Changeable weather played a big role in the 8th WSBK round’s race day at Portimao’s Autodromo Internacional do Algarve.
This year’s Portuguese races were held in opposite track conditions and saw different podium finishers in the two encounters.
Reigning champion Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) won a dry Race 1 ahead of Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team) and teammate Loris Baz, whilst in Race 2 Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike) was victorious under wet conditions, with the Ducati Superbike Team duo Davide Giugliano and Chaz Davies completing the top-3.
The main turn of events of the day took place in the second encounter, when Marco Melandri and Sylvain Guintoli collided and crashed on lap 13 following an overtaking attempt by the Frenchman on the Italian rider. Guintoli was able to rejoin the race, eventually finishing in 7th position, whilst Melandri’s charge to the top drew to a close on the run off area of the track.
Sykes, who was 8th at the finish line in Race 2, took advantage by this situation and now leads the title race by 43 points over Guintoli, as the series heads to Laguna Seca for the second back to back round before the summer break.
At the start it was Pata Honda’s Jonathan Rea that took the holeshot, leading for the opening three laps before Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) and Marco Melandri (Aprilia Racing Team) overtook him into turn one at the start of lap four.
By half distance the constant swapping of positions had allowed reigning champion Sykes to stretch his lead to 3 seconds, before seconds later the white flag was waved to indicate that rain was beginning to fall.
Behind the leader five riders that included Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team), Chaz Davies (Ducati Superbike Team), and Sylvain Guintoli, Leon Haslam on the second of the Pata Honda’s slowly began to close the gap, giving the fans a six rider group battling for the podium places.
Leon Haslam took out Chaz Davies after losing the front end of his Pata Honda, both riders able to remount with Davies later retiring. Haslam eventually finished 11th.
At the front Sylvain Guintoli had elevated himself to 2nd and began to quickly reduce the gap to Sykes before he responded to retain a lead of 2 seconds until the flag.
Guintoli made his return to the podium in 2nd ahead of compatriot Baz with Marco Melandri 4th.
Jonathan Rea faded to a lonely 5th ahead of Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) who passed Ducati’s Davide Giugliano and his team mate Eugene Laverty on the final lap to finish 6th.
Sylvain Barrier (BMW Motorrad Italia) and David Salom (Kawasaki Racing Team) were never more than 0.1s apart for the entire race with Salom eventually coming out on top by 0.014s on the line to claim the EVO honours.
Toni Elias (Red Devils Roma Aprilia) crashed out after improving from his lowly grid position whilst Fabien Foret (Mahi Racing Team India Kawasaki), Geoff May (Team Hero EBR), both Grillini Kawasaki riders Bryan Staring and Sheridan Morais, Peter Sebestyen (Team Toth BMW) and Chaz Davies all retired.
The second race of the day at Portimao was held in tricky conditions as the rain which began during the Supersport race continued to fall at the Portuguese circuit.
Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike Team) romped home after a reduced race distance of 18 laps as the winner after Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team) and his team mate Marco Melandri collided at turn five in the closing stages. Guintoli was able to remount eventually finishing 7th.
Behind Rea, Davide Giugliano (Ducati Superbike Team) was a lonely 2nd with Chaz Davies (Ducati Superbike Team) snatching the final podium spot from Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) and Leon Haslam (Pata Honda World Superbike Team) after an enthralling final few laps in which 3rd position changed several times.
Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team) finished sixth.
Race one winner Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) finished race two a lowly 8th after dropping back through the pack. He was passed on the penultimate lap by the recovering Guintoli who salvaged 7th at the flag.
In the EVO battle the honours in race 2 went to Sylvain Barrier (BMW Motorrad Italia), the Frenchman finishing 11th overall.
Tom Sykes: “I had a poor start in race one and it is a long race round here, long enough race to make some corrections. I am happy because we had a good gap then the rain started to come. I didn’t want to do anything stupid and it was very difficult to calculate the levels of grip because in some parts of the circuit it was raining more heavily than in others. Luckily the cloud disappeared with a good amount of laps left, to go so I could take an advantage again. In the wet of race two we had some issues but I cannot be disappointed because we have shown great potential. There was too much for me to lose today. Some other riders made mistakes and so I extended my championship lead.”
Jonathan Rea: “I was really disappointed after race one because we had good pace in warm-up this morning. When I heard the rain coming on my motorhome roof I knew that it was a chance for me. I tried to do my own race from the front in but I the Aprilias had better pace at the middle point of the race. The track had started to dry out a bit and we were really suffering with corner exit but, although the conditions were a great leveller for all riders, it’s nice to take a win. I’d prefer to take it in the dry and we can’t get too excited because it’s a wet win; but we’ll take them any way we can and it’s 25 points not just for me but for the whole team.”