Photography by Andrea Wilson
MONTEREY, CA, JULY 12 – Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes earned pole position for tomorrow’s two World Superbike rounds at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in dramatic fashion, the defending World Champion throwing down a blistering 1:21.811 with less than two minutes to go to stamp his authority on the field.
Sykes, who didn’t appear to be in the battle for the top spot until that lap, put over half a second on his nearest challenger, topping Aprilia’s Sylvain Guintoli by .528 of a second with the first-ever sub-1:22 lap of Laguna on a Superbike.
Guintoli and Ducati’s Davide Giugliano went back and forth with pole during the final Superpole session with the pair breaking the lap record on back-to-back laps. Giugliano did it first with his 1:22.422, but Guintoli fought straight back with a 1:22.339. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Sykes threw down the gauntlet and lapped at 1:21.811 – a new World Superbike record at the racetrack on the Monterey Peninsula.
Despite fighting for pole for most of the session, Giugliano ended up falling off the front row when he was beaten to third by his teammate Chaz Davies, the Welshman lapping at 1:22.384 as his season starts to turn around.
Giugliano ended up fourth, some .3 of a second quicker than Marco Melandri on the second factory Aprilia.
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki’s Eugene Lavery ended up sixth, the last rider to lap in the 1:22s. Then came Pata Honda’s Leon Haslam and Kawasaki’s Loris Baz, the latter making it out of Superpole 1 despite crashing in the session.
The pole was the fourth of the season for Sykes, the first Superbike rider to ever lap in the 1:21s at Laguna Seca.
“To be honest, all weekend we started slow with the Kawasaki. Honestly we’ve been building in the right direction so in the last free practice we made a good step with the bike. Like these guys said, there’s a lot of fast riders wanting to finish on a high before the summer break. The cables are tight. We just got it in the nick of time. Went in to qualifying and just put the feelers out with the race tire just to see where we were at… When we put the qualifying tire in, dear me… all hell broke loose. I just let the old girl have it and she was working well, the Ninja was really working well. It’s extra motivation; you guys are great and I love being in America. I’ve got he full Mustang that rips me from my hotel to here every morning and it puts me in the right frame of mind. I got all excited and it very nearly went wrong down through the Corkscrew; she got a little bit fruity but I managed to pull her out and come out the other side smiling. The rest is history. I’m looking forward to two good races tomorrow and I’m sure it’ll be tight races with a lot of good riders, but at least I’m starting in the right position.”
Jonathan Rea crashed out of Superpole 2 late in the session, but still managed to qualify 10th.
1. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 1:21.881
2. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia) 1:22.839
3. Chaz Davies (Ducati) 1:22.384
4. Davide Giugliano (Ducati) 1:22.422
5. Marco Melandri (Aprilia) 1:22.704
6. Eugene Laverty (Suzuki) 1:22.725
7. Leon Haslam (Honda) 1:23.181
8. Loris Baz (Kawasaki) 1:23.242
9. Toni Elias (Aprilia) 1:23.358
10. Jonathan Rea (Honda) 1:23.501