BMW Motorrad GoldBet’s Marco Melandri scored his second World Superbike win of the 2013 season in Race 1 at Portimao, but ran into some issues with his bike in Race 2 and was unable to keep within the top-10. Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes was strong in Race 1 as well, but then disaster struck in the second contest when a high-side crash on the warm up lap left his team scrambling to have the bike ready for competition. Aprilia duo Eugene Laverty and Sylvain Guintoli took full advantage of the British rider’s absence and Melandri’s misfortune, notching the first and second steps on the podium.
Melandri barely edged out Guintoli for the Race 1 win, coming across the line 0.007 seconds quicker than the championship points leader. Sykes rounded out the podium in third.
Sykes ran out front from pole position, maintaining the lead through the opening laps while Laverty and Melandri slipped into second and third respectively. Laverty remained right on Melandri’s rear tire until the third lap where he made a pass into second-place. The Irish rider continued his charge three laps later, nipping Sykes for the lead. The Kawasaki ace remained in second-place, however, and answered back a few laps later to assume the front for a brief period. Laverty dropped to third behind Melandri for one more lap, but then was forced to pull off track with a mechanical issue, leaving the Aprilia rider with a DNF for the race.
Melandri pushed ahead and got past Sykes after Laverty dropped out of competition and held there until the latter portion of the race. Sykes answered back on Lap 17 and then went wide entering a turn, forcing Melandri to go wide too and run off track for a moment. It was enough to allow Guintoli to slip into second-place. The three riders remained close and traded position a number of times in the final laps, with Melandri and Guintoli both getting past Sykes on Lap 19. Guintoli led for all but the final lap when Melandri found his way to the front entering the first turn. A few corners later Guintoli answered back, but then ran wide himself allowing Melandri to move past once again. Guintoli cut the slight gap that emerged after his mistake and was right on top of the BMW ace as they came down the final straight, but he came up achingly short of the win and ended the race in second-place down by one of the slimmest margins in World Superbike history.
"To win in Race 1 was not easy because at the beginning I was struggling a lot with the traction but after ten laps this improved and it was easier for me so I got closer to the front again," said Melandri. "When I was leading, it was very difficult, because it was very windy so it was hard to stay in front. When Tom passed me, he closed the line. Maybe he thought he was in front of me but he just pushed me out of the track. When I came back, I did not have any plan so I just pushed as much as I could. I tried to overtake Tom very quickly because Sylvain was very fast and tried to pull away. When I caught Guintoli I took the opportunity to pass him. The last lap is very difficult to explain, it was just very close and I pushed as much as I could. I am so happy and thank you to everyone at BMW."
FIXI Crescent Suzuki’s Leon Camier scored fourth-place, followed by Sykes’ teammate, Loris Baz, in fifth. Melandri’s teammate, Chaz Davies, finished in sixth and Red Devils Roma’s Michel Fabrizio took seventh.
Besides Laverty, a number of riders were forced to pull out of competition. First was Althea Racing’s Davide Giugliano who crashed early in the race and then retired, and next was Team Pedercini’s Alexander Lundh, who also went down. Pata Honda’s Jonathan Rea, one of the most successful riders at the Portuguese circuit, was forced out of competition with mechanical problems on Lap 9 and his teammate, Leon Haslam, also pulled out. Haslam continues to recover from a broken leg sustained earlier in the season and he opted to sit out of Race 2 entirely.
World Superbike Portimao Race 1 Results 2013:
Portimao podium with Marco Melandri (center) in first, Sylvain Guintoli (left) in second and Tom Sykes (right) in third.
