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RennMotorrad is the blog to keep up to date with news and commentary about BMW's racing efforts in World Superbike and MotoAmerica, as well as following events in MotoGP. Local racers running BMWs will also get some love - let us know who you are! Opinions stated in this blog are those of the author and do not reflect policies, positions or practices of BMW Motorcycle Owners of America, BMW Motorrad, BMW NA, BMW AG, or any other organization or corporation.

 

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Largely disappointing results for BMW at WSBK Assen

Posted By Wes Fleming, Thursday, May 4, 2017
Updated: Thursday, May 4, 2017

Jonathan Rea entered the Assen round having won five of this season’s six headline races. Chaz Davies won the second race in Aragon in the third round.

What used to be friendship between them seems to be turning into a bitter rivalry. After leaving the previous track lap record in the dust during qualification, Rae should have been on pole for the first race, but due to the two racers yelling and gesturing at each other during Superpole 2 - initiated when Davies reached out and grabbed Rea’s arm. FIM officials decided to penalize Rea to fourth position for the start, saying he precipitated the event with irresponsible riding.

WSBK commentator Steve English interviewed Chaz Davies about the incident. Davies accused Rea of staying in the middle of the track and blocking him from achieving his best qualifying lap speed, an accusation backed up by FIM’s decision to drop Rea back a row for the start of Race 1. Rea didn’t comment on the incident, instead choosing to discuss track conditions with English.


Jordi Torres, #81, from Spain. Torres is 29 years old and won the Spanish Moto2 championship twice; he also won the German Grand Prix Moto2 in 2013. He has been racing in WorldSBK since 2015.
 


Raffaele de Rosa, #35, from Italy. De Rosa is 30 years old and won the FIM Superstock 1000 Cup in 2016. He was Rookie of the Year for Moto2 in 2009.

 

All in all, it’s not much of a penalty, seeing as how Rea won three consecutive Race 2s from the ninth spot of the grid; he was 50 points ahead of Davies in the overall standings going into Race 1 as well. Thomas Sykes moved from second to pole, and the other riders on row one moved up as well.

The grid for Race 1 looked much like previous races, but with minor exceptions. Markus Reiterberger is out for the season, replaced on the Althea BMW Racing Team by Italian rider Raffaele de Rosa (#35). De Rosa has a good history with Althea, winning last season’s Superstock championship for them. Lorenzo Savadori was back on the grid, having missed the first three rounds of the season due to lingering issues from an injury.

RACE 1

The grid started with Sykes, Davies and Savadori; then Rea, Melandri and Laverty. Torres gridded 9th, De Rosa 18th in the next-to-last row. Savadori had a problem with his bike as the other riders took off on the sighting lap. It looked as if he was having trouble getting his bike into first gear; whatever the problem was, they got it figured out and Savadori started the race as expected.

Davies took the holeshot with Melandri right behind him. Hometown hero van der Mark ran wide on Turn 1, costing him precious positions (replay footage showed clear contact with another rider being the reason he ran wide). A quarter of the way through Lap 1, Rea was already in third place, right behind Sykes in second. Before the end of Lap 1, Rea overtook his teammate to take second position. Davies stood to benefit as Sykes and Rea swapped spots, and he even built a small gap os the riders turned Lap 1 into Lap 2.

Torres was in 10th through Lap 1, with de Rosa in 13th; de Rosa soon dropped to 16th, though. Van der Mark crashed out of Race 1 in Turn 5, snapping his handlebar off in the fall and no doubt disappointing the sellout crowd in the Netherlands. By Lap 3, Rea was securely in second place and Davies’ attempt to build a lead had failed. Trailing Rea in the front group of four were Sykes and Melandri. Torres remained in 10th, with de Rosa rising one slot to 15th. Xavi Forés, whose bike spectacularly caught on fire at Aragon, led the second pack into Lap 6.

