After 25 thrilling laps, Melandri won the opening race of the day at Laguna Seca. The Italian rider added another victory to his tally of 16 WSBK race wins reaching the likes of Giancarlo Falappa, Neil Hodgson and James Toseland.
The second WSBK race was as hot on track as the air temperature as after two red flags and restarts, Sykes came out victorious in the seven-lap sprint race. Thanks to his 22nd career win, the reigning champion added one tiny point to his championship lead over Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team), second at the flag and now 44 points behind the reigning champion.
Starting from Pole Position in race one, it was Sykes who initially took the holeshot into turn one ahead of the works Aprilia duo of Melandri and Guintoli, who both passed the reigning champion at the end of lap one after Sykes made a mistake at the Corkscrew.
Chaz Davies (Ducati Superbike Team) crashed spectacularly from fourth on lap two as the leading three began to edge away from the fast starting Leon Haslam (Pata Honda World Superbike Team), who was promoted to fourth after the Ducati rider’s departure.
By quarter race distance the circuit lap record set in 2013 had been smashed and the top three riders had a comfortable gap over the chasing pack.
As the race entered the final third, the tense battle at the front intensified as Guintoli applied the pressure to his Italian team mate with Sykes watching the action unfold in front of him before the Italian broke away.
At the flag it was a rather spread out affair with Melandri taking the win, his third of the season ahead of Guintoli and Sykes, who claimed the final podium place.
Davide Giugliano (Ducati Superbike Team) finished a solid fourth with Toni Elias (Red Devils Roma Aprilia) and Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike Team) completing the top six.
In the battle of the EVO riders it was David Salom (Kawasaki Racing Team) that took the honours, coming home in a solid 10th with Niccolò Canepa (Althea Racing Ducati) 11th and Sylvain Barrier (BMW Motorrad Italia) 12th.
Leon Camier (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) was classified 15th and took the final championship point on his debut for the Italian team.
Eugene Laverty (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) was a notable retirement as were Ayrton Badovini (Team Bimota Alstare), Aaron Yates (Team Hero EBR) and Peter Sebestyen (Team Toth BMW).
From the first start of the second race it was Sykes who once again grabbed the holeshot into turn one and as the packed field sorted themselves out around the first few turns Guintoli and Melandri slotted themselves into second and third ahead of the fast starting Laverty.
Guintoli applied the pressure immediately and after following the reigning champion for a couple of laps made his move, taking the lead into turn six on lap five only to lose it straight afterwards as Sykes successfully fought back. Melandri also seized the moment to take advantage of an off line Guintoli to move into third as the battle at the front now raged between six riders after Giugliano and Elias looked to get in on the act.
Lap 11 saw the red flags shown after Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) suffered a spectacular crash at the Corkscrew. The British rider was taken to the medical centre for further checks but fortunately the reigning BSB Champion got away with no fractures.
After a short delay the race was restarted over seven laps with grid positions decided by the race positions prior to the stop. That meant Sykes was still on Pole with the Aprilia duo of Melandri and Guintoli alongside. Row two for the restart saw Laverty, Elias and Giugliano.
When the race resumed the action was fast and furious but after only one completed lap the red flags were out again as Barrier crashed out on the start and finish straight. The Frenchman, who was conscious and alert, was taken to the Medical Centre for further checks that revealed a dislocated and fractured left subtalar joint.
However and at the third time of asking the race distance was completed with Sykes taking the win ahead of Guintoli and Rea, who completed the podium places after Melandri crashed out of the lead, followed a short time later by Giugliano, who had been charging through the field. It was a disappointing end of the race for both Italian riders, especially for Melandri, who looked capable of taking his second double win of the season.
“The aim was to win the race,” Sykes said. “Obviously race one was a big disappointment but we made a number of changes on the Ninja for race two. The bike felt OK, better than in the first race and then with every red flag we added little tweaks.
“What can I say, I got a fabulous bunch of guys working for me. My wife sent me some inspiration, I had some great pictures of my daughter which put a great smile on my face. I’m sure people watching back home enjoyed it as much as I did. I’ve got a few days to really enjoy myself here in California, I’ve got some big events coming up with Kawasaki and I can’t wait to go into summer break.”
