Photography by Gold & Goose
Not since Carl Fogarty in 1995 had a British rider swept the World Superbike races at Donington Park, but Tom Sykes added his name to the history books by closing out the double Sunday with an even stronger performance than in race one, pulling sharply away on his Kawasaki from the pole and winning the second leg by over seven seconds. Sykes thrilled the large crowd by holding a long wheelie across the finish line after his dominant weekend.
The victory put Sykes just four points behind series leader Sylvain Guintoli, who held on the series lead by his fingernails by way of an outstanding run to second after an early battle with his Aprilia teammate Eugene Laverty.
Laverty finished third, but not without major drama. He battled on the final laps with Marco Melandri and Davide Giugliano. In the end Melandri ran off the track while trying to re-pass Laverty and it was two Aprilias on the podium. Laverty is now a distant third in the standings.
For Sykes it was his third win on the season, eighth career, moving him past Ben Bostrom and tying him with Fred Merkel and Anthony Gobert on the all-time World Superbike wins list.
This weekend may have been the tipping point in the championship in which the Kawasaki has suddenly surpassed the Aprilia as the top machine in the series.
Sykes was ecstatic about earning his first double.
“To get my first double, especially on home soil in front of a home crowd, family and friends, you know, pure magical,” Sykes said. “Honestly I’m very happy. Normally we all make changes in between races and thanks to all of Kawasaki racing and Marcel [Duinker] in particular, it’s amazing the difference one click makes. It looks like today we were able to utilize the slightly warmer conditions better than our competitors.”
Moving to within four points of the series lead was also on Sykes’ mind.
“We had a steady start to the season riding with broken ribs and a cracked wrist. Luckily we’ve clawed that back and we’re in the mix now. We’ll see. There are still some points up in the air and that’s given me motivation. All in all not too bad for a bike that still runs on carburetors.”
Race two was held in much warmer conditions than the morning race. Again it was Sykes getting out front early. His Kawasaki seemed to be on rails around the Donington circuit. The Aprilias of Laverty and Guintoli emerged in second and third. Jonathan Rea, who had high hopes coming into this weekend, seemed to have front end push problems and started going backwards from fourth, first succumbing to Giugliano, then a lap later the BMWs of Marco Melandri and Chaz Davies and finally Rea ran off the track dropping all the way to 11th.
As Sykes quickly pulled away the battle of the Aprilia riders only caused them to fall even farther behind the lead. Guintoli, hoping to minimize the damage in the series standings, made a daring pass on Laverty through a high-speed kink to take over second on lap five of the 23-lap race.
On lap 19 Ayrton Badovini crashed out the Team Ducati Alstare machine.
Like in race one it was Melandri who was the primary mover in the second half of the race on the factory BMW. First he moved past Giugliano on lap 17 and then set his sights on Laverty, who had fallen off the pace of Guintoli. On lap 18 Melandri dove underneath Laverty to grab third. Giugliano tried to follow, but the door was slammed by Laverty.
Then, with his tires perhaps shot from his second half hard drive, Melandri could not respond on the last lap when Laverty went back by. Instead he ran the BMW off the track in a desperation pass attempt and not only lost out on a podium, but dropped to fifth, behind Giugliano, who with fourth matched his best finish of the season.
Guintoli was more satisfied with his second race and now looks forward to tracks he thinks will favor him.
“I’m more happy with that one,” said the series leader. “Race one I was a bit frustrated because Tom was so close. The pace at mid-race it looked like I could have done a little bit better. In this race I rode better, but Tom was just really fast. With the higher temperature we couldn’t really use the tire at the beginning of the race. The tire performance was very consistent, but I felt I lost a little bit of grip. Tom was on another planet in that race so getting second was really the best I could do. I’m happy with this and we’ll move on to some tracks where we have more space, which should be a bit better for us.”
Davies took sixth, nearly catching his BMW teammate after Melandri’s last lap runoff. Second Kawasaki rider Loris Baz was a lonely seventh. Ducati Alstare’s Niccolò Canepa just held off Fixi Crescent Suzuki rider Jules Cluzel and Red Devils Aprilia’s Michel Fabrizio for eighth.
The series now moves to Portimao, Portugal on June 9.
Donington - FIM Superbike World Championship - Race 2
1. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 34'06.921
2. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 34'14.956
3. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 34'17.659
4. Davide Giugliano (Althea Racing) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 34'19.178
5. Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 34'22.897
6. Chaz Davies (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 34'23.396
7. Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 34'34.445
8. Niccolò Canepa (Team Ducati Alstare) Ducati 1199 Panigale R 34'37.107
9. Jules Cluzel (Fixi Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 34'37.422
10. Michel Fabrizio (Red Devils Roma) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 34'37.806
11. Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike) Honda CBR1000RR 34'38.450
12. Max Neukirchner (MR-Racing) Ducati 1199 Panigale R 34'53.703
13. Leon Camier (Fixi Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 35'01.430
14. Federico Sandi (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 35'12.710
15. Alexander Lundh (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 35'27.352
16. Vittorio Iannuzzo (Grillini Dentalmatic SBK) BMW S1000 RR 35'27.640
RT. Ayrton Badovini (Team Ducati Alstare) Ducati 1199 Panigale R 27'21.324