Suzuki’s Eugene Laverty (pictured above) and Aprilia’s Sylvain Guintoli have proven that history repeats itself in today’s round one of the 2014 Superbike World Championship at Australia’s Phillip Island.
Today, the duo shared race wins at the 4.445km grand prix circuit, just as they did in 2013 when they were team-mates in the factory Aprilia squad.
But in 2014 Laverty is now under the rejuvenated Suzuki awning, and the Northern Irishman prevailed in race one after a masterful performance fighting through the pack on his GSX-R1000. Race two saw Laverty’s engine blow up in spectacular fashion, with polesitter Guintoli taking a deserved victory on the back of a pre-season ruined by shoulder problems.
Guintoli also leaves Phillip Island as the holder of the best ever world superbike lap of Phillip Island (1:30.135), which he set in qualifying on his V-four RSV4 Factory machine.
“I was probably a little bit overconfident in race one and I burnt my tyres too early,” said Guintoli. “In race two I tried to be more composed and conservative and it paid off.
“After the nightmare this winter with the double surgery on my shoulder, it feels really good to be back on the podium — but I know it is going to be a tough fight all year long.
“I found a lot of pleasure riding the Aprilia around Phillip Island. It’s no secret this is my favourite track — and I love this place, so I am going to stay on for an extra few days before I go home.”
Guintoli will take a 10-point lead into round two of the championship at Aragon in Spain on April 13, with Kawasaki’s Loris Baz (31) second from Marco Melandri (Aprilia, 28), Davide Guigliano (Ducati, 26), Laverty (25), world champion Tom Sykes (25), Jonathan Rea (Honda, 21) and Chaz Davies (Ducati, 17).
Meanwhile, Australia’s Glenn Allerton (BMW) also picked up world championship points (six) after excellent 11-15 results deputising for injured Frenchman Sylvain Barrier on the Evo-spec machine.
Laverty sat in seventh place on lap one before beginning his quick-fire climb through the pack, finally hitting the lead on lap 17. From there he was in total control, going on to win by nearly three seconds. It was Suzuki’s first world superbike victory since 2010.
“That win meant everything to me,” said Laverty. “It had been 94 races since Suzuki won a world superbike race, and I told the guys I wouldn’t let that drought extend to 100. But I didn’t expect to get the win so soon. We got stronger at the end of the race, and hopefully we can join Aprilia and Kawasaki in the fight for the championship.
“I still had a smile on my face when the bike went up in smoke in race two, because if you had told me at the beginning of the weekend I was going to have a win I would have taken that.”
Melandri (Aprilia) and long-time leader Guintoli held court for the opening 16 laps of race one — flashed across the finish line in second and third respectively, while Guigliano faded to finish fourth after spending the majority of the race in the top three.
Baz finally got the better of a race-long scrap with Rea, while Sykes started his campaign in seventh. Davies was a lonely eighth in the 22-lapper, but did set a new lap record of 1:30.949 on lap two, eclipsing Laverty’s 1:31.168 in 2013.
Twice Australian superbike champion, Sydney’s Glenn Allerton was superb. He was involved in a ding-dong scrap for Evo class honours with David Salom (Kawasaki) and Niccolo Canepa (Ducati). The internationals eventually got the better of him, but the Australian still caused more than a few headaches in finishing 11th overall.
“I got a great start from 19th on the grid and I caught Canepa quite early on,” said Allerton. “But my thumb was sore from the accident in qualifying and I could not push as hard as I wanted.
“However, I was really happy to be in the battle though for the Evo honours and to work with such a professional team. I wish I could keep going with this outfit, to race in Europe, but it is all down to sponsorship.”
Casualties in race one included rookie Alex Lowes (Suzuki), Toni Elias (Aprilia) and Leon Haslam (Honda), who all crashed at high speed within the opening five laps.
Race two was dramatic. The battle was declared after 14 laps of the planned 22 when Laverty’s Suzuki blew up in a blaze of smoke exiting turn four on lap 15, leaving a trail of oil in his wake.
The red flag was immediately brought out, with results declared at the end of lap 14. Laverty, though, found himself pointless due to his role as the cause of the mayhem.
With Laverty removed from the results – he was running second when his Suzuki’s innards went into meltdown – the podium was completed by Baz and Sykes, who improved five spots from his race one result.
Guigliano was fourth, a couple of seconds clear of Rea, with Haslam sixth from Davies and Melandri, who ran off at turn four on lap eight.
The leading Evo rider was again David Salom in 10th position.
Lowes also struggled to find a rhythm in race two, running off twice at turn four in between periods of being the fastest rider on track.
Guintoli’s world superbike victory was the 24th for international riders at Phillip Island since 1990, while Aussies have won 23 – the first time the ledger has sided in favour of the visitors.
CLUZEL WINS WORLD SUPERSPORT OPENER
In the Supersport World Championship, Frenchman Jules Cluzel made the perfect return to the category, and brought back MV Agusta to international-winning form for the first time in 38 years!
With the race reduced to a five-lap sprint after the first attempt was red-flagged, Cluzel pulled away from a five-strong pack on the final lap to win by 0.224 seconds, with Briton Kev Coghlan (Yamaha) second from Italian Raffaele de Rosa (Honda), Frenchman Florian Marino (Kawasaki) and German Kevin Wahr (Yamaha).
