Photography by Gold & Goose
MAGNY-COURS, France (Oct. 6, 2013) – It boil down to this – there are 50 points left on the board in World Superbike for 2013, and Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes holds a 37-point lead. Going into the finale at Jerez in two weeks Sykes will need only conservative finishes to clinch this year’s title. He got to that point with a perfect weekend in France. After a strong win in race one, Sykes came back even stronger in race two at Magny-Cours and simply walked away from the rest of the field. It was as if Sykes was the only rider on a Superbike and the others were on showroom machines.
Racing at the track where he lost last year’s championship by a half point, Sykes exorcized those demons by clearing away to win by eye-popping 11 seconds over series rivals Eugene Laverty and Sylvain Guintoli. The two Aprilia riders actually ended the race on the Magny-Cours tarmac, crashing within feet of one another as they battled for second, but a red flag on the final lap preserved their podium results.
Sykes turned in another perfect start and got out front early and had a half second on the field after the first lap. Behind the leader came the Aprilia factory teammate of Laverty and Guintoli, with Laverty getting a much better start than in race one.
Sykes was setting a blazing pace. On the second lap He reset the World Superbike track record, turning a 1:38.3, breaking his own record from the first race. Then a 1:38.1 the next lap followed by a 1:37.9 for yet another record. The race for the lead was pretty much over.
Michele Pirro crashed out on lap three.
Laverty and Guintoli, with ever diminishing chances for a championship, battled for second and could only hope a looming rain cloud would make its way over the Magny-Cours circuit. Davide Giugliano, on the Aprilia satellite machine, was holding off the factory BMWs of Marco Melandri and Chaz Davies. On the sixth lap Melandri hit a false neutral and ran off the track into a gravel trap. That moved him from fifth to 16th.
On lap eight Leon Haslam’s Honda locked up and nearly pitched him off. He saved it and pulled off the track. A few laps later Jules Cluzel fell just as he’d done in the first race. Haslam’s teammate Michel Fabrizio’s Honda also broke just past the halfway point.
On lap nine Guintoli brought the French partisan fans to their feet with a pass on Laverty for second, but by now he was over six seconds behind Sykes.
On lap 16 Sykes built his lead to 7.4 seconds. For a few laps it appeared the Aprilias leveled with Sykes’ times, but then they began battling again, slowing their progress. On lap 17 Laverty got back in front of Guintoli and then a few turns later Guintoli ran wide, giving his teammate the gift of a small gap in their battle for the runner-up spot. Two laps later Guintoli made it back and took second yet again. In the closing laps the two would continue to trade the spot in their own personal battle.
With two laps to go rain began to fall. On the last lap the wet track finally caught up with the battle for second. Guintoli crashed tiptoeing into a tight right hander as Laverty was outbraking him, but just another 30 yards up the track Laverty was flicked off as well and the red flag came out ending the race. Laverty was credited with second. Guintoli third and holding his right shoulder in the area of his collarbone.
That finish put Laverty back into second over Guintoli by one point in their back and forth battle for second in the standings.
Giugliano held off Davies to round out the top five in race two. Endurance racer Vincent Philippe turned in a solid sixth in his fill-in ride aboard the Fixi Crescent Suzuki, the same bike Blake Young rode at Laguna Seca. Melandri rallied from his off-track excursion to get seventh, but was mathematically eliminated from championship contention. Toni Elias, Lorenzo Lanzi and Ayrton Badovini rounded out the top ten.
For Sykes it was all smiles after sweeping the day and completing a perfect weekend.
“I’m very happy,” said Sykes, who scored his ninth win of the season and 14th of his career, tying Americans Ben Spies, Scott Russell and John Kocinski in all-time World Superbike victories. “Magny-Cours was nice to me last year as well. OK, I lost out finally to a great world champion, but this year’s it’s been great. We really missed out on setup time, but just when it counted myself and the ZX-10R were able to really make some good progress. Especially for race two. We made two small changes and the bike was fantastic. I was really enjoying it and I was very surprised at the lap times. Overall it was a really good race. On the last lap I was entering the hairpin and saw that it was getting a little bit fruity. I managed to keep it upright. Certainly the red flag played into the hands of the Aprilias on that one. Now I’m going to enjoy the moment and see what it brings in a couple of weeks’ time.”
Magny-Cours - FIM Superbike World Championship - Race 2
1. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 34'36.149
2. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 34'47.240
3. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 34'47.486
4. Davide Giugliano (Althea Racing) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 34'59.157
5. Chaz Davies (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 35'01.873
6. Vincent Philippe (Fixi Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 35'10.911
7. Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 35'12.368
8. Toni Elias (Red Devils Roma) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 35'17.106
9. Lorenzo Lanzi (Mesaroli Transports A.S.) Ducati 1098R 35'19.862
10. Ayrton Badovini (Team Ducati Alstare) Ducati 1199 Panigale 35'29.337
11. David Salom (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 35'32.400
12. Mark Aitchison (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 35'40.197
13. Federico Sandi (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 35'40.392
14. Jules Cluzel (Fixi Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 35'46.495
15. Fabrizio Lai (MR-Racing) Ducati 1199 Panigale 36'05.590
RT. Michel Fabrizio (Pata Honda World Superbike) Honda CBR1000RR 21'48.713
RT. Vittorio Iannuzzo (Grillini Dentalmatic SBK) BMW S1000 RR 20'40.188
RT. Leon Haslam (Pata Honda World Superbike) Honda CBR1000RR 11'45.088
RT. Michele Pirro (Team Ducati Alstare) Ducati 1199 Panigale 3'24.776
1. Sykes, 411.
2. Laverty, 374.
3. Guintoli, 373.
4. Melandri, 339.
5. Davies, 270.