2014 Sepang World Superbike Sunday Roundup: Of Teammates And Rifts

The Sepang World Superbike races brought teammates to the fore today. All of the top teams have two-riders that need to get along and compete at the same time. Under the tropical sun, some of the partnerships may have changed beyond repair.

Tom Sykes has had nothing but positive comments to say about his teammate Loris Baz, but in the press conference podium after race two today, the mask slipped and he said "Loris proved a lot of people right at my expense". In race one, Baz ran into the back of Sykes on turn two, and to many observers, Baz has been due a crash for a while, but turn two looked like the result of diminishing gaps, one ahead of Sykes and one ahead of Baz. Either one on its own would be business as usual, but the two compounded into a nasty crash as Sykes slowed down faster than Baz was expecting to avoid crashing into the back of Toni Elias, but Baz couldn't return the compliment as he was already deep into the turn.

Whether the fault was with Baz or not doesn't matter as much as whether Sykes believes Baz was at fault, and it seems that he does. After the close racing between the Kawasakis at Donington, the morning's incident could well be an unhealable rift in the green garage. Sykes hurt his wrist in the crash and took a harsh punch to his championship lead, and countries have been plunged into civil war for lesser slights.

Aprilia has been Sylvain Guintoli's team all year, with him having been there a year before Marco Melandri signed, and Guintoli has two wins and a decent chance at the title. Guintoli adapted to Max Biaggi's bike while Melandri tried to get the bike to work like his previous bikes. Melandri has been playing second fiddle, unable to get the Aprilia to turn as tightly as he needs to go faster, but today, that changed. With the confidence to turn as tight as he wanted, even if he still needed a few of his trademark lunges to overtake, and the power of the bike out of corners, Melandri turned a weekend of rumours of his impending termination into a double victory, flat out beating his teammate on identical machinery. Much like the Sykes/Baz incident, it's too soon to say if this will have any impact on the team dynamics, but a confident Melandri is a welcome sight.

Ducati has Chaz Davies and Davide Giugliano, with Giugliano constantly looking like the rider most likely to take the Panigale's maiden win while Davies is the rider actually putting it on the podium twice. Giugliano is thirty four points behind sixth placed Davies and probably costs them more in replacement carbon fibre, but both racers are waiting for the right combination of factors for that elusive first win. Until that happens, both riders can consider themselves the number one rider.

Eugene Laverty is the more experienced rider in the Suzuki team, and the most likely to step from the Superbike to a GP bike. Alex Lowes is a class rookie and unlikely to try to usurp his teammate. As part of the Baz incident this morning, his afternoon's race was hampered by injury, but Lowes is tough and watching Laverty grab a podium in the first race with a broken foot, from his Donington crash, likely encouraged him to ride in race two.

Another tough rider, Leon Haslam has not been the same since he broke his leg last year, and a bike like the old Fireblade isn't as forgiving as the faster bikes. Jonathan Rea wanted Haslam as a teammate to challenge him after the year with Hiroshi Aoyama's dismal performance as an albatross around the team's neck. Rea needs Haslam to be fighting fit as much as Haslam himself needs it.

In an ideal world, teammates help you go faster and give you a benchmark against which you can measure yourself, and all five teams have a brace of decent riders apiece, but if rifts start appearing, they may cause more trouble than not having a teammate at all.

In World Superport, the only rider with a teammate in with a shot at the title won again today. Michael van der Mark has had one DNF all year and nothing but second places or wins every other race, which is how you win titles. Be it a fast track or an agile track, Van der Mark seems to have the measure of it. If Honda are looking for a fast, eager teammate for Jonathan Rea next year, they don't need to look very far at all.

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I haven't been able to watch the WSBK races here in Aus (no public broadcast) but I'm surprised to hear that Hiroshi had such a bad season there and yet was still able to secure a GP ride afterwards.

People get punted off all the time - racing often means going right to the edge, and sometimes beyond. And as a result sometimes there are unintended consequences.

The only caveat is that the time for 100% moves is not in the first few corners, it's in the last few if you need to.
So Baz, a rider I quite like to watch, needs to do a bit of risk management.
The old adage from the late Sir Jack Brabham still holds true - "to finish first, first you must finish". (BTW, I note some sources attribute the quote to Rick Mears, but Sir Jack said it before Mears was out of short pants).

