Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes took top honors in the first of two World Superbike races at Portimao, earning his seventh of the year and the 21st of his career. The win also helped the reigning World Champion’s hopes for retaining his crown by further advancing his points lead on the men who joined him on the podium: He now leads Aprilia’s Sylvain Guintoli by 44 points and teammate Loris Baz by 50.
Although Sykes trailed Pata Honda’s Jonathan Rea and Guintoli’s teammate Marco Melandri at the start, it didn’t take him long to take the lead. And at about the halfway mark Sykes built that lead to a three -econd gap on the pack vying for a podium finish – Baz, Melandri, Rea, Guintoli, Ducati’s Chaz Davies and Rea’s teammate, Leon Haslam.
“Not the best of starts, but honestly there’s two long races here today so I wasn’t in too much of a panic,” Sykes said. “It was good. We settled in after a couple of laps and managed to get to the front. I was able to manage a little bit of the front, the ninja was working very well and giving me a lot of feedback.”
Then spots of rain around the track drew out the white flag, threatening to undo all of Sykes hard work.
“And when the rain came, I thought, ‘Here we go again. Here we go,’ ” Sykes said. “So it was very difficult to manage. I know some guys have a little bit less to lose and sure enough the gap came down. You know, I was just asking someone very politely to remove the rain cloud and luckily with a few laps to go it disappeared and we were able to manage the gap again.”
Making the most out of those conditions, was second place finisher Guintoli. The Frenchman moved passed Baz and his teammate and worked on closing the gap on Sykes. But in the end, Mother Nature would not rain on Sykes parade and Guintoli was unable to catch him.
“I tried my best to use these conditions,” Guintoli said. “It felt a bit slippy for a couple laps, but I thought I’d just have to keep going. It was the only opportunity to catch him really, because his rhythm was a bit quicker. But anyway I gave everything this race. I tried everything I had. And so I’m happy for that. We’re going to try to improve a bit for race two and again just give it all.”
Baz was able to hold onto third. And after struggling at the Portuguese circuit all weekend, the young Frenchman was happy with the podium spot.
“I lost a little bit of time when the rain came,” Baz said. “Sylvain was really strong at this moment… I’m really happy because it’s another podium for us and we’ve been struggling all the weekend. I really want to thank all the team, all the guys from Kawasaki because yesterday I didn’t think we could fight for the podium. I was hoping for top five, so it’s really good to be on podium. We have a few ideas to make race two better.”
In the melee of shifting positions when the first drops of rain came, Davies and Haslam came together. Both remounted, with Davies ultimately retiring and Haslam fighting his way back to 11th.
Melandri ended the day in fourth and Rea fell back to fifth.
Fighting for sixth was Ducati’s Davide Giugliano and Voltcom Crescent Suzuki teammates Eugene Laverty and Alex Lowes. Laverty was the man leading the way on the last lap, but then lapped traffic allowed for his teammate Lowes and Giugliano to slip through, leaving Laverty to settle for eighth.
Behind them the battle for top Evo honors was closely fought out between Kawasaki’s David Salom and BMW Motorrad Italia’s Sylvain Barrier. In the end, Salom edged past Barrier, taking ninth position by just .014 of a second.
2014 Portimao World Superbike Race One Results
1. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki)
2. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia)
3. Loris Baz (Kawasaki)
4. Marco Melanndri (Aprilia)
5. Jonathan Rea (Honda)
6. Alex Lowes (Suzuki)
7. Davide Giugliano (Ducati)
8. Eugene Laverty (Suzuki)
9. David Salom (Kawasaki)
10. Sylvain Barrier (BMW)