Sykes tops Superbike mayhem at Laguna Seca
In race one, Marco Melandri (Aprilia Racing Team), who started from the fifth spot on the second row of the grid, and his team mate Sylvain Guintoli, second on the grid, managed to overtake Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) on the first lap at the “Corkscrew” and set a fast pace straight away. As the laps went by the standard bearers from the Noale-based manufacturer increased their advantage over the Akashi-based manufacturer’s English rider, but it was Marco Melandri who set the race pace, increasing the gap in front of his team mate lap after lap as well.
The Italian rode under the chequered flag with an advantage of almost a second over the Frenchman while Tom Sykes took the third step of the podium at a gap of 6.6 seconds behind Melandri. If there were still any doubts as to the superiority of the three riders, they were dispelled by the 13.5 second gap that was created between the race winner and fourth place finisher Davide Giugliano (Ducati Superbike Team).
The second WSBK race at Laguna Seca was as hot on track as the air temperature as after two red flags and restarts, Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) came out victorious in the 7 lap sprint race that put an end to the ninth round of the 2014 eni FIM Superbike World Championship, which saw a total 49,408 attendants during the three days. Thanks to his 22nd career win, the reigning champion added one tiny point to his championship lead over Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team), second at the flag and now 44 points behind the reigning champion.
Tom Sykes: “The aim was to win the race. Obviously Race 1 was a big disappointment but we made a number of changes on the Ninja for Race 2. The bike felt OK, better than in the first race and then with every red flag we added little tweaks. What can I say, I got a fabulous bunch of guys working for me. My wife sent me some inspiration, I had some great pictures of my daughter which put a great smile on my face. I’m sure people watching back home enjoyed it as much as I did. I’ve got a few days to really enjoy myself here in California, I’ve got some big events coming up with Kawasaki and I can’t wait to go into summer break.”
Sylvain Guintoli: “This is not a loss. We were looking for some points, but Tom is very strong in a short race like this one. About the two red flags I thought maybe this is destiny, like it happened last year. In the first restart Tom was fast and I just tried to hang on to him, but in a seven lap race is very difficult, I just tried everything but I was never in a position to attack him. Once again I gave my best. These are two strong results, but for me are not enough. We have to work during the summer break to come back really strong.”
Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Championship) completed the podium of the second encounter, finishing on a high note in what has been his first ever visit to Laguna Seca.
From the first start it was Sykes who once again grabbed the holeshot into turn one and as the packed field sorted themselves out around the first few turns it was Guintoli and race one winner and team mate Marco Melandri who slotted himself into second and third ahead of the fast starting Eugene Laverty (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki).
Guintoli applied the pressure immediately and after following the reigning champion for a couple of laps made his move, taking the lead into turn 6 on lap 5 only to lose it straight afterwards as Sykes successfully fought back. Melandri also seized the moment to take advantage of an off line Guintoli to move into third as the battle at the front now raged between six riders after Davide Giugliano (Ducati SuperbikeTeam) and Toni Elias (Red Devils Roma Aprilia) looked to get in on the act.
Lap 11 saw the red flags shown after Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) suffered a spectacular crash at the Corkscrew. The British rider was taken to the medical centre for further checks but fortunately the reigning BSB Champion got away with no fractures.
After a short delay the race was restarted over 7 laps with grid positions decided by the race positions prior to the stop. That meant Sykes was still on Pole with the Aprilia duo of Melandri and Guintoli alongside. Row two for the restart saw Laverty, Elias and Giugliano.
When the race resumed the action was fast and furious but after only one completed lap the red flags were out again as Sylvain Barrier (BMW Motorrad Italia Superbike Team – EVO) crashed out on the start and finish straight. The Frenchman, who was conscious and alert, was taken to the Medical Centre for further checks that revealed a dislocated and fractured left subtalar joint.
However and at the third time of asking the race distance was completed with Sykes taking the win ahead of Guintoli and Jonathan Rea who completed the podium places after Marco Melandri crashed out of the lead, followed a short time later by Davide Giugliano who had been charging through the field. A disappointing end of the race for both Italian riders, especially for Melandri who looked capable of taking his second double win of the season.
