Photography by Gold & Goose
MAGNY-COURS, France (Oct. 4, 2013) -- Sylvain Guintoli made French fans happy Friday by topping World Superbike qualifying at Magny-Cours. He turned a 1:38.709 in less than ideal conditions with overcast and some light rain in the area. Guintoli seems determined, especially on home soil, to get back in the thick of the championship hunt at the penultimate event of the season after being pushed back to third in the standings at the American round at Laguna Seca.
Magny-Cours could be a decisive event in the four-way title chase. After the two races at Laguna Seca, Championship leader Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) extended his lead to 23 points over his main rival, who happens to be now Eugene Laverty (Aprilia Racing Team). Both riders shared wins on the American soil in great fashion, but the one achieved by the Irishman last Sunday proved to be crucial for his and other contenders' hopes for victory. Meanwhile Sykes has mixed memories from last year's French Round (the season finale in 2012), as the win achieved in Race 2 proved to be not enough to clinch the title.
Guintoli is just one point behind his teammate, while Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad GoldBet) is in a more difficult position, as he still has a 42-point gap behind Sykes. The Frenchman hopes to shine in front of his crowd, like he did last year when he won the first race onboard a Ducati, under wet conditions.
Sykes was fast out of the gate setting a 1:39.287 early in Friday’s qualifying session. Championship rival Guintoli was just a few ticks behind on the factory Aprilia turning a 1:39.458. Davide Giugliano, on a satellite Aprilia, was the only other rider in the 1:39s in the first half of the session.
Aprilia riders were on the move in the second half of the session, as second-ranked Eugene Laverty hustled his Aprilia into the group of riders in the 1:39s, followed by home hero Guintoli moving to the top, the first in the session to dip into the 1:38s, with a 1:38.719.
As usual in World Superbike qualifying, with about 10 minutes to go the speeds began to increase. Jules Cluzel clocked an excellent lap of 1:39.380 to move into third on his Suzuki. Then with less than two minutes to go Chaz Davies pushed his factory BMW to third with a 1:39.378.
Guintoli went out one last time late in the session to make sure he could respond if needed should he was knocked off the top spot. The Frenchman went faster, simply solidified his hold on the top spot by speeding past the timing wires at 1:38.709, shaving an even hundredth of a second off his previous best.
It was a strong showing for French riders. Beside Guintoli topping the charts, countrymen Jules Cluzel was fourth fastest and replacement rider (for Fixi Crescent Suzuki Leon Camier) Vincent Philippe, eight-times World Endurance Champion, was seventh.
Magny-Cours - FIM Superbike World Championship - Qualifying 1
1. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'38.709
2. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1'39.095
3. Chaz Davies (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 1'39.378
4. Jules Cluzel (Fixi Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 1'39.380
5. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'39.451
6. Davide Giugliano (Althea Racing) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'39.549
7. Vincent Philippe (Fixi Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 1'39.579
8. Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 1'39.678
9. Michel Fabrizio (Pata Honda World Superbike) Honda CBR1000RR 1'39.799
10. Michele Pirro (Team Ducati Alstare) Ducati 1199 Panigale 1'39.821
11. David Salom (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1'40.085
12. Leon Haslam (Pata Honda World Superbike) Honda CBR1000RR 1'40.202
13. Ayrton Badovini (Team Ducati Alstare) Ducati 1199 Panigale 1'40.263
14. Lorenzo Lanzi (Mesaroli Transports A.S.) Ducati 1098R 1'40.352
15. Toni Elias (Red Devils Roma) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'40.483
16. Mark Aitchison (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1'41.137
17. Federico Sandi (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1'41.281
18. Fabrizio Lai (MR-Racing) Ducati 1199 1'42.474
19. Vittorio Iannuzzo (Grillini Dentalmatic SBK) BMW S1000 RR 1'43.180