World Superbike at Laguna Seca was always going to be unusual, with a race on Saturday and the other a day later on Sunday. How unusual exactly was not expected. The bikes were finally wheeled into scrutineering over two hours after they were first put out on the grid.
The 26-lap race started with Sylvain Guintoli getting the hole shot, heading into the Andretti hairpin first, with Tom Sykes and the BMW pairing of Marco Melandri and Chaz Davies behind him. As the laps were ticked off, Davies looked like the only rider able to cleanly pass anyone on a track with only one line, passing Melandri, then Sykes, only to have Sykes pass him again. Six laps in, Danny Eslick crashed out, hitting an air fence and walking away unhurt.
Unfortunately, the air fence didn’t survive as well as Eslick, with heated bike metal, melting a hole in it, reducing its ability to absorb impact. As the track was no longer safe, the red flags came out.
The 20-lap race started, again, with Sylvain Guintoli getting the hole shot, followed by Sykes, Melandri, Eugene Laverty and Davies in what looked like a carbon copy of the first start. The front six riders once again, with Davide Giugliano at the back of the pack, broke away, with Chaz Davies demonstrating again that he was the only rider with passing lines. As Marco Melandri had a tank slapper at the bottom of the corkscrew, Davies was able to pass him, and start to chase down Guintoli and Sykes, who were gifted a gap thanks to the fighting behind them.
Then, Niccolo Canepa, the surprise rider of the weekend, had a crash, followed by Leon Haslam then Roger Lee Hayden. The red flags came out again. Canepa and Hayden walked away, but Haslam limped off and went to the medical centre.
The 12-lap race started, again, with Sylvain Guintoli getting less of a good start, allowing Tom Sykes to have a go past him, but it failed and set them both of the line, inviting Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri, men who don’t need need much of an invitation at the best of times, to take the lead. Davies led the race and looked like he could lead the race comfortably, but he was unable to break away to gap the riders behind him.
As the same six riders from the first two race starts set off as a pack, Tom Sykes setting the fastest lap with a 1’23.803, Sylvain Guintoli tried a pass on Marco Melandri at the end of lap three, into the last corner, but Melandri just ignored him and hit the apex as usual, forcing Guintoli to scrub a lot of speed, allowing Sykes to pass him.
It looked for a while like nobody would be able to pass anyone without forcing mistakes, with Melandri trying to pass Davies on the outside of the run up to the hill crest before the photogenic corkscrew, but he couldn’t make it work. Then, at half race distance, Sykes pushed cleanly past Melandri and all bets were off.
Third-placed Sylvain Guintoli and fourth-placed Marco Melandri swapped places to and fro, giving Chaz Davies and Tom Sykes a bit of breathing space to try to develop a gap, but instead, Sykes used the gap to build a pass that took half a lap of planning, taking a slightly different line to give him drive at different places to the usual lap, and ended with a clean overtake. As Davies started to form a plan to pass, he was set upon by a resurgent Melandri and switched to a defensive tack. Behind the BMWs, the Aprilias were having a reorganisation of their own, with team orders definitely off the table. Eugene Laverty past Sylvain Guintoli and set his sights on Melandri in front while Melandri tried to pass Davies.
The last lap started with the BMWs fighting each other and the Aprilias doing the same, with Melandri passing Davies only to be passed back, all the time while Sykes made a run for the flag. As Melandri entered the corkscrew, Laverty took a different line. The line was reminiscent of Valentino Rossi or Marc Marquez, hitting the spot inside the kerb on 8b, the second corner and stealing third place. Guintoli, back in fifth place, was left to fend off Davide Giugliano as his rival Tom Sykes won the race and extended his title lead.
With the first two race starts showing that Sylvain Guintoli had an advantage, the third race was a blessing for Tom Sykes, tasting champagne after race one, thanks to the unusual schedule, for the first time in his career.
|1||66||T. SYKES||Kawasaki ZX-10R||1'23.803||255,8|
|2||19||C. DAVIES||BMW S1000 RR||1.253||1'23.852||251,6|
|3||58||E. LAVERTY||Aprilia RSV4 Factory||2.454||1'23.814||255,2|
|4||33||M. MELANDRI||BMW S1000 RR||2.650||1'23.819||251,0|
|5||50||S. GUINTOLI||Aprilia RSV4 Factory||3.430||1'23.829||255,2|
|6||34||D. GIUGLIANO||Aprilia RSV4 Factory||3.584||1'23.893||256,4|
|7||16||J. CLUZEL||Suzuki GSX-R1000||9.134||1'24.225||248,1|
|8||24||T. ELIAS||Aprilia RSV4 Factory||11.252||1'24.162||249,8|
|9||86||A. BADOVINI||Ducati 1199 Panigale R||14.140||1'24.334||248,7|
|10||8||M. AITCHISON||Kawasaki ZX-10R||17.830||1'25.008||244,1|
|11||44||D. SALOM||Kawasaki ZX-10R||18.010||1'25.052||245,2|
|12||79||B. YOUNG||Suzuki GSX-R1000||21.767||1'25.269||246,9|
|13||84||M. FABRIZIO||Honda CBR1000RR||22.087||1'25.291||244,7|
|14||23||F. SANDI||Kawasaki ZX-10R||32.837||1'25.947||239,7|
|15||31||V. IANNUZZO||BMW S1000 RR||34.267||1'26.676||242,4|
|16||14||G. ALLERTON||BMW S1000 RR||50.167||1'27.748||236,5|