Photos: World Superbike
Kawasaki’s results in the World Superbike race at Silverstone in the U.K. were as sweet for the team as an over-sugared Timmie’s coffee. Reigning world champion Tom Sykes overcame a poor qualifying and two less-than-great starts to take the double win after fighting through the field, while his young French team-mate Loris Baz collected second both times.
To top off the creamy froth of victory, Spaniard David Salom took a double win for the team in the Evo category, the slightly down-spec prototype group for the future of WSB. It was a particularly impressive performance from Salom, who has a broken scapoid bone in his right wrist; he can’t even take his own gloves off.
Sykes’ victories were very different, the Yorkshireman down in 11th place in race one but fighting his way back in brilliant style to hold off Baz by 1.5 sec at the flag. In race two Sykes had a slightly better start off his third row starting place, getting up to fifth on the first lap. From there he pushed on to take the lead at half-distance and eventually run clear to win by 3.6 sec.
The wins put Sykes back in front of the championship chase after five rounds with a 26 point advantage over Pata Honda’s Jonathan Rea and his own team-mate Baz, who each have 159 points.
Both WSB races were great shows, with leaders including both factory Aprilias with Sylvain Guintoli and Marco Melandri and the Voltcom Suzuki of Alex Lowes, with Ducati’s Davide Giugliano and Pata Honda’s Jonathon Rea not far out of the mix.
While Sykes’ victory in race two wasn’t disputed after he took the front, the first race was a battle to the flag against his team-mate Baz, the two madly swapping positions over the last few laps – no doubt causing some near-coronaries in the Kawasaki pits as they watched their two riders battle.
“Maybe race one was the best race of my career,” Sykes said. “Winning the world title will always be the most emotional one but in terms of performance, today may be the top of the list now. We had a problem on the first laps of race one … I lost some positions and in the first half a lap, on full lean angle the bike was cutting the power. I almost came into the pits but the Ninja cleared itself and after that the bike was working very well. I was in 10th or 11th position early on and I was very motivated!”
Alex Lowes (2013 British superbike champion) completed the podium in the first race after a superb run that saw him and his Voltcom Crescent Suzuki lead much of the first half. The other two in the top five were Marco Melandri on his factory Aprilia and Chaz Davies on one of the two factory Ducatis. Both of their team-mates were in the running; Guintoli had his Aprilia in the lead but had tire problems (he guessed wrong on his rear) while Giugliano put his Panigale into the gravel, saying his glove caught on the throttle, opening it more than he’d planned … although it looked as though he simply got in too hot and caught the curb.
In race two Guintoli joined the two Kawasaki riders on the podium, while Giugliano made up for his first-race incident with a fourth place and Davies repeated in fifth. Alex Lowes had an exciting race, as he and Melandri tangled early, both going down. They both restarted, but while Melandri could only manage a 17th, Lowes did a Sykes-esque charge through the field to collect ninth and several valuable championship points.
Jonathon Rea, tied with Baz for second in the series standings, could only manage a pair of sixths with his Pata Honda, a disappointment in his home race after winning the last three races. The Irishman was philosophical, saying “We really struggled on Friday with a few things and the low-grip nature of Donington caused us to suffer quite a lot throughout the weekend. In both races it was a struggle, and it’s difficult for me to understand how the bike was so good in Imola and why we struggled more here. But finishing two 23-lap races will give the guys some great data … so that when, in the future, we arrive at circuits that aren’t so grippy, we can have an idea of how to maximise a result.”
Young Dutch rider Michael van der Mark collected his first WSS pole position and his second-ever win in the class for the Pata Honda team at Donington. After a bad start, the youngster collected himself in sixth and gradually hauled his way back to the front, where Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki), Jules Cluzel (MV Agusta), Kev Coghlan (Yamaha), Lorenzo Zanetti (Honda), Florian Marino (Kawasaki), and P.J. Jacobsen (Kawasaki) were smoking away from the rest of the field in a tight group.
The multi-national aspect of the bikes involved was complimented by the same in riders, with a Turk, a Frenchman, a Scot, an Italian, an other Frenchman, and an American in the group – with the Dutchman Van Der Mark eventually taking them all.
The last few laps were nail-biters, as Cluzel tried everything in his arsenal to get in front of Van Der Mark; they passed each other twice on the last lap alone.
Sofluoglu, the most successful racer in the history of the series with 27 wins and three championships, looked as though he was starting to break away, when smoke appeared and he suddenly slowed, peering at his bike as though mystified by the problem. Turns out that a piece of debris had jammed itself between the front tire and fender, creating smoke and a smell, and slowing the bike as though the brakes were jamming on.
The disappointed Turk said, I was ahead by one second and everything was going good. Then I … could smell something burning and felt the bike was being held back … after about three laps it cleared and I could push again. I could not catch the front guys again even though I was going a little faster. It is very frustrating.”
His team-mate Florian Marino, leading the series going into the weekend, managed fifth and now is second to Van Der Mark, ahead of Cluzel, Coghlan, and Zanetti.
World Superbike Series Standings after 10 of 26 races (five of 13 events)
1. Tom Sykes, U.K., Kawasaki Racing Team, 185 points
2. TIE, Jonathon Rea, U.K., Pata Honda Team / Loris Baz, France, Kawasaki Racing Team, 159
4. Sylvain Guintoli, France, Factory Aprilia Racing Team, 148
5. Chez Davies, U.K., Ducati Superbike Team, 109
6. Marco Melandri, Italy, Factory Aprilia Racing Team, 97
7. Davide Giugliano, Italy, Ducati Superbike Team, 82
8. Leon Haslam, U.K., Pata Honda Team, 75
9. Alex Lowes, U.K., Voltcom Crescent Suzuki, 73
10. TIE, Eugene Laverty, U.K., Voltcom Crescent Suzuki / Toni Elias, Spain, Red Devils Roma Aprilia, 65
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Next event, June 8, Sepang, Malaysia.