Baz ran it in too hot for how he was slicing across, towards the curb. It looked to me like he misjudged where and when some other riders would be/were.
I really like the guy, usually fun to watch him race. Maybe the hot humid weather got him all hyper-active or something,lol..
Good racing other than the first turn, first lap, first race.
Second Race, Claudio Corti's MV Agusta on fire was a sight!
If #33 Melandri rides like this the rest of the year, should be quite a show! :)

Good to have Melandri back up front. Even if I don't like him winning.

As an unapologetic Kawasaki fan (the 2008 ZX-10R was my first real love), I was praying that Melandri would... pull a Melandri and scupper Guintoli out on the last lap of race 2, letting Sykes & Baz take the top 2 spots. Alas it was not to be, despite Melandri's best efforts (heh).

Too bad about Sykes in race 1, but hey that's racing. Bonehead move by Baz: too hot, too tight.

I'm not sure what Sykes behind the scenes - but in front of the camera he's rarely had anything to say about Baz even when they have finished 1-2. Its like Baz doesn't exist or is not spoken about.

Baz is a racer and a race winner despite his faults. It may be worth looking for a different ride in 2015 especially if the Civil War continues.

Well, Baz has been getting faster and faster pushing the limits more and more. His excitement must have overwhelmed him in the beginning of the race. It was a bad mistake and it will have it's effect in the garage, but if you ask me it will just add to the racing. What is a race without tension? A study in technique and technology. Great for the deeply rooted fan, but horrible for those that cannot see that deeply. Rivalries are good for racing, Doohan/ Criville, Fogarty/ Slight, etc...

Howdy Whorida. Jared, enjoying your write ups my friend!
Champ leader gets knocked out by team mate = great interest for everyone. Baz is on a fast bike and shld be happy to stay put, for sure don't look elsewhere. Sykes point of view was that out of no where he was taken out from behind by a team mate = legit. Baz, closed in while getting closed in on and caught out, it happens and it is good to be a bit on the hungry side = legit. Us all studying video and thinking about what ought ot to have happened = also legit. Human nature inclined towards "either-or" dichotemy thinking and blame = not so enlightened. Oh how I love multiple perspective taking! :)

Nailed it on Van der Mark and HRC's next SBK ride, I am a fan. As I very much am of unsung giant of a rider Rea who, if the V4 overdog SBK project had manifested might be receiving comparisons to Marquez about now and stomping on the title.

Anyone else impressed w the relative parity of speed of the Ducati w much of the field? Is it Ducati's development of the bike, the current engine tune rules playing in their favor, or both? Good stuff.

Equally happy to see Suzuki back in the race. Eager to see Yamaha show up at the track again. These are good times for fans eh? Interesting ones. I expect that when the Michelin tires' character is seen in MotoGP, and is a softer construction w less grip than the Bstone, that some of these SBK riders will look like much better candidates to make the transition to the big show. Which ones?

You revealed my secret Identity!!! LOL! Joking. Thanks for the compliment. I like the equations you just put up. They are exactly what I was talking about. Still have not watched one 600 race yet this year, have not seen Van der Mark. But on the Ducati development, (being a die hard Ducati fan), they still seem down on top speed. Not as far as they were, but still down enough for most of the fours not to have to worry about them having an advantage. The new engine no longer has the down low torque that Ducatis were known for having giving a two bike advantage out of any corner. Now it is more down to the rider of the Ducati to make the biggest difference.

Have good one!

I'm not sure if race direction for WSBK and MotoGP talk to each other at all, but seeing as they're owned by the same mob now and Baz basically pulled a 'miller' into the corner then wouldn't he deserve 2 points?

In terms of out and out racing, WSBK is superior to MotoGP in regularly providing a good dice for the win.

However what WSBK doesn't have is the narrative to draw viewers in -previously it did with Foggy vs anyone else challenging him.

MotoGP also has a good story to it today, the young star who seemingly cannot be beaten, the legend, the perfectionist, the nearly-man and so on.

With this in mind I don't think that a bit of needle in the WSBK paddock is a bad thing, it has the racing we'd all like to see, it just lacks a bit of a story line to get the viewer engrossed. (I was hoping Sykes was going let Baz have both barrels [verbally] in Race 2 press conference...)

And in the UK the attendances seem to have plummeted since Toseland retired, he was popular, you could tell by all the shirts, hats and flags he sold. He was the only suprbiker to have his own sales stands.

Only 15,000 turned up for Donnington, British Superbikes does better than that, the other problem is that there is difficulty wildcarding from BSB as the bikes are now so different.

I think the sport also misses Biaggi and Checa.

It could do with some 'names' coming in from MotoGP, Hayden for a start.