Said Guintoli, “This is not a loss. We were looking for some points, but Tom is very strong in a short race like this one. About the two red flags I thought maybe this is destiny, like it happened last year. In the first restart Tom was fast and I just tried to hang on to him, but in a seven lap race is very difficult, I just tried everything but I was never in a position to attack him. Once again I gave my best.
“These are two strong results, but for me are not enough. We have to work during the summer break to come back really strong.”
Laverty, Elias and Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team) rounded out the top six, while in the EVO category the best classified rider was once again Salom (Kawasaki Racing Team), who finished a respectable eighth overall.
Race One Results
1.Marco Melandri (Aprilia) 25 Laps/90.250km in 35:07.782 (154.143km/h)
2. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia) +0.905
3. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) +6.627
4. Davide Giugliano (Ducati) +13.574
5. Toni Elias (Aprilia) +13.855
6. Jonathan Rea (Honda) +15.575
7. Leon Haslam (Honda) +18.820
8. Alex Lowes (Suzuki) +20.184
9. Loris Baz (Kawasaki) +34.479
10. David Salom (Kawasaki) +37.463
11. Niccolo Canepa (Ducati) +45.440
12. Sylvain Barrier (BMW) +47.538
13. Bryan Staring (Kawasaki) +49.750
14. Jeremy Guarnoni (Kawasaki) +55.420
15. Leon Camier (MV Agusta) +58.449
16. Alessandro Andreozzi (Kawasaki) +1:08.922
17. Gabor Rizmayer (BMW) +1:17.853
18. Geoff May (EBR) +1:18.084
19. Chris Ulrich (Honda) +1 Lap
20. Sheridan Morais (Kawasaki) +3 Laps
RT. Larry Pegram (EBR)
RT. Peter Sebestyen (BMW)
RT. Aaron Yates (EBR)
RT. Eugene Laverty (Suzuki)
RT. Chaz Davies (Ducati)
Race Two Results
1.Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 7 Laps/25.270km in 9:51.346 (153.839km/h)
2. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia) +1.014
3. Jonathan Rea (Honda) +2.793
4. Eugene Laverty (Suzuki) +3.681
5. Toni Elias (Aprilia) +4.165
6. Loris Baz (Kawasaki) +7.160
7. Leon Haslam (Honda) +7.331
8. David Salom (Kawasaki) +15.061
9. Alessandro Andreozzi (Kawasaki) +15.674
10. Leon Camier (MV Agusta) +17.015
11. Jeremy Guarnoni (Kawasaki) +18.338
12. Bryan Staring (Kawasaki) +19.270
13. Sheridan Morais (Kawasaki) +20.040
14. Larry Pegram (EBR) +23.845
15. Gabor Rizmayer (BMW) +25.592
16. Geoff May (EBR) +26.688
17. Chris Ulrich (Honda) +31.893
RT. Davide Giugliano (Ducati)
RT. Marco Melandri (Aprilia)
RT. Niccolo Canepa (Ducati)
NS. Sylvain Barrier (BMW)
Point Standings (Round 9 of 13)
1.Tom Sykes 325
2. Sylvain Guintoli 281
3. Jonathan Rea 261
4. Loris Baz 253
5. Marco Melandri 217
6. Chaz Davies 159
7. Davide Giugliano 153
8. Toni Elias 137
9. Eugene Laverty 134
10. Leon Haslam 133
11. Alex Lowes 119
12. David Salom 88
13. Niccolo Canepa 51
14. Leon Camier 37
15. Jeremy Guarnoni 33
16. Sylvain Barrier 21
17. Alessandro Andreozzi 17
18. Sheridan Morais 17
19. Luca Scassa 16
20. Fabien Foret 14
21. Claudio Corti 13
22. Bryan Staring 12
23. Kevin Allerton 6
24. Kervin Bos 5
25. Ivan Goi 5
26. Riccardo Russo 5
27. Larry Pegram 2
28. Imre Toth 2
29. Michel Fabrizio 2
30. Gabor Rizmayer 1
31. Romain Lanusse 1
--From World SBK Press Office