Marco Melandri: “I got a perfect start in race one, even though I was a bit worried because Tom usually tries to pull away in the early stages. When he made a mistake at the Corkscrew I thought it was the right chance to push to the limit. I set my pace and kept focused, trying to avoid any mistake. It’s a shame about Race 2, at the third restart I made a couple of mistakes whilst shifting gears and I thought there was a gearing problem on my bike. I lost my concentration and when I realised it was all OK, I went too hot at the last turn. I’m really sorry for that, because I think the double win was within our reach, but I’m happy of the way we worked this weekend.”
Eugene Laverty (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki), Toni Elias (Red Devils Roma Aprilia) and Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team) rounded out the top six whilst in the EVO category the best classified rider was once again David Salom (Kawasaki Racing Team) who finished a respectable 8th overall.
Bryan Staring scored seven important World Championship point on the Grellini Kawasaki from his creditable 12th and 13th place finshes.
Race Two Results: 1. Sykes (Kawasaki) 7 Laps/25.270 km in 9’51.346 average 153.839 kph; 2. Guintoli (Aprilia) 1.014; 3. Rea (Honda) 2.793; 4. Laverty (Suzuki) 3.681; 5. Elias (Aprilia) 4.165; 6. Baz (Kawasaki) 7.160; 7. Haslam (Honda) 7.331; 8. Salom (Kawasaki) 15.061; 9. Andreozzi (Kawasaki) 15.674; 10. Camier (MV Agusta) 17.015; 11. Guarnoni (Kawasaki) 18.338; 12. Staring (Kawasaki) 19.270; 13. Morais (Kawasaki) 20.040; 14. Pegram (EBR) 23.845; 15. Rizmayer (BMW) 25.592; 16. May (EBR) 26.688; 17. Ulrich (Honda) 31.893; RT. Giugliano (Ducati); RT. Melandri (Aprilia); RT. Canepa (Ducati); NS. Barrier (BMW); SH. Badovini (Bimota) 14.560; SH. Iddon (Bimota) 14.892.
Race One Results: 1. Melandri (Aprilia) 25 Laps/90.250 km in 35’07.782 average 154.143 kph; 2. Guintoli (Aprilia) 0.905; 3. Sykes (Kawasaki) 6.627; 4. Giugliano (Ducati) 13.574; 5. Elias (Aprilia) 13.855; 6. Rea (Honda) 15.575; 7. Haslam (Honda) 18.820; 8. Lowes (Suzuki) 20.184; 9. Baz (Kawasaki) 34.479; 10. Salom (Kawasaki) 37.463; 11. Canepa (Ducati) 45.440; 12. Barrier (BMW) 47.538; 13. Staring (Kawasaki) 49.750; 14. Guarnoni (Kawasaki) 55.420; 15. Camier (MV Agusta) 58.449; 16. Andreozzi (Kawasaki) 1’08.922; 17. Rizmayer (BMW) 1’17.853; 18. May (EBR) 1’18.084; 19. Ulrich (Honda) 1 Lap; 20. Morais (Kawasaki) 3 Laps; RT. Pegram (EBR); RT. Sebestyen (BMW); RT. Yates (EBR); RT. Laverty (Suzuki); RT. Davies (Ducati); SH. Iddon (Bimota) 48.321; SH. Badovini (Bimota).
Standings (Round 9 of 13): 1. Sykes 325; 2. Guintoli 281; 3. Rea 261; 4. Baz 253; 5. Melandri 217; 6. Davies 159; 7. Giugliano 153; 8. Elias 137; 9. Laverty 134; 10. Haslam 133; 11. Lowes 119; 12. Salom 88; 13. Canepa 51; 14. Camier 37; 15. Guarnoni 33; 16. Barrier 21; 17. Andreozzi 17; 18. Morais 17; 19. Scassa 16; 20. Foret 14; 21. Corti 13; 22. Staring 12; 23. Allerton 6; 24. Bos 5; 25. Goi 5; 26. Russo 5; 27. Pegram 2; 28. Toth 2; 29. Fabrizio 2; 30. Rizmayer 1; 31. Lanusse 1. Manufacturers: 1. Kawasaki 342; 2. Aprilia 318; 3. Honda 261; 4. Ducati 220; 5. Suzuki 200; 6. BMW 58; 7. MV Agusta 20; 8. EBR 2.
