Photography by Gold & Goose
The rumor mill has veteran Marco Melandri out at Aprilia next season after an inconsistent start to 2014. The team bosses may want to reconsider after Melandri’s performance in the first ever World Superbike race at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia.
Under oppressive heat Melandri outdueled his teammate Sylvain Guintoli to earn his first victory of the season. The margin of victory was 0.620 seconds.
The championship picture was altered after a turn two crash that took out both the factory Kawasakis.
Guintoli nailed a great start and led early from pole.
Just a two turns in and it was chaos. It appeared Kawasaki’s Loris Baz hit the painted line and lost the front end going into the second of the switchback corners at turn two and his bike plowed through the group of tightly-packed riders like a bowling ball. Down in the melee was Tom Sykes and Alex Lowes as well as Baz. Jonathan Rea had to take evasive action but was able to continue.
Guintoli began to quickly open a gap in the early laps with Marco Melandri and Toni Elias settling into second and third making it Aprilia riders running 1-2-3. The Ducati of Chaz Davies ran fourth, desperately trying to run with the speedy Aprilias.
By lap seven of 16, Davies inched past Elias to take third. At the same time Melandri was chipping away at Guintoli’s lead.
On lap nine Eugene Laverty pushed the Suzuki past Elias to take over fourth.
The lead changed on lap 10 when Melandri moved inside to pass his teammate. Guintoli met the pace and the two continued their battle for the win.
Mid-race there was a fierce battle for third between Davies, Laverty and Elias as well as for sixth between the recovered Rea, his Honda teammate Leon Haslam and Davide Giugliano.
On the final lap Guintoli moved onto the tailpipe of Melandri’s Aprilia, but Melandri hit his lines perfectly and was able to hold on to take the victory. Laverty pulled clear of Davies and Elias to secure third, only his second podium result of the season. The Davies/Elias battle came down to the final turn with Davies taking a tighter line and holding on for fourth.
David Salom was the top rider in the EVO category.
Aaron Yates just missed out of scoring world championship point by a single position, finishing 16th on the EBR. His teammate Geoff May did not start the race.
With Sykes out and scoring no points his series lead was cut by 10 points. Sykes now leads Rea by 16 points (185-169). Guintoli moved past Baz into third, just a single point behind Rea.
For Melandri the victory had to be especially sweet given the challenges he’s faced this season.
“It was a very tough time for me, but together with the Aprilia guys we didn’t give up and we’ve been working harder and harder,” said the 31-year-old Melandri. “A finally I think today we have found a bike that can finish on top. Today was pretty cool. It was not easy to catch Sylvain at the beginning because the tire was sliding a lot for everyone. In the end I made a little pass on Sylvain and tried to lead to the end, because I knew it would be very tough to pass again.”
WSBK Sepang: Sepang – Race one results – June 8, 2014
1. Marco Melandri ITA Aprilia Racing RSV4 +1m 05.485s
2. Sylvain Guintoli FRA Aprilia Racing RSV4 +0.620s
3. Eugene Laverty IRL Voltcom Crescent Suzuki GSX-R1000 +12.865s
4. Chaz Davies GBR Ducati SBK 1199 Panigale R +15.437s
5. Toni Elias ESP Red Devils Roma Aprilia RSV4 +15.723s
6. Jonathan Rea GBR PATA Honda CBR1000RR +31.304s
7. Leon Haslam GBR PATA Honda CBR1000RR +34.093s
8. Davide Giugliano ITA Ducati SBK 1199 Panigale R +35.804s
9. David Salom ESP Kawasaki Racing ZX-10R +42.031s (E)
10. Leon Camier GBR BMW Italia S1000RR +49.465s (E)
11. Jeremy Guarnoni FRA MRS Kawasaki ZX-10R +53.715s (E)
12. Alessandro Andreozzi ITA Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R +1m 07.783s (E)
13. Bryan Staring AUS IRON BRAIN Kawasaki ZX-10R +1m 10.746 (E)
14. Imre Toth HUN Team Toth BMW S1000RR +1m 18.143s
15. Romain Lanusse FRA Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R +1m 21.026s (E)
16. Aaron Yates USA Team Hero EBR 1190RX +1m 49.054s
Ayrton Badovini ITA Bimota Alstare BB3 (E) *
Christian Iddon GBR Bimota Alstare BB3 (E) *
* Ineligible to score points, removed from results (Badovini across the line 12th, Iddon DNF)
17. Niccolo Canepa ITA Althea Ducati 1199 Panigale R 12 laps completed (E)
18. Peter Sebestyen HUN Team Toth BMW S1000RR 9 laps completed (E)
19. Sheridan Morais RSA IRON BRAIN Kawasaki ZX-10R 8 laps completed (E)
20. Claudio Corti ITA MV Agusta RC F4RR 7 laps completed
21. Fabien Foret FRA MAHI Kawasaki ZX-10R 5 laps completed (E)
22. Tom Sykes GBR Kawasaki Racing ZX-10R 0 laps completed
23. Loris Baz FRA Kawasaki Racing ZX-10R 0 laps completed
24. Alex Lowes GBR Voltcom Crescent Suzuki GSX-R1000 0 laps completed
Did Not Start
Geoff May USA Team Hero EBR 1190RX