Melandri falls short of Speedcar upset

Mechanical problems rob MotoGP rider of win

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Feb. 17, 2009
A mechanical problem stopped MotoGP racer Marco Melandri from earning an upset victory in the Speedcar Series in Qatar, Feb. 14.

Melandri, who is still waiting to learn his fate for the upcoming MotoGP season following Kawasaki’s withdrawal, was four laps away from victory before a mechanical fault ended his race.

The 2002 250cc World Champion started on the pole in the second of two races at the Losail International Circuit in Doha, Qatar. Already familiar with racing under the lights at Losail after competing in the 2008 Qatar Grand Prix, Melandri quickly jumped ahead of the pack and built a 7.5 second lead by lap nine.

With Speedcar regular Vitantonio Liuzzi challenging, Melandri maintained his lead until disaster struck on lap 15, when his V8 stock car suddenly slowed.

Unlike his competition, Marco Melandri had raced under the lights at Losail before in the 2008 Qatar Grand Prix.“I was concentrating on not making any mistakes, but my gear changes were becoming more difficult, which didn’t make it easy,” says Melandri. “Then, all of a sudden, there were no more gears and I was out.”

Melandri’s misfortune gave Liuzzi, a former Formula One driver, the win.

“It was very lucky for me that Marco went out, and unlucky for him,” says Liuzzi. “I had a lot more understeer than in the first race, and Marco was driving really well.”

Melandri earned the pole position by finishing eighth in the first race, Feb. 13 due to the Speedcar Series’ reverse grid format. Melandri qualified fourth in race one but a spin in the opening corners dropped him to the rear. Melandri suffered another spin near the end of the race but managed to stay ahead of Christopher Zoechling for eighth. Former F1 driver Gianni Morbidelli took the victory.

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