Laguna Seca, California – A strange win and a hard-fought fourth in the September 29 U.S. round of the World Superbike series at Mazda International Raceway gave Tom Sykes a big boost in his chase for his first World Superbike title. If it happens, it will be Kawasaki’s first in 20 years, the brand’s only title since Scott Russell took Team Green to the top in 1993.
The first race was something of a disaster, with two red flags halting proceedings and eventually leading to a final 12-lap sprint to the flag. The guy who suffered most from it all (other than the crashers, none of whom were hurt) was Aprilia’s Sylvain Guintoli. Riding with a still-injured shoulder, the U.K.-based Frenchman took Superpole and was leading comfortably at both red flags.
Then on the third start of the day he got tangled up with traffic and pushed back, and wasn’t able to get back up front.
The crashers that brought out the red flags were Danny Eslick and Roger Lee Hayden, riding for the Jordan Suzuki team, and Leon Haslam (Pata Honda) and Nicolo Canepa, substituting for the injured Carlos Checa on the Alstare Ducati team. Nobody was seriously injured.
BMW’s Chaz Davies led most of that final restart, with Sykes pushing past on a daring outside pass on lap 11, then holding on for the flag. Davies held second, while Guintoli’s team-mate Eugene Laverty collected third.
Davies’ team-mate Marco Melandri and Guintoli rounded out the top five.
On day two (uniquely, the Laguna Seca races were held on consecutive days rather than back to back) Tom Sykes led strongly for much of the race, but ended up being pushed back to fourth. Aprilia’s Eugene Laverty grabbed the win with a daring pass on Davide Gugliano (Althea Aprilia) with three laps to go, followed by the same move on Sykes the next lap, then hanging on to the flag. The unfortunate Sykes then lost position to both Gugliano and BMW’s Marco Melandri, but still collected sufficient points to move farther ahead of Guintoli in the series, with only two meetings (four races) left in the 2013 schedule.
With his win, Laverty also moved ahead of his team-mate, taking over second place in the series.
Guintoli was off compared to day one, managing a fifth, while the impressive young French rider Jules Cluzel grabbed sixth. The rest of the top 10 was rounded out by series newcomer Toni Elias, former Moto GP and Moto 2 winner in only his second WSB appearance, followed by Roger Hayden (his Jordan team skipping their normal AMA race to join the WSB festivities), David Salom, and Michel Fabrizio, subbing on the Pata Honda team for the injured Jonathon Rea (having lost his Aprilia ride to Elias).
World Championship Point Standings (after 24 of 28 races):
1. Tom Sykes, U.K., Kawasaki Racing Team, 361 points
2. Eugen Laverty, U.K., Factory Aprilia Racing Team, 338
3. Sylvain Guintoli, France, Factory Aprilia Racing Team, 337
4. Marco Melandri, Italy, BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBKTeam, 319
5. Chaz Davies, U.K., BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBKTeam, 259
6. Loris Baz, France, Kawasaki Racing Team, 180
7. Michel Fabrizio, Italy, Pata Honda WSB Team, 177
8. Jonathan Rea, U.K., Pata Honda WSB Team, 176
9. Davide Giugliano, Italy, Factory Althea Racing Aprilia, 169
10. Jules Cluzel, France, Fixi Crescent Suzuki, 160
Next race October 6, France, Magny-Cours