Photography by Andrea Wilson
MONTEREY, CA, SEPT. 28 – The lap times kept tumbling down in Superpole today at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with the World Superbike lap record going down in flames with every session. When all was said done, however, it was Sylvain Guintoli stealing pole position from his championship rival Tom Sykes on the very last lap of Superpole 3.
Superpole 1 got things rolling with BMW’s Chaz Davies smashing the World Superbike lap record at Laguna with his 1:23.284. Then came Aprilia’s Eugene Laverty. Laverty turned in a 1:23.234 as the top men started making noises towards getting to the 1:22s. American wild cards Danny Eslick and Roger Lee Hayden both made it through to Superpole 2 with Eslick jumping all the way up to seventh with a final-lap flier on the Jordan Motorsports Suzuki GSX-R1000.
In Superpole 2 it was Guintoli breaking the lap record with his 1:23.167. The came Davies with a 1:23.056 – a time that held up at the top for Superpole 2.
Hayden and Eslick, meanwhile, didn’t make the nine-rider cut to Superpole 3 with the pair ending up 10th (Hayden) and 11th (Eslick).
Superpole 3 was heated from the start with Niccolo Canepa putting the factory Ducati at the top for a few minutes. Then Guintoli took over with another lap record and the first sub-1:23 Superbike lap as he clocked a 1:22.851. On the next lap, however, Sykes lowered the boom to put in a 1:22.698 and he followed it with a 1:22.936. Laverty took himself out of the running when he crashed in turn 3, though his best lap was good enough to keep him on the front row in third place.
Just when it looked as though Sykes was going to take his 19th career World Superbike pole, Guintoli dropped the boom again – lapping at 1:22.683 to take the spot back. By just .015 of a second.
The pole was just the second of Guintoli’s World Superbike career and his first since the Monza round last year.
“It’s the final straightline for the championship and everything thing is tight in the front,” Guintoli said. “Since I’ve had the shoulder injury I’ve lost quite a lot of points and I’ve been trying to limit the damage, but it’s not good enough so I need to step it up. Here is a fantastic track and the Aprilia is working very well. I’m enjoying it and I’m hoping to put on a good show for the races.”
Sykes had the crowd roaring their approval in the post-Superpole qualifying press conference that is open to the public.
“I’m happy,” Sykes said. “It’s my first time here in Laguna and I like it. When you’re in America everything is always bigger and better. It’s good. First time on this circuit and it’s great to see. You need some big balls for turn one and luckily mine are like melons. I’m enjoying myself. Sylvain [Guintoli] is riding well. He’s got good circuit knowledge of this circuit. He’s had more laps around here than I have. That’s my excuse and I’m going with it. He rode well and did a good lap time.”
Laverty ended up third, missing the press conference to get himself checked out though he believes he is injury free after the turn-three crash.
Canepa put the factory Ducati on the second row with the fourth fastest time. He’ll be joined there by Davies and Althea Racing Aprilia’s Davide Guigliano.
Row three will be headed by BMW’s Marco Melandri with Fixi Crescent Suzuki’s Jules Cluzel and the second factory Ducati of Ayrton Badovini rounding out the top nine from Superpole.
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
September 28, 2013
1. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia) 1:22.683
2. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 1:22.698
3. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia) 1:22.728
4. Niccolo Canepa (Ducati) 1:22.824
5. Chaz Davies (BMW) 1:23.040
6. Davide Guigliano (Aprilia) 1:23.353
7. Marco Melandri (BMW) 1:23.363
8. Jules Cluzel (Suzuki) 1:24.079
9. Aytron Badovini (Ducati) 1:24.789
10. Roger Lee Hayden (Suzuki) 1:24.133