Photography by Gold & Goose
Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes earned a breakthrough victory in World Superbike race one at Donington Park today. Sykes led every lap en route to a convincing 2.379-second margin of victory over Marco Melandri. Sylvain Guintoli was third. It was Sykes’ second victory of the season, but also marked his first victory at Donington Park and the first for Kawasaki in World Superbike at the historic circuit since the days of Scott Russell in the early 1990s.
As a result Sykes moved past Eugene Laverty to second in the series standings, Laverty for some reason struggling as he always seems to do at Donington.
British fans were thrilled their home country hero Sykes took home the first-race victory.
When told by the press officer he gave fans just what they wanted Sykes replied, “I hope so. I wanted to put on a good show, especially at my home race. I’ve been very motivated in recent times. We came here and started off the weekend very strong, the ZX-10R was working very well. I can’t give enough credit to what a fantastic team I’ve got, especially here, we’ve got some big help from KHR. It’s a little bit more magical. I hope to repeat the performance in race two. It’s going to be difficult. Everyone’s always improving. Overall what a great start to the weekend.”
Guintoli was the first rider to turn one at the start, but he ran wide and Sykes and Jonathan Rea moved underneath to take first and second. On the first couple of laps Aprilia teammates Guintoli and Eugene Laverty swapped third back and forth with Guintoli mainly holding the position.
An early crasher was former British Superbike champ Leon Camier, ruining a potentially good day for Suzuki. He’d run off the track a lap before.
BMW’s Marco Melandri passed Laverty on the brakes for fourth and a few turns later Laverty ran off the track into the gravel, his bad luck at Donington continuing.
By lap 10 Sykes’ relentlessly fast laps earned him the first visible gap over Rea. A few laps later Guintoli moved up to challenge Rea. Laverty, after running off, fell to as low as seventh, but he started working his way back mid-race, but there was a massive gap up to the Rea, Guintoli and Melandri battle.
On lap 13 Guintoli got by Rea for second. He had his work cut out for him, 2.2 seconds down to Sykes.
By lap 15 Rea dropped yet another position when Melandri made a move to third up the inside on the brakes in a hard right hander. Three laps later Melandri’s charge continued as he slipped past Guintoli for second, still 3.2 seconds behind the leader Sykes.
Loris Baz got fifth as he passed Laverty, who from mid-race on began struggling perhaps with tire wear. With four laps to go Giugliano and Laverty came together with a rough overtake by Giugliano for sixth. Laverty came back and the two hit coming onto a straight. Giugliano then nearly took out the front wheel of Laverty in the next couple of turns and then looked back at Laverty, obviously angry at the contact.
While that drama was taking place, Sykes didn’t put a wheel wrong on his Kawasaki and cruised home to a solid win. Melandri, with a strong second half, finished runner up on the BMW.
“It was a very difficult race for me,” Melandri said. “I had a good start, but not wonderful. I lost a lot of time trying to pass Eugene first and Johnny and Guintoli. I was away too far to catch Tom, and maybe I was not fast enough. But after a difficult qualifying we made a good improvement on the bike. I think if we can improve a little bit more we can make race two pretty good. “
Guintoli was back on the podium after three races away and remains series leader, but now by only nine points ahead of Sykes.
“It’s good to be back,” Guintoli said of his podium. “I tried my best at the start to be aggressive, but Tom had a good initial pace. I think that’s the first time I managed to out-start him as well, which was nice. I’m happy with that. Then it was difficult to follow his rhythm. It was just a little bit more. Then Marco came back. Then I made a massive mistake on the downhill and was very close to coming off. Then our rhythm was similar, but I lost touch. Third place is good, some important points and I think in race two we can have another go.”
In spite of struggling in the second half of the race, Honda’s Rea was strong enough at Donington to hold on to fourth. Baz made a strategic ride from mid-race on to score a strong fifth with Giugliano finally getting away from his fierce battle with Laverty for sixth. Chaz Davies, Jues Cluzel and Michel Fabrizio rounded out the top 10 in race one.
Race two is slated for 10:30 Eastern on Bein Sports.
Donington – FIM Superbike World Championship – Race 1
1. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 34’10.881
2. Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 34’13.260
3. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 34’14.689
4. Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike) Honda CBR1000RR 34’17.641
5. Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 34’24.530
6. Davide Giugliano (Althea Racing) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 34’26.432
7. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 34’28.334
8. Chaz Davies (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 34’30.019
9. Jules Cluzel (Fixi Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 34’38.619
10. Michel Fabrizio (Red Devils Roma) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 34’41.698
11. Ayrton Badovini (Team Ducati Alstare) Ducati 1199 Panigale R 34’42.492
12. Carlos Checa (Team Ducati Alstare) Ducati 1199 Panigale R 34’42.697
13. Niccolò Canepa (Team Ducati Alstare) Ducati 1199 Panigale R 34’42.811
14. Max Neukirchner (MR-Racing) Ducati 1199 Panigale R 34’53.906
15. Vittorio Iannuzzo (Grillini Dentalmatic SBK) BMW S1000 RR 35’40.992
RT. Federico Sandi (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 27’50.190
RT. Alexander Lundh (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 22’01.444
RT. Leon Camier (Fixi Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 3’05.872