Max Biaggi secured the 2012 World Superbike title at Magny-Cours, just half a point ahead of Tom Sykes.
Aprilia Racing’s Max Biaggi is the 2012 eni FIM World Superbike champion. The Corsair barely made it though, holding just half a point over Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes in the final tally. Race 1 was an utter disaster for Biaggi, though in Race 2 he was able to hold to fifth, giving him just enough to claim the title over Sykes, who went 3-1 on the day. BMW Motorrad’s Marco Melandri finished the season third overall.
As was feared by riders earlier in the weekend, Sunday’s races were declared wet after the weather took a turn for the worse at Magny-Cours. PATA Racing’s Sylvain Guintoli turned the challenge to his favor though, getting to the front with eight laps remaining and building a gap of over six seconds on second place finisher Melandri. Sykes held to third, but trailed the Ducati rider by 16.5 seconds at the checkers.
Sykes came off the start from pole and led the opening four laps until bested by Honda’s Jonathan Rea. The two remained close and Sykes was able to regain the lead on Lap 13 when Rea crashed, though by then Melandri and Guintoli had both cut through the field to contend at the head of the pack. The BMW rider came through Lap 1 in 10th, but was able to make a steady climb and had reached third by Lap 12. Guintoli didn’t have as much ground to make up as Melandri, coming through Lap 1 in sixth, but by Lap 15 he’d assumed second and was on his way to the front.
Race 1 podium with Sylvain Guintoli (center) in first, Marco Melandri (left) in second and Tom Sykes (right) in third.
Owing to the conditions, a number of riders went down during the contest, including eventual title winner Biaggi. On Lap 2, the Aprilia rider washed out and was forced to retire from the race. Later, Althea Racing’s Carlos Checa crashed out, as did FIXI Crescent Suzuki’s Leon Camier and Rea, though Rea was able to rejoin and finish the contest, albeit in 13th. ParkinGO MTC Racing’s Chaz Davies, Guintoli’s teammate Lorenzo Zanetti and Honda’s Hiroshi Aoyama all were forced to retire as well after going down.
Red Devils Roma’s Maxime Berger finished Race 1 in fourth, followed by Melandri’s teammate Leon Haslam in fifth and BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet’s Ayrton Badovini in sixth. Aprilia rider Eugene Laverty took seventh, followed by Althea Racing’s Davide Giugliano in eighth and Team Pedercini’s Claudio Corti in ninth. Giugliano had a few near misses during the contest, running into the gravel twice, but he was able to remain upright and avoid crashing.
World Superbike Magny-Cours Race 1 Results 2012:
1. Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati)
2. Marco Melandri (BMW)
3. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki)
4. Maxime Berger (Ducati)
5. Leon Haslam (BMW)
6. Ayrton Badovini (BMW)
7. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia)
8. Davide Giugliano (Ducati)
9. Claudio Corti (Kawasaki)
10. Loris Baz (Kawasaki)
11. Norino Brignola (BMW)
12. Michel Fabrizio (BMW)
13. Jonathan Rea (Honda)
Max Biaggi taking a celebratory lap after Race 2 at Magny-Cours, where he won the 2012 WorldSBK Championship.
Sykes returned in Race 2 and gave everything he had, getting to the front early and leading every lap of the contest to take the top step on the podium. He was followed by Rea in second and Guintoli in third.
“We were on pole, took a new circuit record, got a podium and then a win and pulled back 30 points on Max Biaggi,” said Sykes. “Not easy against a rider of his level. Yes, obviously there is a massive disappointment on one hand because we were only half a point from the world championship! But on the other hand, being realistic, we are very happy and we have – by far – overachieved on expectations this year.”
After Race 1 the British rider trailed Biaggi by 14.5 points, meaning that even if Sykes scored the win Biaggi could finish fifth or better and still claim the championship. Early in the contest it seemed as if Biaggi might not be able to pull it off after a bad start left him in 10th through the opening laps. He fought his way past the field though and by Lap 15 had advanced to fifth, where he held steady to the checkers.
Biaggi’s teammate, Laverty, held to fourth and Giugliano trailed the Corsair in sixth. Checa ended the contest in seventh followed by Davies in eighth. Badovini and Camier took ninth and 10th respectively.
Melandri persevered into Race 2 despite riding with injuries lingering from the previous round at Portimao, holding sixth through the opening five laps. Then he ran into trouble, losing control of his rear tire and crashing out. Soon after, Haslam ran off into the gravel, though he was able to remain in competition. Near the end of the contest the BMW rider faced more difficulty, crashing out in Turn 13. Sykes’s teammate Loris Baz and BMW Motorrad Italia GoldBet’s Michel Fabrizio also crashed out of Race 2.
“The track conditions were very difficult in Race 2,” said Melandri. “I pushed 100% but I could not change direction quickly. When I crashed I must have hit a wet patch, and I lost the rear of my RR. My back and my leg are very sore now. Overall, this was a great season for us. We can be proud of what we have achieved. When we started the season we were quite far from the top guys. We closed the gap quickly and fought with them for the rest of the season. We won races, but we also had some bad luck and I made mistakes. Everything was possible this year, and we can be happy. I hope to start from that point next year. A big ‘Thank You’ to all the team in Germany and at the track.”
It was a spectacular end to a dramatic season, with Biaggi taking the second World Superbike title of his career. Though achingly close to the title, Sykes still earned the best overall result of his Superbike career in second.
“This is the fourth world championship out of six that I’ve won in the last race,” said Biaggi. “I guess I must like a difficult challenge! The 2012 season was tight to say the least: we started off well winning at Phillip Island after completely revamping my team, but we also had some difficult moments. We definitely worked for the title and maybe that’s why it’s an even sweeter victory. I’d like to thank the Team, Aprilia and Piaggio Group, from president Colaninno to the last worker because my success is just the tip of a great Italian company’s work. I would also like to thank my family, my girlfriend Eleonora and my two children, as well as the always present Marino Laghi.”
World Superbike Magny-Cours Race 2 Results 2012:
1. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki)
2. Jonathan Rea (Honda)
3. Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati)
4. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia)
5. Max Biaggi (Aprilia)
6. Davide Giugliano (Ducati)
7. Carlos Checa (Ducati)
8. Chaz Davies (Aprilia)
9. Ayrton Badovini (BMW)
10. Leon Camier (Suzuki)
11. Maxime Berger (Ducati)
12. Claudio Corti (Kawasaki)
13. Lorenzo Zanetti (Ducati)
14. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda)
15. Norino Brignola (BMW)
World Superbike Championship Points 2012:
1. Max Biaggi, 358
2. Tom Sykes, 357.5
3. Marco Melandri, 328.5
4. Carlos Checa, 287.5
5. Jonathan Rea, 278.5
6. Eugene Laverty, 263.5
7. Sylvain Guintoli, 213.5
8. Leon Haslam, 200
9. Chaz Davies, 164.5
10. Davide Giugliano, 143