2014 Misano World Superbike Sunday Roundup: Favourites Rise At The Halfway Mark
World Superbike at Misano, the seventh round of thirteen, offered a chance for Ducati to finally get a win on the Panigale, and a fairy tale result in Italy would round out the excellent work they did in qualifying.
Unfortunately, it was not to be. Davide Giugliano had a poor start in the first race, and he claimed a bad choice of tyre held him back, while Chaz Davies finished in fourth, four places better than he qualified. Race two was even worse as Giugliano jumped the start before setting the fastest lap of the race on the second lap and settling into what looked like winning potential before the race collapsed around him as he had to take a ride-through, ending his hopes and those of Ducati.
It was left, therefore, to Aprilia to get an Italian victory, and both Marco Melandri and Sylvain Guintoli looked like they had both the pace and the bike to win. Melandri finally has confidence in the front of his bike and Guintoli qualified on the front row. None of this mattered as, no matter how well Melandri rode, for a brace of third places, Tom Sykes and Loris Baz were unbeatable. Melandri confirmed that the speed of the Kawasakis surprised them and Loris Baz once again showed that when Tom Sykes turns on the metronome in his head, Baz is the only man who can keep up with him.
This does not bode well for anyone not on a green bike. Tom Sykes, carrying a serious wrist injury, was able to maintain a punishing lap-record pace in race one and, even though he was gifted the lead, in race two he managed to compensate for his injury and manage the race from the front. Loris Baz said he rode his best race in race two, holding off Marco Melandri, and even at his best pace, on equal machinery to Sykes, he could not catch him.
Tom Sykes may have made the race boring, if you concentrate only on the lead bike, but he has developed that bike with Kawasaki and it is suited to his style, changing from a tyre-eating saturday-only monster to a championship-winning package. When the track suits either his bike or his style, and when there's a tyre he can budget out over a race, he makes it look easy. A tenth or two a lap, every one treated like a qualifying lap on limited rubber, like boiling a frog one degree, one lap, at a time.
Both Honda and Suzuki struggled, a familiar tale. Eugene Laverty snapped something in his injured foot, pressing on a foot peg in race one, and, after five laps of pain, he found a position he could ride in without too much pain, and finished in ninth place before getting filled with pain killers for race two. Jonathan Rea, back to struggling mid-pack couldn't do better than fifth all day, with the track just not letting him get a setting that wouldn't punish him for having a slow bike. Alex Lowes and Leon Haslam both had a crash a piece, although Haslam's allowed him to recover for twelfth place.
In World Supersport, Kawasaki aren't having as much fun, as Kenan Sofuoglu's title chase looks all but finished. With only twelve rounds, Laguna Seca being the one they miss, five remain for the smaller bikes, and Sofuoglu is in sixth place, sixty-eight points behind Michael van der Mark who is three times a winner so far this year. Jules Cluzel in second place, with two wins including today's, is the only man who looks like he is in with a chance of beating Van der Mark.
Half way through the year, favourites have risen to the top, but this is racing and anything can happen, but in the words of Tom Sykes, for the Kawasaki team, it's “happy days”.