The 28.546 spectators attending round five of the eni FIM Superbike World Championship had a lot to cheer on Sunday as Great Britain had a key-role in the races at Donington Park.
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) scored an outstanding double-win, his maiden in the championship, which was icing on the cake of an unbelievable performance by the home rider, who led every single session from Friday’s Qualifying 1 on.
“I have been in World Superbike for a few years now and I got the first double win on home soil is a fairy tale,” Sykes said. “One click on the front suspension between races made the difference and we could see that in the second race time, which was better than the first one. I got the new Best Lap yesterday and I got the new lap record in race two so I have the full set.
“I really enjoyed the support from the crowd and I hope they enjoyed the show. No better place to do my first double than at Donington Park. We’re in a strong situation, we have a good base setting and now we are going to some fantastic circuits.”
Thanks to his eighth race victory, Sykes now lies second in the championship, only four points away from Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team), still the leader after Sunday’s two podium finishes. Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad GoldBet) made his way to second place in race one, while Eugene Laverty scored his first ever top-three finish on the Leicestershire track in race two.
The perfect Sunday for UK fans was completed by Sam Lowes’ World Supesport win, the third consecutive for the local boy in 2013. As for Sykes, the Yakhnich Motorsport Yamaha rider has been absolutely unstoppable on his favourite circuit.
In Superbike race one at Donington Park Sykes rode a perfect race up front for all 23 laps, displaying pure class and outstanding race craft, avoiding any risk and at the same time not allowing the following riders to close the gap.
Despite a challenging first half of the race, Melandri clawed his way back to second following a successful overtake manoeuvre at the last turn, on lap 16, over third place Guintoli.
Following a competitive first part of the race Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike), couldn’t keep up the pace with Sykes and was forced to ride defensively to a final fourth position. The Ulsterman finished ahead of Frenchman Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team) – who had an up and down performance in race one – and Laverty (Aprilia Racing Team). The works Aprilia rider had a hard time after running off-track during lap seven at “Fogarty Esses”, and continued to struggle as the race went by.
Chaz Davies (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) was able to stay with team mate Melandri in the early stages but found it difficult to push hard later on in the race.
There was an early end of the race for Leon Camier (FIXI Crescent Suzuki), following a crash at “Goddards” on lap three, while team mate Jules Cluzel ended up ninth in a battle up to the finish line ahead of Michel Fabrizio (Red Devils Roma Aprilia) and the Team Ducati Alstare trio of Ayrton Badovini, Carlos Checa and Niccolò Canepa.
After doing his best to line-up his CBR 1000 RR on the grid, Leon Haslam (Pata Honda World Superbike) was forced to withdraw from the race due to his fitness conditions.Sykes’ maiden double-win in the series came after a total domination in race two. The last time a Kawasaki rider was able to secure both race victories dates back to 2000.
Sykes pulled away from the chasing pack in the early stages and managed a seven-second lead up to the chequered flag, finishing ahead of works Aprilia duo of Guintoli – still Championship leader – and Laverty. The 26-year-old Irishman, scoring his first rostrum finish on the Leicester track, had to defend his position from a late charge by Melandri, who ran off track at “Fogarty Esses” following a final attempt of edging out his opponent from third place.
“At the end of race one I was disappointed,” Laverty admitted. “I have always had some hard times on this track, but I could have done better than seventh place. On the other hand race two got off to a better start straight away. A few changes we made to my RSV4 between the two races immediately increased my feeling with it. In fact, I was able to defend third place against Melandri’s attacks, and as I said at Monza, it’s always nice to end the weekend with a podium.
“The performance in race two is encouraging for the rest of the championship. It shows that even on shorter, more winding tracks we can keep up with the top riders.”
Melandri quickly rejoined to end up fifth behind the competitive Giugliano, who looked at times in the position to have a shot at the top-three he’s missed from June 2012.
There was a slight improvement for official BMW rider Davies, sixth at the flag ahead of Frenchman Baz.
