Photography by Gold & Goose
ISTANBUL, Turkey (Sept. 14, 2013) – Even though he’d never been to the circuit before, Tom Sykes set the tone early in the final Superpole session at Istanbul. The time of 1:54.872 held for Kawasaki’s No. 1 rider and that earned Sykes his seventh World Superbike pole of the season.
Sykes just barely held off archrival Sylvain Guintoli, who has been consistently fast all weekend, clocked a 1:54.894 on his factory Aprilia. Just a single point separates series leader Sykes from Guintoli going into Sunday’s pair of races. Rounding out the front row starters is Davide Giugliano (1:55.073) on the satellite Aprilia squad Althea Racing.
The top six riders are separated by less than 8-10ths of a second and Aprilia owned four of the top-five qualifying spots.
Sykes had a couple of things on his mind during the final Superpole. He was still putting the final touches on learning the circuit, his crew had made some last-second changes to his Kawasaki ZX-10RR and he had to contend with former Moto2 world champ Toni Elias blatantly following on his rear wheel in an effort to find a way to maximize his time in his World Superbike debut. The strategy worked out for Elias, who finished the day in fifth on his Red Devils Roma Aprilia, thanks to the tow by Sykes.
You could tell by his body language after his quick lap that Sykes was none to psyched about Elias following him in the session. Sykes turned and gave a long look towards Elias as they slowed after crossing the finish line.
Even though he seemed upset by Elias, Sykes was all smiles in the post-qualifying press conference.
“The front row is always the main target,” Sykes said. “I’m happy. Yesterday we were struggling a little bit. My closest competitors have been here at this circuit before so today I lost valuable track time. But the Kawasaki team made good changes to the bike last night and it was the first time we could try these changes in Superpole. All seems good. I expect a big fight with quite a number of riders tomorrow. Should be good.”
Guintoli seems more determined than ever now that the championship fight is entering the latter stages.
“It was very close,” Guintoli said. I didn’t know that at the time. I feel good. I think we’re going to have a good race tomorrow. It was very close. It would be nice to get the pole, but first row is the most important for me. Tomorrow the fight is on and I think it should be an entertaining race for everybody, including us.”
Istanbul Park - FIM Superbike World Championship - Superpole 3
1. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1'54.872
2. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'54.894
3. Davide Giugliano (Althea Racing) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'55.073
4. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'55.340
5. Toni Elias (Red Devils Roma) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 1'55.546
6. Jules Cluzel (Fixi Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 1'55.614
7. Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 1'56.402
8. Chaz Davies (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 1'56.416
9. Leon Haslam (Pata Honda World Superbike) Honda CBR1000RR 1'56.463
10. Mark Aitchison (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1'57.001
11. Federico Sandi (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 1'57.329
12. Michel Fabrizio (Pata Honda World Superbike) Honda CBR1000RR 1'57.371
13. Tolga Uprak (CMS-Eypbike Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 2'02.469
14. Yunus Ercelik (Sampiyon 169 Team) BMW S1000 RR 2'04.070
15. Vittorio Iannuzzo (Grillini Dentalmatic SBK) BMW S1000 RR 2'39.610