Sykes & Laverty Spit WSBK Features
PORTIMAO, Portugal — Max Biaggi (Aprilia Racing Team) scored a single podium for third place in race two at the eni FIM Superbike World Championship round in Portugal Sunday, but two strong points scores saw him extend his overall lead as his other championship rivals found trouble.
Eugene Laverty (Aprilia Racing Team) won his first race of the 2012 season in the second outing today, which went to all 22-laps duration.
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) started well, as he won the first race in front of 51,000 weekend spectators, but he had to retire with an engine failure in the second race. With Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad Motorsport) injured in the aborted first race, the Italian scored no points today.
The final result from Portugal, with one round and two individual races to go in France in two weeks’ time, is that Biaggi has a total of 347 points, 30.5 more than Sykes, while Melandri is 38.5 points adrift of Biaggi.
Full wet conditions arrived on Sunday morning and they were to play a part in the race being halted because of an oil spill after a crash. A restarted race, over only 16 laps, was won by Sykes who scored his third win of the season and drew himself – temporarily – closer to championship leader Biaggi as a result. Max was fourth in the opening race after several incidents and changing fortunes as the race unfolded. Carlos Checa (Althea Racing Ducati) looked like he could pass Sykes at the end but was unable to in the final two laps, and he settled for second place. PATA Racing Ducati privateer rider Sylvain Guintoli scored himself another podium finish, in third place. A collision on lap one of the first start saw Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad Motorsport) crash after an attempted pass on Biaggi and he was taken to hospital for scans on a bruised kidney, missing out on any further Portimao action.
“I’ve got to start by thanking the team and Kawasaki, the boys made a big change in between the two parts and it was a different bike in the second rerun,” said Sykes. “I was so comfortable and much happier and was able to predict what the bike was doing. We got to the front and managed the tyres very well, racing with these guys was fantastic. It’s good for the championship but we’ll take it race by race.”
After a tense battle Laverty took his first victory of the season, and his first on an Aprilia machine, as he held off the impressive late charge of Jonathan Rea (Honda World Superbike Team) by only 0.162 seconds. Eugene became the ninth rider in 2012 to win a race. Laverty had been a clear leader but in the final laps Rea put in a real charge at the undulating Portuguese circuit. Over three seconds behind the race winner, Biaggi was third and now carries a more than useful lead into the final round in France. His new main championship rival Sykes no scored.
“I rode hard at the beginning to get a gap but Jonathan pushed me hard towards the end,” said Laverty. “The grip wasn’t there, which was evident in the lap time, but I just kept going towards the end. I managed to hang on. The win has been so long coming, the last time was Monza and of course this is the first for Aprilia, I’m ecstatic about it.”