A four-way battle for seventh saw Canepa having the better of Cluzel, Fabrizio and Rea. The One Event rider for the round waved Team Ducati Alstare’s flag high after Checa’s withdrawal from race two (left shoulder issues) and Ayrton Badovini’s crash at turn two on lap 19.
The “nightmare weekend” of Leon Camier was completed by another low-speed crash at turn 12, with the Englishman able to get back on track for a final 13th place.
An uncatchable Lowes dominated the World Supersport race at Donington Park. The local rider put up a supreme performance to finish with an 11-second margin over second place Kenan Sofuoglu (Mahi Racing Team India Kawasaki) and delighted the crowd with a spectacular wheelie over the finish line.
Lowes lapped consistently within the 1:31 seconds bracket throughout the 23 laps – except the final one. Sofuoglu, meanwhile, had to face some tough challenges to get in second place but once he did, the defending Champion could easily pull away for a lonely ride to the chequered flag. The Turkish rider was involved in a collision with Christian Iddon early in the race at “Melbourne” hairpin that forced him to run wide and lose some ground.
Roberto Rolfo (Parkingo MV Agusta Corse) scored a sensational third for the Italian brand, that was last seen on a World Championship podium in 1976: at that time Giacomo Agostini was the winner of the 500cc race at Nurburgring. Rolfo put up an outstanding recover from th 15th slot on the grid to give Giuliano Rovelli’s squad the first rostrum finish in Supersport since Portimao 2011.
Fourth place went to Lorenzo Zanetti (Pata Honda World Supersport) ahead of fellow Italian Luca Scassa (Intermoto Ponyexpres Kawasaki). The two riders battled out in the final lap with the Honda rider able to overtake the former Italian Superbike Champion at the chicane to eventually defend his position up to the flag, despite a fantastic last-turn attempt by Scassa.
Superbike Race One Results
1.Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 23 Laps/92.529km in 34:10.881 (162.420km/h)
2. Marco Melandri (BMW) +2.379
3. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia) +3.808
4. Jonathan Rea (Honda) +6.760
5. Loris Baz (Kawasaki) +13.649
6. Davide Giugliano (Aprilia) +15.551
7. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia) +17.453
8. Chaz Davies (BMW) +19.138
9. Jules Cluzel (Suzuki) +27.738
10. Michel Fabrizio (Aprilia) +30.817
11. Ayrton Badovini (Ducati) +31.611
12. Carlos Checa (Ducati) +31.816
13. Niccolo Canepa (Ducati) +31.930
14. Max Neukirchner (Ducati) +43.025
Superbike Race Two results
1.Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 23 Laps/92.529km in 34:06.921 (162.734km/h)
2. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia) +8.035
3. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia) +10.738
4. Davide Giugliano (Aprilia) +12.257
5. Marco Melandri (BMW) +15.976
6. Chaz Davies (BMW) +16.475
7. Loris Baz (Kawasaki) +27.524
8. Niccolo Canepa (Ducati) +30.186
9. Jules Cluzel (Suzuki) +30.501
10. Michel Fabrizio (Aprilia) +30.885
11. Jonathan Rea (Honda) +31.529
12. Max Neukirchner (Ducati) +46.782
13. Leon Camier (Suzuki) +54.509
Superbike Standings – Provisional (round 5 of 15)*
2. Sykes 169
3. Laverty 149
4. Melandri 127
5. Davies 112
6. Baz 95
7. Rea 89
8. Fabrizio 86
9. Giugliano 72
10. Cluzel 55
11. Camier 49
12. Neukirchner 45
13. Badovini 37
14. Checa 33
15. Haslam 29
* Possible updated results could be defined by the International Disciplinary Court which is dealing with the appeal lodged by Aprilia Racing Team and rider Sylvain Guintoli, following the decision taken by the FIM Stewards in Monza (Italian Round, last 12 May) to cancel the drop of position sanction (from third to fourth place in race two) imposed by the Race Direction on rider Tom Sykes.