IMOLA, Italy, June 30 – Yorkshire’s Tom Sykes took control of the World Superbike series with a masterful display at the classic Italian track.
He grabbed his sixth pole of the year and followed that up with two victories, his second double of the season, to move six points ahead of French rider Sylvain Guintoli on one of the factory Aprilias.
After the race he said, “I have had two perfect weekends out of the last three events and for this I am truly happy. I enjoy this circuit so we have made the most of it. A perfect weekend so it could not have been any better. It is a special weekend for many reasons and also the incident last year with my 2012 team-mate Joan Lascorz.
“There was not one time on any lap when I have exited turn six and not thought about his accident. We are all thinking of Joan and I hope that this is a small, small tribute to him.”
Guintoli retired with a technical problem in the first race, but took third in the second go-around, behind Ireland’s Jonathon Rea on the Pata Ten Kate Honda. In race one, Davide Giugliano, on the Althea Aprilia, was the only rider to stay close to Sykes, but he crashed out in race two trying to chase down the Kawasaki star.
Honda riders had mixed fortunes, with Rea crashing in the first race but taking a good follow-up spot in the second, while his team-mate Leon Haslam managed a ninth and a 10th on the day. Mind, Haslam is still recovering from a serious leg injury not that long ago, and said, “I still can’t weight the pegs like I want, but I managed to pass a few people in the second race like Badovini and Cluzel and Checa. So I’ll take that as my start point … we’re still really only halfway through the season.
“Step by step we’re getting back to where we should be, so I’ll take those two top 10s as a big positive for the weeks ahead.”
Eugene Laverty, third in the series and Guintoli’s team-mate on the factory Aprilia team, collected a third in the first race but crashed out of the second.
BMW had an okay but not a great weekend. Factory riders Marco Melandri and Chaz Davies are fourth and fifth in the series. Melandri collected two fourths, Davies a sixth and a fifth. Melandri’s second-race fourth came at Davies’ expense on the last lap.
Guintoli, who’s led the series the whole season until this race, was philosophic about the results. “Race 1 was disappointing. Unfortunately at these levels these things can happen. In Race 2 I really pushed as hard as I could. When Eugene crashed I even tried to catch Rea who was in front of me, but I wasn’t able to.
“I’m not really happy with third place, but it was really the most we could get today. The season is still far from over. There are tracks like this one and Donington where we’re weaker, but there are others where we will definitely be key players. The important thing is never to fall too far behind the leaders”.
It was an awful weekend for the Ducati team, with Ayrton Badovini collecting a 10th and an eighth, while former world champ Carlos Checa couldn’t break into the top 10. “This weekend has been hard,” said Checa.
“Honestly I expected to take a step forward here at Imola but it didn’t go as we’d hoped. We’ve made a series of changes over the weekend but they haven’t brought the desired results. I had problems with grip at the rear of the bike in both races and it was difficult to change direction. I’m disappointed and sorry for the team …
“We definitely have a lot of work to do during the upcoming tests in order to understand how to improve…”
The 600 cc race was the usual brawl, although Kenan Sofuoglu, of the Kawasaki Mahi Racing Team India squad scored a start-to-finish win at Imola in a race shortened by a red flag due to a crash and serious oil spill. He was followed home by series leader Sam Lowes and Russian Vladimir Leonov, both on R6 Yamahas.
Third-place holder in the series, Sebastien Foret of France, had a disastrous weekend and could only manage a 12th place, although he kept his position in the world championship.
WSB Point Standings after 14 of 30 races (seven of 15 events)
1. Tom Sykes, U.K., Kawasaki Racing Team, 235 points
2. Sylvain Guintoli, France, Factory Aprilia Racing, 229
3. Eugene Laverty, U.K., Factory Aprilia Racing, 190
4. Marco Melandri, Italy, BMW Motorrad Goldbet Team, 182
5. Chaz Davies, U.K., BMW Motorrad Goldbet Team, 154
6. Loris Baz, France, Kawasaki Racing Team, 136
7. Jonathon Rea, U.K., Pata Ten Kate Honda, 125
8. Michel Fabrizio, Italy, Factory Red Devils Roma Aprilia, 120
9. Davide Giugliano, Italy, Factory Althea Racing Aprilia, 99
10. Leon Camier, U.K., Fixi Crescent Suzuki, 80
Next race, Moscow Raceway, Russia, July 21.