By Lap 8, Melandri drifted to three seconds behind the front group, but he remained well ahead of the following pack, holding on to fourth position with little difficulty. Torres made a move in Lap 9, passing Bradl to take over ninth position and move up in the second pack. Bradl took his spot back in the following lap.

Rea maintained the pressure on Davies as the lap count grew, and clear differences in their riding styles became obvious. Davies throws his right leg out before many of the right turns, ostensibly to stabilize his Ducati. Rea took tighter lines through most turns, and broke out of Davies’ slipstream on the longer straights. Rea simply never let up, pressuring Davies at every point.

Lowes crashed out in Turn 10 of Lap 14, spraying pieces of his Yamaha super bike across the gravel trap. Torres, meanwhile, clawed his way up to 7th position, staying ahead of Bradl but having to work hard to do so. De Rosa continued to move between 15th and 16th positions. Irishman Eugene Laverty found himself being chased by Torres, who created a gap ahead of Stefan Bradl and pushed his BMW S 1000 RR to catch Laverty. Bradl’s Honda seemed to have a loose rear end; it’s possible his choice of tire failed him slightly in the last few laps of the race.

Torres caught and passed Laverty with just five laps to go, but faced a four-second gap to catch Forés. Rea finally made his move at the end of Lap 18, briefly passing Davies but giving up first place in the next turn. It looked more like a shot across Davies’ bow, letting the Ducati rider know that the guy on the Kawasaki was ready to challenge for the top of the podium.

At the end of the following lap, Davies bobbled a turn briefly, allowing Rea to slide past, but again, Davies retrieved his lead. With two laps to go, the two riders continued swapping first and second. Going into Turns 6 and 7, Rea commandingly took the lead and began to ride defensively to keep Davies behind him. Davies had a problem with his bike and dropped out of the race. Rea won easily after spending the vast majority of the race in second place.

Torres suffered a flat tire, dropping out of the race just before the last lap. De Rosa finished in 13th place, earning points in his seventh career WSBK race. Sykes finished second, Melandri third, and Forés fourth - which secured him the pole position for Race 2.

Torres (pictured above) said after the race, "We were very unlucky in the race. In the Superpole we set a good time, though we're still quite a way from the leaders, and our race pace seemed good through the practices. In the race, I made a good start but, not entirely sure about the tire, I held back a little to conserve it. Despite this I made good progress and was lying sixth, but then a few laps from the end the rear tire started to vibrate too much. The problem got worse and I realized I had a puncture, so I had to stop. A pity, because I had been lapping well and could have scored a good result today. We'll see whether to use a different tire for tomorrow's race."

De Rosa added, "Considering that this was my first race in several months, I started with the intention of completing as many miles as possible, or rather crossing the finish line. I'm pleased because I was a little more constant than I was in the practices. We've scored a few points, which is OK for my first race. The positive thing is that I've improved my feeling and my level of confidence in preparation for tomorrow's race. Step by step I hope to improve, starting from the very next race."

RACE 2

De Rosa (pictured above) gridded 18th again, with Torres getting the 12th spot despite dropping out at the end of Race 1. Forés gridded in the pole position, followed by Savadori, Bradl, Ramos, Laverty, Mercado and finally Rea, Sykes and Melandri. Davies gridded in 10th spot at the top of Row 4. Sunday’s race at Assen was Rea’s 200th WSBK race, quite an achievement; he reached the podium in 95 of his first 199 races and won 44 of them.

Sunday turned out to be warmer than Saturday, so the majority of the riders went with soft compound tires, a decision that bit a few of them during Race 1, which saw track temps several degrees cooler the day before. No such trouble expected during Race 2, but tire management is always a concern, especially in the last third of the race.

Forés took the hole shot with Laverty right behind him. It was the first time this season seeing the two Aprilias running in second and third, with Sykes gunning through in Turn 1. The first lap is almost always a scrum, but by the time the riders were halfway through it, Sykes and Rea were running third and fourth; Torres was in 14th and de Rosa in 17th.