1. Marco Melandri (BMW)
2. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia)
3. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki)
4. Leon Camier (Suzuki)
5. Loris Baz (Kawasaki)
6. Chaz Davies (BMW)
7. Michel Fabrizio (Aprilia)
8. Jules Cluzel (Suzuki)
9. Carlos Checa (Ducati)
10. Federico Sandi (Kawasaki)
11. Vittorio Iannuzzo (BMW)
12. Ivan Clementi (BMW)
13. Max Neukirchner (Ducati)
Race 2 started with Sykes sustaining a big crash in the warm-up lap, and he was frantic in trying to get the bike restarted and back to the garage in time to make the start. His windscreen broken and with some debris hanging from his helmet, the Kawasaki rider finally made it back to the garage and his crew promptly set about reworking the front end of his bike. They worked down to the final allowable seconds before Sykes remounted for his start from pit lane and made it one lap before returning to the garage for additional work.
"In Race 2 the fall was my fault because in Turn 1 on my out lap I ran over the kerbstone on the inside," said Sykes. "The piece of kerbstone looked quite flat but in the last moment I realised it was a big high kerb and it chucked me over the front of the bike. The bike flipped, landed on me and it was a big crash. It hurt my right leg and gave me a headache."
On track, Laverty was looking for redemption after his disappointing result in Race 1 and he quickly moved to the head of the pack, remaining there to the checkers. Rea was a fierce challenger from second in the first half of the race, but he lost sight of Laverty as the race wore on and eventually slipped back into a battle with Guintoli for the runner-up spot. Guintoli made his move past Rea with four laps remaining to finish in second while Rea made the podium in third.
"I was really trying hard for this win and I'm pleased to have been able to do it dominating from the first to last lap," said Laverty after Race 2. "I'm in the running for the Championship even with a few too many races with no points, but we are growing race by race and I'm confident about the upcoming rounds.”
Early in the race it was Melandri in third, looking strong and battling for a second podium finish on the day. Excessive rear tire wear began to slow the Italian rider as competitors ticked off laps, and through the latter half of the contest one racer after the other passed Melandri until he settled in 12th, where he’d finish.
"I could certainly have been on the podium but instead the rear tire began to vibrate from lap two onwards," explained Melandri. "From lap three I started losing grip and then the tyre deteriorated. As a consequence the whole bike started to vibrate and it was difficult to ride. I did the best I could do in that situation."
Sykes, meanwhile, had reentered competition over seven laps behind, hoping to salvage points if possible. The fire was definitely lit under Sykes and he posted a new lap record for the circuit.
Baz earned fourth-place and was followed by Davies in fifth. Team Ducati Alstare’s Carlos Checa finished in sixth and Camier’s teammate, Jules Cluzel, ended in seventh. Camier was forced to pull out of competition with a mechanical issue.
Guintoli has stretched out the points lead to 28 over Sykes. Laverty remains in third overall but has closed in on Sykes and now sits 11 points adrift of second-place. Melandri remains fourth and Davies sits fifth.
World Superbike Portimao Race 2 Results 2013:
Portimao Race 2 podium with Eugene Laverty (center) in first, Sylvain Guintoli (left) in second and Jonathan Rea (right) in third.
1. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia)
2. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia)
3. Jonathan Rea (Honda)
4. Loris Baz (Kawasaki)
5. Chaz Davies (BMW)
6. Carlos Checa (Ducati)
7. Jules Cluzel (Suzuki)
8. Ayrton Badovini (Ducati)
9. Davide Giugliano (Aprilia)
10. Michel Fabrizio (Aprilia)
11. Max Neukirchner (Ducati)
12. Marco Melandri (BMW)
13. Federico Sandi (Kawasaki)
14. Alexander Lundh (Kawasaki)
15. Vittorio Iannuzzo (BMW)
16. Ivan Clementi (BMW)
World Superbike Championship Points 2013:
1. Sylvain Guintoli, 213
2. Tom Sykes, 185
3. Eugene Laverty, 174
4. Marco Melandri, 156
5. Chaz Davies, 133
6. Loris Baz, 119
7. Jonathan Rea, 105
8. Michel Fabrizio, 101
9. Davide Giugliano, 79
10. Jules Cluzel, 72