It was the first world supersport victory for MV Agusta, and its first world championship success since Giacomo Agostini at the Nurburgring way back in 1976!
In 2014, Cluzel has returned to world supersport after a year in world superbike.
“It was a tough job, and to win is incredible for me and the team,” said Cluzel. “I was thinking that I could maybe make the top 10 or five after lots of mistakes over the past few days, but the team did a great job with the bike overnight and I am now smiling.”
It was a race of high drama, with hot favourite Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki), who led every practice and qualifying session all weekend, crashed out of the lead on lap two, while arch-rival Michael van der Mark (Honda) was another to fall.
It was a disappointing day for Australian hopes Billy McConnell (Triumph) and Bryan Staring (Honda), with the former crashing and Staring felled by a clutch problem while lying in eighth place.
The first attempt at the race lasted six laps before Irishman Jack Kennedy’s Honda exploded, leaving oil on parts of the circuit. American hopeful Patrick Jacobsen (Kawasaki) – team managed by Australia’s two-time world supersport champion Andrew Pitt – retired in part one after his engine ‘dropped’ valves in two cylinders.
World Superbike Results – Race 1
1. E. Laverty (Suzuki) 22 Laps/97.790 km in 12:34’20.711 average 7.778 kph
2. M. Melandri (Aprilia) 2.959
3. S. Guintoli (Aprilia) 3.034
4. D. Giugliano (Ducati) 6.972
5. L. Baz (Kawasaki) 11.132
6. J. Rea (Honda) 11.718
7. T. Sykes (Kawasaki) 15.612
8. C. Davies (Ducati) 25.724
9. D. Salom (Kawasaki) 37.407
10. N. Canepa (Ducati) 37.468
11. G. Allerton (BMW) 39.271
12. F. Foret (Kawasaki) 45.212
13. C. Corti (MV Agusta) 50.249
14. J. Guarnoni (Kawasaki) 1’17.134
15. S. Morais (Kawasaki) 1’23.686
16. I. Toth (BMW) 1’30.651
17. A. Yates (EBR) 1 Lap
RT. A. Andreozzi (Kawasaki
RT. L. Haslam (Honda)
RT. A. Lowes (Suzuki)
RT. T. Elias (Aprilia)
Fastest lap: C. Davies 1’30.949 average 175.945 kph
Pole position: S. Guintoli 1’30.038 average 177.725 kph
Results – Race 2
1. S. Guintoli (Aprilia) 14 Laps/62.230 km in 15:02’05.586 average 4.139 kph
2. L. Baz (Kawasaki) 0.283
3. T. Sykes (Kawasaki) 1.103
4. D. Giugliano (Ducati) 2.052
5. J. Rea (Honda) 4.951
6. L. Haslam (Honda) 5.673
7. C. Davies (Ducati) 9.664
8. M. Melandri (Aprilia) 10.574
9. T. Elias (Aprilia) 11.682
10. D. Salom (Kawasaki) 15.065
11. N. Canepa (Ducati) 16.294
12. F. Foret (Kawasaki) 16.919
13. A. Lowes (Suzuki) 19.694
14. S. Morais (Kawasaki) 27.266
15. G. Allerton (BMW) 27.845
16. J. Guarnoni (Kawasaki) 29.431
17. A. Andreozzi (Kawasaki) 36.393
18. C. Corti (MV Agusta) 37.018
19. i. Toth (BMW) 54.09
20. A. Yates (EBR) 1’13.385
RT. E. Laverty (Suzuki) 0.131
Fastest lap: S. Guintoli 1’31.421 average 175.036 kph
Pole position: S. Guintoli 1’30.038 average 177.725 kph
1. S. Guintoli 41
2. L. Baz 31
3. M. Melandri 28
4. D. Giugliano 26
5. E. Laverty 25
6. T. Sykes 25
7. J. Rea 21
8. C. Davies 17
9. D. Salom 13
10. N. Canepa 11
11. L. Haslam 10
12. F. Foret 8
13. T. Elias 7
14. G. Allerton 6
15. A. Lowes 3
16. C. Corti 3
17. S. Morais 3
18. J. Guarnoni 2
1. J. Cluzel (MV Agusta) 5 Laps/22.225 km in 14:08’54.503 average 1.571 kph
2. K. Coghlan (Yamaha) 0.224
3. R. De Rosa (Honda) 0.317
4. F. Marino (Kawasaki) 0.347
5. R. Tamburini (Kawasaki) 0.822
6. K. Wahr (Yamaha) 4.010
7. G. Gowland (Triumph) 5.282
8. R. Russo (Honda) 5.310
9. F. Menghi (Yamaha) 5.517
10. C. Gamarino (Kawasaki) 5.858
11. R. Rolfo (Kawasaki) 6.491
12. T. Coveña (Kawasaki) 7.873
13. N. Calero (Honda) 10.163
14. M. Bussolotti (Honda) 12.406
15. F. Rogers (Honda) 12.622
16. R.Taylor (Yamaha) 12.845
17. A. Ivanov (Yamaha) 12.892
RT. Wilairot (Honda)
RT. B. Staring (Honda)
RT. M. Vd Mark (Honda)
RT. K. Sofuoglu (Kawasaki)
RT. B. McConnell (Triumph)