Race 1 on the exciting Laguna Seca track was a triumph for Aprilia. Off to an excellent start, Melandri and Guintoli took the race lead in the first lap, taking advantage of an error by Tom Sykes at the “corkscrew”. The three immediately showed that they had a completely different pace than the rest and the progressively opened up the gap at the front. Before the midway point the two Aprilia standard bearers, with Melandri in the lead, progressively increased their advantage over Sykes until, in the second half of the race, Melandri set a pace that his team mate was unable to keep, crossing the finish line first for the third time this season after his double win in Malaysia. For his part Guintoli was able to maintain his lead over Sykes, taking an excellent second place.
The second race was also marked by Marco Melandri’s consistent domination with him taking a solid lead when the race was red flagged due to a crash by Lowes. At the second start Melandri took the lead once again ahead of Sykes and team mate Guintoli, but the race was suspended again because of an accident involving Barrier. For the third start Melandri got another great start in front of everyone and established an authoritative lead. All signs pointed to a second win for the rider from Ravenna – whose feeling with the reigning Manufacturer World Champion RSV4 is increasing from race to race – when a sliding crash 5 laps from the end put the brakes on his hopes for victory. It was a result that does not change the fact that Melandri was a true protagonist of the Californian weekend. With just a few laps left Guintoli chalked up another second place finish which confirms the Frenchman’s great competitiveness and consistency, lying firmly in second place in the Championship standings.
Marco Melandri: “My start in Race 1 was great even if I was a bit nervous in the first laps since Tom usually tries to pull the pin straight away. When he made that mistake at the Corkscrew I thought that was the right opportunity to push it to the limit. I set my pace, staying focused and not making any mistakes. It’s a shame about Race 2. I made a few gear changing mistakes on the third start that made me think there was a problem with the ratios and that cost me my concentration. When I realised that everything was fine I decided to push hard but I went long at the last turn. I’m disappointed because a double win was definitely within reach, but I’m still happy about the work we did this weekend.”
Sylvain Guintoli: “I gave 100% like I always do. In Race 1 I had a good pace and I didn’t make any mistakes. In the first laps I was feeling good and I probably could have attacked Marco, but I preferred to stay behind him. From the halfway point on he was really fast. He rode very well and I wasn’t able to match his times. The red flags in Race 2 reminded me of last year and I thought maybe I could overturn the result, but Sykes is really unbeatable in a short dash. We are definitely in it and we won’t give up, but during the summer break we’ll have to work hard to come back even stronger for the season finale.”
The ninth round of the FIM Superbike World Championship, at Laguna Seca in the USA, saw Tom Sykes secure a podium place in race one and then follow it up with his eighth race win of the 2014 season, to extend his championship leading advantage once again. Loris Baz scored good points in each race and David Salom (KRT SBK Evo) won both SBK Evo contests to put himself into an even more commanding lead in the Evo class.
With Sykes third in race one his team-mate Baz was unable to join in the podium celebrations this time around, going ninth in the first 25-lap race and then finishing up race two in an improved sixth place, after three starts which were the result of two red flag incidents.
On a very busy raceday Sykes had a strong run in the first race, with only a small lack of rear traction keeping him in third position, rather than challenging for the race win. He had started from pole and was leading the race before he ran wide into The Corkscrew section, went off track and was passed by Marco Melandri and Sylvain Guintoli. He could not quite get back on terms and finished third, for his 12th podium of the year.
In race one Loris Baz was unhappy with his overall set-up and he was unable to get up to his usual competitive pace throughout. He was ninth in the final results, with the KRT SBK Evo Ninja ZX-10R of
David Salom in tenth place and only three seconds behind Loris. Salom was top Evo rider with his top-ten race finish.
