Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes rode a masterful World Superbike race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca winning Saturday’s red-flag shortened 12-lap sprint ahead of BMW’s Chaz Davies and Aprilia’s Eugene Laverty.
Although it took three tries to go race distance due to two separate red flag incidents which collected American superbike riders Danny Eslick and Roger Lee Hayden, as well as English rider Leon Haslam, also deflating sections of air fence making for a potential hazards. The American riders appeared un-injured however Haslam was limping with obvious knee pain.
"I think the short race may have favored some of our competitors and the BMW guys were really fast out of the traps," told Sykes. "I was pushing to stay with those guys for a while but in the end it was a good race for us and it played out well for myself and the Ninja ZX-10R."
On the final restart it was the BMW crew able to pull 1-2 holeshots somehow from the second and third row. It was a bit of a surprise as polesitter, Sylvain Guintoli was quickest off the line during the two previous starts.
In third was Sykes followed by the two RSV4s of Guintoli and Laverty. The five riders proceeded to check out of the 16-rider field all lapping in the 1’23s. Frenchman, Guintoli wasted no time trying to get back into the front spot with a daring dive bomb maneuver past Melandri into the final turn. The two riders almost touched before Quintoli backed off allowing Melandri to retain the position but also letting Sykes past in the process.
Back at the front, Melandri pulls up alongside race leader Davies before the duo brake for the The Corkscrew. He is unable to make the pass and falls back inline. Although Sykes’ ZX-10R didn't get off the corners as well as the BMWs or Aprilias, the English rider was able to get a killer drive and hold the throttle open the longest into the final turn moving past Melandri on the brakes for second place.
Up the back straightaway Sykes was again on the move pulling alongside Davies but unable to draft past him. He tries again as the two accelerate out of Rainey Curve and is able to make the pass stick this time by the slimmest of margins.
With two laps to go the order is Sykes, Davies, Melandri with the two Aprilia RSV4s still in pursuit. Laverty dives past Melandri for third place with a lap to go and is able to hold to the podium spot. Fifth would go to Guintoli one spot ahead of Ducati’s Davide Giugliano. Wisconsin’s Blake Young finished in 12th position almost 22 second behind race winner Sykes.
World Superbike Laguna Seca Saturday Race 1 Results:
1. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki)
2. Chaz Davies (BMW)
3. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia)
4. Marco Melandri (BMW)
5. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia)
6. Davide Giugliano (Ducati)
7. Jules Cluzel (Suzuki)
8. Toni Elias (Aprilia)
9. Ayrton Badovini (Ducati)
10. Mark Aitchison (Kawasaki)
11. David Solom (Kawasaki)
12. Blake Young (Suzuki)
13. Michel Fabrizio (Honda)
14. Federico Sandi (Kawasaki)
15. Vittorio Iannuzzo (BMW)
16. Glenn Allerton (BMW)