Laverty went round Forés to take first, but the two Kawasakis stayed close in third and fourth. Davies was in fifth, right behind Rea, followed by Savadori, Melandri and American Nicky Hayden. Rea took over third from his teammate and started putting pressure on Forés, who was himself right behind Laverty. Rea overtook Forés before the end of Lap 2, which opened the window for Sykes to do the same, pushing Forés back to fourth. Rea quickly passed Laverty, and as Lap 3 started, Rea got on to building his customary gap ahead of everybody else.

Davies jumped up to fourth, pushing Forés further back. Laverty had his work cut out for him to stay ahead of Davies and his charging Ducati in Lap 5. De Rosa dropped to 18th. In Lap 6, Davies pushed passed Laverty and found himself facing a wide gap behind second place rider, Sykes. Rea held a comfortable (but not insurmountable) gap ahead of Sykes.

Van der Mark, possibly trying to redeem himself for the early crash in Race 1, gave his home country fans a lot to cheer over in Lap 8, passing Forés and Laverty to take over fourth place. Marco Melandri crashed out in Turn 5 of Lap 9. His bike wobbled briefly before a low side ended his day. It would be the first time this season he finished a race with no points.

Torres moved up to 12th and de Rosa to 16th. Van der Mark continued running faster laps than Davies, but Davies remained stubbornly ahead of him as they fought for third place. Van der Mark had a massive wobble in Lap 11, but kept his cool and recovered from the giant tank slapper. Not long after that, Torres passed Ramos to take up 11th position, subsequently passing Forés to get into 10th. Forés continued dropping back in Lap 12. Savadori crashed out in that lap, a disappointing finish to his first weekend back in WSBK after his neck injury.

Torres put immense pressure on Hayden, trying to take over eighth place from the American, but he looked as if he was constantly fighting to keep the front wheel of the S 1000 RR on the ground. He made a comment to reporters at the beginning of the day about feeling like he had to fight the bike more than the other riders; the numerous wheelies throughout the race would seem to bear that statement out.

With five laps left in the race, Rea found himself fending off his teammate Sykes, but both riders held a comfortable lead over third-place Davies. Lap times between the two Kawasaki riders varied from a tenth of a second to a hundredth of a second, making it clear that neither rider was willing to back off. This sensibility no doubt helped create the 3.7-second lead over Davies.

Going into the second-to-last lap, Rea maintained the lead but was closely followed by Sykes. Davies held third, van der Mark fourth, and Torres moved up to 8th. De Rosa was in 17th, ahead of just one rider. Sykes made an attempt to capture the lead coming out of the final turn of the race, but he didn’t quite have enough time to do it; Rea won his 7th race of this year’s championship. Torres took seventh place away from Laverty, and de Rosa finished in 17th place - out of the points.

Commenting on Race 2, Torres said, "I struggled at the start with the fresh tire, but after four or five laps I started to gain in confidence, managing to pass several riders and make a fairly good recovery. With quite strong pace right until the end, I was also able to edge past Laverty just before the line to finish seventh. Not bad, but I hope to be able to do more at Imola, the first of the team's 'home' tracks."

De Rosa spoke to his disappointing finish, saying, "I tried to start strong and push right away and I was feeling quite good with my BMW until about half way through the race. Once the wind picked up though, I had some difficulty managing the bike and I was just trying to get to the finish line. I'm not pleased with the result of course but we know we have the potential to do better."

Wrapping up the weekend's action, Torres said, "On Saturday, we really had bad luck. We could have finished fifth or sixth if we hadn’t had the flat rear tire. It is always disappointing for the entire team when something like that happens. Sunday’s race was a lot better. We didn’t have the best grid position but we tried to give our best during the race. With the fuel tank getting emptier - and with less grip on the tires - we were able to go a good pace and I overtook a lot of riders."

