DOHA, Qatar – Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team) is the 2014 eni FIM Superbike World Champion after a nail-biting season final race held under the floodlights at the Losail International Circuit on Sunday.
The Frenchman took the lead on lap 5 and, courtesy of a strong race pace and a new lap record of 1:57.906, he pulled a solid gap on the chasing duo of Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike) and Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) to take his first career double and the crown.
Sykes and Rea battled race-long to determine the final spots on the podium with the Honda rider just edging the outgoing champion for second in final three laps.
“I cannot believe it,” Guintoli said. “I have been imaging this double win for the whole month. I never felt so good riding with this or any other bike before.
“It has been such a hard work all season, trying not to make many mistakes. Tom has been very fast and consistent. After Laguna, when the gap was 44 points, it was a difficult situation. But we were back and in this last round I’ve shown I’ve got the speed and what it takes to win. I proved it to myself and I’m happy. I think the title will sink in later on but for now I’m just overwhelmed.”
The first race of the day was also won by Guintoli, who pulled away in the final four laps to cross the line a lonely winner ahead of compatriot Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team), in what was one of the most enthralling races of the season.
That moved Guintoli to within three points of series leader and reigning champion Sykes, who completed the podium.
From the start Rea led before Baz took his turn at the front. The first half of the race saw eight riders covered by a little over a second, before things settled down a little as Guintoli and Baz began to ease away.
Lap 13 saw Guintoli’s teammate Marco Melandri pass Sykes much to the delight of the Aprilia pit garage, while at the front Guintoli and Baz remained locked together. The Aprilia RSV4 #50 overtook the Kawasaki ZX-10R #76 at the start of the 14th lap, where it would remain.
Sykes regrouped to claim the final podium spot as Rea clung on valiantly to fourth ahead of Davide Giugliano (Ducati Superbike Team) and Toni Elias (Red Devils Roma Aprilia), who were fifth and sixth respectively.
Niccolò Canepa (Althea Racing Ducati) and David Salom (Kawasaki Racing Team) crossed the line separated by 0.011s in their own private EVO fight, the pair finishing 12th and 13th overall with the Spaniard taking the EVO class series victory.
In the second race, five riders fought hard for fourth behind Guintoli, Rea and Sykes, with Melandri coming home ahead of Chaz Davies (Ducati Superbike Team) and Elias.
Newly crowned Superbike EVO winner Salom was once again involved in a titanic fight for the best classified EVO rider coming home ahead of Canepa in 11th.
Eugene Laverty (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki), Jeremy Guarnoni (MRS Kawasaki), Aaron Yates (Team Hero EBR) and Sylvain Barrier (BMW Motorrad Italia) all failed to make it to the finish line due to crashes.
Behind Sykes in the final standings Rea finished third, one point ahead of Melandri.
“I don’t mind taking my hat off to a worthy champion,” Sykes said. “We have tried so hard all year and of course, a few incidents come to my mind now. But it is what it is. After the last few rounds, we knew Sylvain and Aprilia would have been strong.
“Unfortunately the outcome of today was… the winner takes it all. Sylvain, he did a great season. Obviously we’ve had some limitations today. I tried my best in Race 2, unfortunately it wasn’t enough. But that’s racing. Luckily this race is quite late in the year so I won’t be too hard on myself for too long. The start of the next season won’t be too far away and I’ll be putting my efforts into that.”
The final race of the World Supersport season was a close encounter and eventually won after 15 exciting laps by Michael van Der Mark (Pata Honda World Supersport Team).
Ratthapark Wilairot (Core PTR Honda) produced a spirited ride to second, his first ever WSS podium and was joined on the podium by the Pole Position man Jules Cluzel (MV Agusta Reparto Corse).
At the front it new WSS champion van der Mark controlled things notching up his sixth win of the year ahead of an impressive Wilairot, the Thai rider having the best ride of his season under the floodlights.
The final podium place was decided on the final lap after a fast and furious three rider scrap eventually went the way of Cluzel, the Frenchman clearly frustrated at the speed of his rivals.
Lucas Mahias and his DMC-Panavto Yamaha team mate Kev Coghlan were fourth and fifth with Roberto Rolfo (Go Eleven Kawasaki) completing the top six after showing some incredible pace in the closing laps.
World Superbike Race 1 Results
1.Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia) 17 Laps/91.460km in 33:46.738 (162.456km/h)
2. Loris Baz (Kawasaki) +2.650
3. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) +3.955
4. Jonathan Rea (Honda) +4.805
5. Davide Giugliano (Ducati) +7.861
6. Toni Elias (Aprilia) +8.192
7. Chaz Davies (Ducati) +8.991
8. Marco Melandri (Aprilia) +10.512
9. Eugene Laverty (Suzuki) +15.978
10. Alex Lowes (Suzuki) +21.456
11. Leon Haslam (Honda) +25.977
12. Niccolo Canepa (Ducati) +29.085
13. David Salom (Kawasaki) +29.096
14. Sylvain Barrier (BMW) +39.270
15. Bryan Staring (Kawasaki) +43.360
16. Jeremy Guarnoni (Kawasaki) +46.206
17. Geoff May (EBR) +1:16.323
18. Imre Toth (BMW) +1 Lap
RT. Alessandro Andreozzi (Kawasaki)
RT. Gabor Rizmayer (BMW)
RT. Damien Cudlin (Kawasaki)
RT. Aaron Yates (EBR)
RT. Claudio Corti (MV Agusta)
World Superbike Final Standings
1.Sylvain Guintoli 416
2. Tom Sykes 410
3. Jonathan Rea 334
4. Marco Melandri 333
5. Loris Baz 311
6. Chaz Davies 215
7. Leon Haslam 187
8. Davide Giugliano 181
9. Toni Elias 171
10. Eugene Laverty 161
11. Alex Lowes 139
12. David Salom 103
13. Niccolo Canepa 73
14. Jeremy Guarnoni 45
15. Sylvain Barrier 40
16. Leon Camier 37
17. Claudio Corti 27
18. Sheridan Morais 24
19. Alessandro Andreozzi 22
20. Fabien Foret 20
21. Lorenzo Lanzi 19
22. Bryan Staring 18
23. Max Neukirchner 17
24. Luca Scassa 16
25. Gabor Rizmayer 7
–From World SBK Press Office