In race two, finally held over only seven laps after two restarts after red flag accidents, Tom was sitting behind leading rider Melandri when the Italian rider fell, giving Tom a lead from lap two that he would maintain to win by over a second. Sykes now leads by 44 points in the championship standings, over Sylvain Guintoli. Baz’s set-up and overall performance improved in race two and he is currently fourth in the championship, only eight points from third place.
After race two Salom was once more the top classified Evo rider and he had his best individual race finish of 2014 with eighth place. David has scored in every single race bar one and he now leads the Evo class by 37 points with four rounds and eight races remaining. In the manufacturers’ championship Kawasaki leads by 24 points.
After an unusually long summer break, only punctuated by an official test session at Portimao between 21 and 22 July, the championship has its next appointment at Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, on September 7th.
Tom Sykes: “An eighth win of the year and one more point ahead in the championship. I knew this circuit would be difficult for us after last year, and then again after race one this year, so if you had offered me that deal last night I would have taken it. I thought my points gap may have been reduced after this round. I ran a bit wide at the Corkscrew on lap one of race one but the bike was working well, just not well enough to win. The guys who finished ahead of me have a great track record here, have ridden so many times in GPs and both did well last year. I was happy with everything in race one but in the pure performance of rear traction we gave away too much. In race one you can talk about having a strategy but in race two, with all the red flags and a short race it was a case of go big! I was motivated after race one and the bike was working well. We made changes for the first attempt at race two and we improved it, and then for the first restart it was better again and then for the final part we made another change and it was better again. I am very happy to have extended my championship lead and a great pleasure to take the win. I can go into the summer break very relaxed and very motivated.”
Loris Baz: “We have been strong in all rounds this season but this one was not the same. We saved some points and we are still not so far from the riders immediately in front of us in the championship. I am not sure what was wrong in race one but from lap two until the end I could not enter the turns, could not exit the corners the way I wanted. I cannot understand why because we have changed the bike settings a lot. I have tried to change my style but our result is very similar and it is very strange. In race two we found some things that worked better for us but not quite enough. It was a strange weekend but we made a recovery in race two and for sure it was better than race one.”
David Salom: “Two Evo class wins today but every race the competition gets stronger, so it is not easy. In the championship we have more points over our main competition going into the summer break. It was a very difficult weekend in practice here because I could not do one very fast lap but in race one I did not get a good start but I pushed the whole race. I needed to keep my concentration and winning was a very good end result for us. Race two was very short but we won our part of it again and now we have a bigger lead in the Evo class.”
Pata Honda Report
Pata Honda rider Jonathan Rea took his Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP to third place in a truncated race two at round nine of the 2014 World Superbike Championship at Laguna Seca in the USA this afternoon. The two races were won by Marco Melandri and Tom Sykes with Rea’s Pata Honda team-mate Leon Haslam scoring two seventh place finishes.
Starting from tenth place on the grid after his Superpole crash yesterday, Rea got a good start to the first 25-lap race around the 3.610km Californian circuit. However, while running in fifth place, the 27-year-old ran wide at turn three and dropped to tenth before fighting his way back to sixth place at the flag.
Race two was red-flagged after nine laps with Rea holding seventh place but a second red flag was shown immediately after the restart. Lining up seventh on the re-formed grid for a seven-lap sprint, he got another good start and a bold move past Toni Elias in turn 10 secured his 40th World Superbike podium.
Haslam had matched his team-mate’s pace for most of the Laguna Seca weekend but front grip issues restricted progress for the 31-year-old in the first race, in which he finished three seconds behind Rea. The grip issue transferred to the rear of Haslam’s bike in race two and he was forced to settle for another seventh place finish.
Next week, both Pata Honda riders will fly to Japan to join other Honda CBR1000RR-powered teams in the prestigious Suzuka 8 Hours race on 27 July before an extended summer break, with the World Superbike Championship re-grouping for round ten at Jerez in Spain on 5-7 September.