STANDINGS

With the fourth round of WSBK over, Jonathan Rea remains authoritatively in first place in the standings, holding 195 points and a 64-point lead over second-place Thomas Sykes. Despite not finishing Race 1, Chaz Davies rose one slot in the standings; his 111 points put him in third over Marco Melandri’s 97 points. Alex Lowes rounds out the top five with 76 points. Jordi Torres is in eighth place with 57 points. Even though he’s unlikely to return before the end of the season, Torres’ Althea teammate Markus Reiterberger holds on to 17th place with 19 points.

In the team standings, it’s no surprise that the Kawasaki Racing Team holds first place with 326 points. Davies’ team, Aruba.it Racing, is in second with 208, followed by Pata Yamaha with 138 and Althea BMW with 79. The manufacturer’s standings play out in the same order, with Kawasaki at the top with 195 points, Ducati with 153, Yamaha with 87 and BMW with 63. Honda languishes in last place in the manufacturer’s standings with just 50 points, behind April (55) and MV Agusta (54).

The next round of World SBK action takes place 12-14 May at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, outside Bologna, Italy.

Tags:  Althea  Assen  De Rosa  Netherlands  S1000RR  Torres  WSBK 

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WSBK Round 3: Two fantastic races - plus FIRE!! FIRE!!

Posted By Wes Fleming, Monday, April 3, 2017

WSBK Round 3: Aragón, Spain

Jonathan Rea extended his early-season domination to a fifth straight win, but Chaz Davies finally broke through to end the streak by winning the second WSBK race in Aragón, Spain, on 2 April 2017. Rea leads the championship standings with 145 points; Davies is in second by a wide margin with 90.

The first two rounds in Australia and Thailand were brutally hot on the track, with temperatures high enough to tax both riders and machines. Aragón gave the riders a respite from that trend, with temps on the track under 80 degrees Fahrenheit on both Saturday and Sunday.

Everybody expected to see a battle royale on the track between Rea (Kawasaki) and Davies (Ducati), but nobody could have predicted the dramatic finale of Race 1.

Davies secured the pole position for the Race 1 grid, and clocked the fastest lap time from all the practice and superpole sessions with an impressive 1:49.319 trip around the 17-turn, 3.1-mile track at MotorLand. The grid shaped up much like previous Race 1s - Davies, Rea and Sykes in Row 1 and Melandri, Forés and BMW rider Jordi Torres in Row 2. The race commentators made much of the native Spaniards Forés and Torres gridding next to each other, and indeed they spent a good portion of each race trying to get round each other as well.

The Race 1 participation of Torres' Althea BMW teammate, Markus Reiterberger, was suspect right until the lights went out. He crashed during Superpole 1, slightly damaging his S 1000 RR, and after the sighting lap for Race 1, his crew wheeled his bike off the track. Fortunately they were able to solve whatever technical glitch was present, and Reiterberger made it to the grid in time to start the race from the back row of the grid.

Most racers went with the conservative choice for rear tires, given the "low" track temperatures. Torres bucked the trend by going with the softest tire he could for Race 1, with most other riders using medium or medium-hard rear tires.

Lorenzo Savadori sat out the round at Aragón, still sore from a neck injury suffered during a spectacular high side crash in Thailand a couple of weeks ago.

Davies took the hole shot through Turn 1, hounded immediately by Rea and Marco Melandri. Reiterberger moved from 20th to 15th in the first three turns, but Torres had a rough start, dropping from 6th at the start to 11th through Lap 3, when he finally was able to start picking up positions. Badovini dropped out early in Lap 1 with a technical problem.


Markus Reiterberger (GER), #21

Rea and Davies traded the lead a few times in the early laps, but Davies took advantage of slightly wide lines through the turns to keep Rea behind him - as close as 0.6 second for much of the race. Meanwhile, Torres overtook Nicky Hayden to climb to 10th place in Lap 7, about the same time as Rea took the lead position from Davies. Davies retook the lead in the next lap, with Melandri in 3rd and Sykes hot behind in 4th.

