Tom Sykes took the battle but Max Biaggi won the war in race two of the 14th and final round of the 2012 eni Superbike World Championship at Magny-Cours in France.
In a show down for the 2012 World SBK Championship, Sykes did everything possible to climb above his second place ranking, leading the entire race aboard the works Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja to nail the win. However Biaggi, riding the Aprilia Racing Team’s RSV4 Factory model, survived a busy race to climb to fifth at the finish, enough to clinch the 2012 World Superbike crown – by just half a point!
For much of the race, Sykes was pressured up front by the trio of Pata Ducati’s Sylvain Guintoli, Biaggi team-mate Eugene Laverty and Honda’s Jonathan Rea. Rea made a late race charge, moving past opening race winner Guintoli for second, and then pushing leader Sykes.
The drying but still damp 4.411 km track made for slippery conditions that caught several riders out. Ten Kate backed CBR1000RR pilot Rea wound up 1.3 seconds behind the winner, and more than two seconds ahead of Guintoli.
Laverty faded to fourth, and was all alone, reading his pit board, and no doubt wondering if he would need to slow to assist Biaggi. However the “Roman Emperor” worked his way through the pack to get fifth, enough to ensure his second career Superbike World Championship.
In the final standings, Sykes wound up with 357.5 points, while Biaggi won the crown with a total of 358. Two shortened races that offered half points, Monza and Silverstone, turned out to be crucial in the title chase.
Over the course of the season, problem-plagued Sykes lead a total of 204 race laps, Biaggi way back with a 69 lap score, tied with Carlos Checa for second best.
Mid-season series leader Marco Melandri earned a solid second place in the wet opener, and had an outside shot at the title. However factory BMW S1000RR rider Melandri suffered a spectacular fall on lap 6, and was lucky not to get hit by the next machine in, the tumbling Kawasaki of Loris Baz. Both riders were slow to get up, but exited trackside under their own power.
Melandri still netted third in the final standings with 328.5 points, the best result so far for an S1000RR rider during the four year old BMW SBK program.
Laverty wound up fourth, and might have been able to challenge for the win if he wasn’t concerned about Biaggi’s progress. Laverty was less than a second ahead of Biaggi at the finish.
After several small errors, Biaggi was running down in seventh mid-race, and looked to be in title trouble. But the long time Aprilia racer picked up the pace, and fought past the Ducati duo of Althea team-mates Carlos Checa and Davide Giugliano.
Giugliano edged Checa in the fight to the flag for sixth, outgoing SBK World Champion Checa forced to settle for seventh. This meant there were three Ducati 1098R based racers in the top seven, not bad for a long-running machine in its final SBK appearance. Next year, the successful twin will no longer be homologated for World Championship completion, replaced by the radical new Panigale Desmo twin.
Shaking off a rough weekend, rookie star Chaz Davies netted a solid but solitary eighth on the privateer ParkinGO MTC Aprilia. Next season, Davies will join the reconfigured works BMW squad as team-mate to Melandri, the effort now based in Italy rather than Germany. Insiders expect several more Aprilia equipped teams to join the tour in 2013.
An early race off-track trip pushed Ayrton Badovini all the way down to 17th at the end of the first lap, but the BMW Motorrad Goldbet Italia rider worked steadily through the pack to net ninth.
After a promising start to the weekend, Leon Camier struggled through to tenth on the FIXI Crescent Suzuki GSX-R1000, just holding off the charging Red Devil’s Roma Ducati entry of substitute rider Maxime Berger.
The 2013 eni Superbike World Championship opens up at Phillip Island in Australia on February 24.