There are just two rounds remaining in the 2013 eni FIM Superbike World Championship
and Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes is on course to earn his first Superbike title ever. The British rider stretched his points lead from eight to 23 over the new runner-up, Eugene Laverty of Aprilia Racing, after his 1-4 performance at Laguna Seca. With 100 potential points left on the table there are only three riders still within reach of the top spot; Laverty and his teammate Sylvain Guintoli as well as BMW Motorrad GoldBet’s Marco Melandri.
The penultimate round takes the series to Magny-Cours in France, where both Sykes and Guintoli notched race wins in 2012. Guintoli was on a Ducati at the time and has been markedly stronger as a competitor since moving to Aprilia, but he hasn’t been able to register a win since the first round of 2013. True, he’s been consistent otherwise taking 11 podiums out of 23 races and only finishing outside the top-six once, but it appears the French rider’s promise may be waning. Guintoli’s 5-5 finish at Laguna Seca the last time out was enough to drop him down to third overall in the standings behind Laverty by a single point. Laverty, on the other hand, is currently riding a wave of success that makes him Sykes’ greatest threat for the title.
Sykes and Laverty share some notable similarities this year; each has seven wins to-date and three second-place finishes, Laverty has 15 podiums total while Sykes has 14. The primary difference between the two is that Laverty has taken zero points in five races while Sykes has only three zero scoring contests to his credit. What’s perhaps disconcerting for Sykes now is that three of Laverty’s wins have come in the past four races. The Irishman has only missed one podium since Moscow while Sykes has been outside the top-three four times in the same period.
Melandri is the only other rider on the grid within reach of Sykes, and he sits 42 points off the leader in fourth-overall heading to Magny-Cours. The Italian has been second-place in three of the last four races he’s contested at the French circuit and has been within the top-four through the past three rounds this year, so could be a legitimate podium threat during the upcoming contest. Melandri’s teammate, Chaz Davies, is fifth in the rankings 102 points adrift of the leader.
Sykes’ teammate, Loris Baz, remains sidelined as he recovers from a fractured vertebra so David Salom will step in once again as replacement for the French rider. Salom finished 11-9 his first time out as Baz’s replacement at Laguna Seca.
FIXI Crescent Suzuki welcomes a replacement rider as well, eight-time World Endurance Champion Vincent Philippe, to fill in for the injured Leon Camier. Regular FIXI rider, Jules Cluzel, will look to top the 7-6 result he posted during the previous round at Laguna Seca.
Team Ducati Alstare's Carlos Checa remains out of action due to injury, so Ducati MotoGP test rider Michele Pirro has been tapped to step in. Pirro has been busy this year, filling in for a number of races in MotoGP for the injured Ben Spies on Ignite Pramac Racing. He will join Ayrton Badovini, who finished ninth in Race 1 at Laguna Seca and crashed out of Race 2.
Michel Fabrizio will remain with Pata Honda as replacement for Jonathan Rea while his teammate, Leon Haslam, will fight for a better result than he took at Laguna Seca. Haslam crashed out of Race 1 at the California circuit and finished 11th in Race 2.
Lorenzo Lanzi returns to the World Superbike grid with the newly formed Italian Team Mesaroli Racing Ducati to contest the final two rounds of the season.