly season' unfolds. Lastly, we're unsure whom we miss more, Marco Melandri or his stunning consort, Italian supermodel, Manuela Raffaetta!
Photos copyright Will Guyan.