Jonathan Rea – 6th and 3rd – “I feel we should have been stronger in race one today, but that was a knock-on effect of my mistake yesterday in Superpole. But the red flags definitely helped me in race two by improving my grid position but they gave me a bike today that was pretty good. In the second part of the race, I felt like I had a bike that could compete right at the front had I been there from the first lap. Unfortunately, Laguna is really hard to pass at so I had to make some bold manoeuvres but I enjoyed it! It’s how I like to ride and I’m excited to leave here with a podium, which almost feels better than my race win last week in Portugal. I’m excited to go into the summer break and come back strong for the last part of the year.”
Leon Haslam – 7th and 7th – “In race one I felt pretty good – I got a good start but really struggled with front grip from lap one. I was hanging in there for a top five finish but in the last six or seven laps my pace dropped off quite a lot as I was really struggling with the front grip. In race two we didn’t change anything but the front grip came back and it was really good, but we struggled more with rear grip. On the three starts in race two the grip got worse and worse and I was over a second slower than I had been on a 20-lap tyre yesterday. We need to analyse why because the bike was the same and the boys have worked really well this weekend and we’ve been making good progress, especially on old tyres. To be that slow on new tyres in those re-starts was not what we wanted.”
Pieter Breddels – technical co-ordinator – “Leon had a good start in race one and was doing OK but the front grip went and he couldn’t do the lap times any more. Race two was a bit hectic but he had no rear grip and was a long way off his lap times from the weekend. We’re just investigating whether it was something with the tyre because all weekend he was matching Jonathan’s times, which was encouraging. Jonathan also had a good start to race one but in his eagerness to catch the front runners he ran off the track at turn three and rejoined back in tenth place. He got back to sixth but was very close to the guys in fourth and fifth. The red flags in race two led to a seven-lap sprint but he got another really good start and then passed Elias with a nice move for third. We’re really happy with that and we’re third in the championship a nd still in touch with second. That’s a good way to go into the summer break.”
Team Hero EBR Report
Having just missed making it into Tissot-Superpole Geoff May, Aaron Yates and Team Hero EBR were optimistic of securing a strong finish and after two hard fought races they were rewarded for their continued perseverance with two solid race results.
With the sun beating down on the Californian track for race one, both Team Hero EBR riders maintained their positions off the start before being involved in their own personal race long battles. Aaron retired on lap 14 while Geoff on the other hand continued to swap places with the riders around him until the flag, eventually finishing in 18th. Claiming one of his best result so far this year and once again narrowly missing out on a point scoring finish the mood in the garage ahead of race two was one of optimism.
By the time race two was due to start the Californian sun was scorching the Laguna Seca tarmac meaning the correct tyre choice for the final 25 lap encounter would be crucial. Whilst Geoff was able to take up his grid slot for the start there was disappointment for the other side of the garage as the technical issue that cut short race one for Aaron Yates wasn’t fixable in the time between the races meaning Aaron was a reluctant spectator.
As in race one Geoff made a solid start maintaining his position before once again involving himself in a titanic battle with a number of riders before a red flag on lap 11 saw a short delay to proceedings as the track was cleared following Alex Lowes spectacular crash at the Corkscrew section of the course.
Racing resumed for a 7 lap sprint with Geoff starting 21st on the revised grid, his position on track prior to the red flag and after a fast and furious encounter the EBR 1190RX ended in 16th position, missing out on a first world championship point by one second.
There is now a summer break before the season resumes at Jerez and given the positive weekend and the huge steps forward in terms of both qualifying and race pace coupled with the opportunity to now introduce new parts, the entire team are looking forward to the final four rounds and are hopeful of scoring their first World Championship points before their debut WSBK season concludes in Qatar.
Geoff May – “I gave 110% today. I really wanted two solid results here at home, for the fans, for the team and for everyone at EBR. I love riding here at Laguna and the results today are for the whole team who have worked so hard all season long and have never given up. I hope that we can continue with the steps forward in the last four rounds and hopefully at Jerez I can also take us into Superpole for the first time.”