The World Superbike Championship returned this weekend after its winter break for the opening round at Phillip Island, Australia. It was a positive weekend for SHARK-men with points, podiums and lap records collected.
Sylvain Guintoli got his season off to a flying start finishing race one in third place and winning the second race, which was shorted to just 14 laps after an oil leak brought out the red flag. Guintoli now has the championship lead with 41 points (10 points ahead of the second placed rider).
Regining SBK champion Tom Sykes experienced grip issues during race one and finished in seventh place. For race two, changes to his set-up allowed him to fight back taking a strong third place. Sykes is sixth in the overall championship.
Sykes’s teammate Loris Baz had a fantastic start to the season finishing race one in fifth place and after some set-up changes he finished race two in second place, just 0.238 seconds from the winner Guintoli. Baz is just 10 points behind Guintoli in the overall standings.
Meanwhile making his debut with the Voltcom Suzuki team, Alex Lowes (2013 British Superbike Champion) impressed the field recording the fastest time in Saturday’s practice and securing his place in the final Superpole. Suffering a dislocated ankle, after a heavy crash just 25-minutes in, Lowes dug deep to continue the day’s events, setting the fourth fastest time in the final free practice. Unfortunately on race day Lowes suffered a crash in race one, but despite his injury he battled on in race two and made his way from 21st into the top 10 in just five laps, finishing overall in the top 13.
The 2014 World Superbike Championship will continue from Aragon, Spain on 11-13 April.
In race one maybe I had a little too much faith. I started off strong and toward the end I lost the right feeling with my rear tyre. The conditions were much different than they had been over the last few days but we did a good job anyway. In the second race I tried to look after my tyre and it worked. If I think about everything that happened during the winter I can’t help but be pleased with our weekend. I’m finally back on the top step of the podium. I want to thank the guys who looked after me during my recovery. I’m pretty tired now but I’ll have a month to recover before the next round.
We had some issues in race one but in the second race we changed the set-up. I really do have to say a big thanks to the team. I have a real good set of guys working for me and their knowledge is incredible. We went back to some basics and it was so nice. Although Sylvain rode well to win the race I felt race two would have been our race, but unfortunately it was cut short.
We changed just a little thing on the bike for race two and then opted for a new front tyre. So to score second place and then leave here second in the world championship is really good. In race one I was really happy with a top five and it felt like a podium. When I crashed again on Friday I really did not think I could make it this week but it worked out well on race day.
I’m frustrated. I tried really hard and don’t have a lot to show for it really. The first race crash, and in the second race the run on, on the first lap and then the crash later was all because I was struggling to change gear with my foot. I had a numbing injection, lost a bit of feeling and I couldn’t change gear so it was hard work! I was riding through the pain, so to just get three points has upset me a bit because we had such good pace all through the test. I’ve never been here before and we were still looking like we could run at the front and challenge for a podium so I’m really disappointed, but I’m going to come back fitter and stronger and we should be ok for Aragon.