Photography by Gold & Goose
MAGNY-COURS, France (Oct. 6, 2013) — Even though he didn’t need to, World Superbike Championship leader Tom Sykes took victory in race one at Magny-Cours after an early battle with series rival and home country favorite Sylvain Guintoli. It was a dominant performance by the British Kawasaki ace. He pulled out a solid lead by mid-race and held it the entire way. Guintoli’s Aprilia teammate Eugene Laverty finished third and dropped behind Guintoli in their personal championship battle.
It mattered little though in the big picture because after Sykes’ performance Sunday morning in France, his eighth win of the season, it’s looking more and more like he will become the first Kawasaki rider to win World Superbike since Scott Russell did so 20 years ago.
Sykes nailed the start and took command early. Guintoli was sticking right with the leader, but seemed to be pushing very hard to do so. The pair of championship contenders gapped the rest of the field in the first couple of laps. Davide Giugliano was fast early on too and ran third.
The other championship contender Laverty didn’t get the greatest of starts and was embroiled in a fierce battle with the BMWs of Marco Melandri and Chaz Davies. Melandri and Laverty swapped positions numerous times a lap, but Laverty was desperate, perhaps a bit on the ragged edge, but he wasn’t to be denied. He’d just gotten back in front of Melandri when Davies snuck up and passed him teammate. Laverty got a little breathing room when Davies lowsided right in front of Melandri on lap three, giving Laverty a gap on Melandri.
A lap later another front runner Jules Cluzel crashed out, with his Suzuki flipping and sustaining heavy damage.
As the race progressed Sykes gradually built a margin over Guintoli. Laverty moved up past Giugliano to take over third. So it was the three title contenders running one-two-three.
Ducati test rider Michele Pirro had the Team Ducati Alstare in sixth, leading a gaggle of bikes in the best group battle of the race. Two of that group, Toni Elias and French endurance specialist Vincent Philippe crashed together in a tight turned. Elias jumped up and got in Philippe’s face before getting back to his downed motorcycle, even though the replay showed that Elias was at fault for the crash.
In the closing laps Sykes began to slow, perhaps chewing up his tires with his torrid pace, yet he appeared to have a big enough of a lead to have Guintoli covered.
The race ended a few laps early when Mark Aitchison highsided the Team Pedercini Kawasaki in a tight set of esses. The bikes gas tank fractured on impact and the machine went up in flames in the middle of the track bringing out the red flag and the stop to the race. Aitchison seemed shaken up, but largely OK after the accident.
The margin for Sykes at the end was 2.4 seconds over Guintoli. Laverty was a distant third, 10 seconds back from the leader. Giugliano was a lone fourth on the satellite Aprilia, giving the Italian maker three of the top-four spots. Melandri rounded out the top five on the factory BMW.
As a result Sykes opened up his series lead, now over Guintoli, back in second over Laverty, by 29 points. And the others have work to do for race two. Sykes made it look like child’s play.
“It definitely was easy from where I was sitting,” Sykes said. “It was a strange first few laps… well, it was a fast race altogether. The ZX-10R was working really nice, but yeah, we need to try to make some improvements in race two. Sylvain kept me very honest. It was an interesting race. OK, not many passes, but quite tactical. I enjoyed it. It was a shame it was cut off, but it doesn’t matter I’ll take it. I’m happy and if we can repeat it in race two I’ll be even more happy.”
Magny-Cours – FIM Superbike World Championship – Race 1
1. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 29’38.830
2. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 29’40.976
3. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 29’49.473
4. Davide Giugliano (Althea Racing) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 29’54.517
5. Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 30’02.403
6. Michele Pirro (Team Ducati Alstare) Ducati 1199 Panigale 30’12.678
7. Michel Fabrizio (Pata Honda World Superbike) Honda CBR1000RR 30’16.429
8. Leon Haslam (Pata Honda World Superbike) Honda CBR1000RR 30’16.733
9. Ayrton Badovini (Team Ducati Alstare) Ducati 1199 Panigale 30’17.011
10. Lorenzo Lanzi (Mesaroli Transports A.S.) Ducati 1098R 30’30.434
11. David Salom (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 30’33.572
12. Federico Sandi (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 30’42.272
13. Vincent Philippe (Fixi Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 30’46.006
14. Fabrizio Lai (MR-Racing) Ducati 1199 Panigale 31’03.680
15. Vittorio Iannuzzo (Grillini Dentalmatic SBK) BMW S1000 RR 31’05.908
RT. Mark Aitchison (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 30’38.548
RT. Toni Elias (Red Devils Roma) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 25’48.876
RT. Jules Cluzel (Fixi Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 3’22.383
RT. Chaz Davies (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 4’07.271