Photography by Gold & Goose
Tom Sykes turned in another stellar effort in World Superbike race one at Imola Sunday. The Kawasaki man not only scored a dominating victory after an early battle with Davide Giugliano, he also found himself instantly back in the championship chase, with an unexpected opportunity to leave Italy with the series lead, after ever consistent series leader Sylvain Guintoli suffered a rare DNF when his factory Aprilia expired just six laps into the race.
Giugliano gave Italian fans a thrill by taking the lead several turns into the race when holeshot winner Jonathan Rea went wide exiting tamburello. Giugliano, on the Althea Racing Aprilia, is often a fast starter and indeed he looked strong for the first five laps holding off silky smooth Guintoli and hard-charging Sykes. Aprilia’s Eugene Laverty and BMW ace Marco Melandri made it a five rider breakaway by the fifth lap.
Sykes was the man on the move. He got past Guintoli on lap five and then moved up to challenge the leader Giugliano. Sykes made his move on lap six moving past for the lead in a set of esses only to run hot and be re-passed by Giugliano, who seemed determined to hang onto the lead. But it was no use Sykes, the pole winner and track record holder, was not to be denied and a few turns later he moved into the lead for good.
Once out front Sykes pulled Giugliano away from the rest of the field, the lead duo building a four-second lead over the next five laps.
Rea had dropped outside the top ten with his early runoff, but quickly began picking off riders on his factory-backed Pata Honda. By midway he got past the Chaz Davies, Leon Camier battle for fifth.
Giugliano valiantly stayed with Sykes until the halfway point when Sykes seemed to find another gear on his factory Kawasaki ZX-10RR and began his steady, but sure break from the rest of the field. Giugliano sliding his bike through turns in a vain effort to stay in touch with Sykes.
The championship battle took a dramatic turn when series points leader Guintoli’s Aprilia went up in smoke on lap six, the victim of what appeared to be a blown motor.
There was no mystery up front as Sykes went on to a 7.198 second victory over Giugliano nursed his Aprila home to second, having spent his tires in the torrid early laps.
Rea’s charge to the front came to a unceremonious end with two laps to go when he crashed out, losing the front end on his Honda at the apex of a fast left hander while running fourth and challenging Laverty for the final podium position.
That left Laverty in third, Melandri fourth. Michel Fabrizio held off BMW’s Davies for fifth.
The legendary Nori Haga, in a special return to World Superbike, scored a world championship point in 15th.
Guintoli’s misfortune combined with Sykes’ victory meant the championship closed right in with Sykes just three points out of the series lead going into race two.
“Overall the weekend’s gone really well,” Sykes said after race one. “I’m not taking into consideration other people’s misfortune; you know we’ve had enough of that ourselves. Our target is to be fast every weekend and I made life difficult on me self at the beginning of the race. But luckily we were able to fight back. The Zed-X 10 was working well. We need to look at making a couple of changes for race two, but overall not a bad start to the weekend.”
Sykes feels race two could be tougher.
“I think in race two there’s going to be more at the sharp end,” he said. “Like always, everyone is learning. That’s the name of the game. Obviously we’ll expect Jonathan there. I was very surprised he was fast all weekend, but unfortunately ruled himself out in the very beginning. He’ll be there and I was very surprised with Giugliano. He kept me honest and luckily after a while we were able to break the gap and manage it. We’ll see. Good race one, but we’ve still got 50 percent left to go yet.”
Imola - FIM Superbike World Championship - Race 1
1. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 37'52.860
2. Davide Giugliano (Althea Racing) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 38'00.058
3. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 38'02.344
4. Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 38'03.183
5. Michel Fabrizio (Red Devils Roma) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 38'11.557
6. Chaz Davies (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 38'12.391
7. Leon Camier (Fixi Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 38'15.272
8. Ayrton Badovini (Team Ducati Alstare) Ducati 1199 Panigale R 38'22.002
9. Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 38'29.688
10. Leon Haslam (Pata Honda World Superbike) Honda CBR1000RR 38'30.367
11. Carlos Checa (Team Ducati Alstare) Ducati 1199 Panigale R 38'32.099
12. Max Neukirchner (MR-Racing) Ducati 1199 Panigale R 38'36.194
13. Federico Sandi (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 39'04.929
14. Vittorio Iannuzzo (Grillini Dentalmatic SBK) BMW S1000 RR 39'23.545
15. Noriyuki Haga (Grillini Dentalmatic SBK) BMW S1000 RR 39'23.633
RT. Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike) Honda CBR1000RR 32'36.166
RT. Jules Cluzel (Fixi Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 23'53.271
RT. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 9'03.659