Xavi Forés took a spill in Lap 5, but was able to get his bike back up and running. He languished in last place for a few laps, then started clawing his way through the pack until forced to retire in Lap 16 when his motorcycle CAUGHT ON FIRE. He rode it out, perhaps hoping the fire would put itself out, but he finally had to jump off before he suffered significant injury.

While the race leaders were putting down lap times of 1:50, Torres continued climbing through the pack, reaching 8th in Lap 12. Reiterberger made some progress as well, rising to 13th in the pack. Late in Lap 12, Torres was able to close what was previously a gap of a full second and overtake Mercado to secure 7th position.

Up front, Rea denied Davies any opportunity to relax, staying on the leader's tail and taking every opportunity to show him the front wheel. Davies maintained his tenuous lead by braking late in nearly every turn and taking lines that successfully boxed Rea out. Rea gained the lead in Lap 15, but Davies took it right back, heightening the tension as the race approached its 18-lap limit.


Jordi Torres (ESP), #81

The pressure Rea kept on Davies paid off late in Lap 17, when Davies' front tire slipped out from underneath him. The bike flipped, trapping Davies' left leg underneath as they both slid through the gravel. After obsessively watching the replay, it looks like Davies is simply running too hot in the turn and the front tire loses its grip for a split second - which at those speeds and turn angles is enough to dump anybody on the ground.

With Davies out, Rea was able to take first place easily, followed by Melandri, Sykes, Lowes, van der Mark and Torres in 6th. Reiterberger finished Race 1 in 12th place - disappointing to be sure, but still in the points, which is a good race for a rookie.

Torres said about the weekend's racing, "We finish this weekend with a good feeling because this is a very difficult track. For me it was a special weekend as we returned to Europe and it was my home round. We all gave our best and also the support of the BMW Motorrad Motorsport engineers was very helpful. Unfortunately the start in both races was not the best and we were not too competitive in the first laps. But lap by lap we found our rhythm and I was able to overtake a lot of riders and to catch up again. That was good and important. The whole team worked very well and we did not have any problems with our BMW S 1000 RR, so it was good."

Sunday's weather for Race 2 was much like Saturday's for Race 1. A 20-kph wind blew across the track, but the temperatures were bearable for all. Due to the new gridding rules that put the 4th place finisher from Race 1 in the pole position, the Race 2 grid had Lowes, van der Mark and Torres in Row 1, backed up by Mercado, Laverty and Bradl. Race 1's podium finishers (Sykes, Melandri and Rea) gridded in Row 3, with Davies, Forés and Hayden behind them. Reiterberger again gridded 13th.

Sykes took the hole shot with Laverty tight on his tail. Torres had an even more disappointing start than Race 1, dropping back to 13th place in the first half of Lap 1, with Reiterberger falling to 15th.

Rea rose to 2nd position just before entering the downhill Turn 8-9 corkscrew on Lap 2, and by Lap 3, Melandri was behind him, while Davies struggled a bit to stay in the front group. At one point early in the race, with just under two seconds separating Rea in first position and Mercado in seventh. Melandri took 3rd position in dramatic fashion, forcing van der Mark wide in Turn 16 on Lap 3.

Melandri kept the pressure on race leader Rea while his aruba.it teammate Davies forced his way forward into 4th, then 3rd place. Meanwhile, Torres battled Hayden for 10th place and Reiterberger had difficulty climbing out of 15th at the back of the pack. Hayden seemed to suffer some problem, as he soon dropped back to 18th position and later dropped out of the race completely.

Torres got past Ramos to reach 9th position in Lap 7, and not long after, Davies passed Lowes and gained 3rd position in Lap 8. Davies saw his fastest lap time of the day - which he would later top with a 1:50.976 time - in Lap 8. Torres continued gaining positions, passing Laverty with a dramatic inside move to take the lead slot in the second group.

Forés pressured Torres for position, but Torres instead put slight distance between them as he focused on catching Mercado. Though Lowes ran off the track in Turn 13 on Lap 10, he was able to get right back into the race in 13th position, enabling Torres to advance to 7th. Reiterberger was still in 15th position.

Melandri continued running hard, but his teammate Davies passed him, at which point Melandri's focus shifted from catching Rea and winning the race himself to providing support for his fellow Ducati rider. Davies advanced mercilessly on Rea and Melandri rode gallantly, holding off van der Mark's attempts to get into 3rd position and put pressure on Davies.

Both Melandri and Davies had softer tires on their Ducatis, and the acceleration of their bikes proved to be an advantage Rea had trouble dealing with, especially in the kilometer-long back straightaway that leads into the final two turns (16 and 17) of the track. Melandri runs with a slightly shorter swing arm than Davies does, and watching the slow-motion replays allows the viewer to see some slight differences in performance and handling between the two motorcycles.

Davies used his Ducati's advantages to overtake Rea in Lap 12; he quickly built a 0.4-second gap ahead of Rea, who now had to deal with Melandri nipping at his heels. Melandri made a big move in Turn 17, reaching a stunning speed of 202 mph to take 2nd position - briefly - from Rea. Rea took back 2nd, closing Davies' lead to just 0.439 second as they approached the final turns of Lap 15.

The two race leaders slowly built a one-second gap over Melandri in 3rd position over the next two laps. It looked every bit the repeat of the end of Race 1, with Rea pushing hard to swallow Davies. Even though Rea was able to continue closing the gap, he was unable to exert the same pressure he had shown Davies in Race 1, rarely coming alongside to force Davies to brake ever-more-deeply into the turns.

With the gap between Davies in 1st and Rea in 2nd closed to just a quarter of a second, Davies turned in a Lap 17 time of 1:50.954. Despite a quick wobble of the Ducati's rear and a fast move by Rea, Davies barely held on to his lead. Rea briefly passed him coming out of the chicane at Turn 15, but Davies got the lead position back and held onto it into Turn 16, winning Race 2 in dramatic fashion.

Rea found himself relegated to 2nd place for the first time this season, followed by Melandri, Sykes, van der Mark, Forés and Torres in 7th. Reiterberger finished Race 2 in 16th place.

This was Davies' 21st World Superbike win. Rea still leads the standings with 145 points; Davies trails by 50 points. Torres has 48 points and Reiterberger is in 13 place in the overall standings.

Reiterberger said, "“The weekend was a bit difficult for me. We started pretty well on Friday, were competitive and made good steps in the right direction. Especially on Saturday morning, my BMW S 1000 RR felt good. In Superpole 1, I was lying in third for most of the time and went out for another fast lap to further improve my time. In any case I would have had the pace for Superpole 2 but unfortunately I fell - probably because of a cold front tire. During the outlap, several riders had tried to stay at my rear wheel in order to achieve a decent lap time. I had to get rid of them all and also to wait for a clear track. The other riders who also waited crashed in the same corner as well. It was a pity that this prevented me from qualifying for Superpole 2 as I am convinced that a position in the top 10 on the grid would have been possible. Starting from the very back, I still managed to improve to 12th in Saturday’s race, which was okay. Sunday’s race was a bit more difficult. The wind was much stronger and we opted for a different rear tire. That turned out to be the better choice for the opening laps but as the race went on, I started to struggle a bit, could not turn the bike properly and develop a feeling for the bike. Now we will do some testing and I hope that we will find the way into the right direction."


Torres takes a moment to celebrate his race performance with fans.

Althea BMW followed up the round at Aragón with a full day of testing in which they worked on different improvements. Torres worked on tire durability and grip, issues he cited during the weekend's races. Reiterberger worked on getting more in tune with his S 1000 RR after what is clearly a disappointing start to the 2017 season. Both riders tested new components - including different swing arms - that may be incorporated full time onto the bikes in the future.

The next round of WSBK is at Assen in the Netherlands, starting on 28 April.

Tags:  Althea  Reiterberger  S1000RR  Torres  WSBK 

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