Guintoli, Laverty victorious in Aus
Sylvain Guintoli shocked the form books to lead an all-Aprilia podium in Race 1 at Phillip Island, while Eugene Laverty continued Aprilia's perfect start to the campaign, beating Guintoli in Race 2 to jointly lead the Championship with his teammate.
As the sun blazed down on the Australian circuit, the 2013 Superbike season got underway with Eugene Laverty taking the lead from the start while pole-sitter Checa was chewed up by the pack as he failed to get a clean launch off the line.
Tom Sykes, last year's runner-up, was quickly on the Aprilia's rear wheel while Checa, Marco Melandri and Leon Haslam tussled over third place.
Three laps in the first retirement came courtesy of Davide Giugliano as his Althea Aprilia gave up the ghost much to the rider's frustration.
New Aprilia signing Guintoli, Chaz Davies, Loris Baz, Michel Fabrizio and Jonathan Rea formed the pack behind the leading five, trying not only to gain position on one another but also to chase down those ahead.
Six laps in Sykes, who had been battling Haslam for second, suddenly lost pace as, like with last season, his Kawasaki ate into its tyres. The Brit, who also broke his wrist in last week's testing, fell to seventh in the space of one lap.
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This allowed Checa to launch his attack on Haslam and the former World Champ was quickly up to second place. However, the gap to race leader Laverty was 1.4s.
Reaching the halfway, Guintoli made his move after slowing edging his way to the front. Passing Checa, who he easily slid by, the Frenchman set about closing down his Aprilia teammate and race leader Laverty.
Two laps later disaster struck when Melandri and Checa crashed heavily at Honda, the Spaniard taking a hard hit after outbraking himself and hitting the rear wheel of Melandri's BMW S1000RR as they fought over third.
Checa lost consciousness and was taken to the track's medical centre.
The crash allowed the leading two Aprilia riders a bit of breathing room although for Laverty was made to hold his as his teammate used his better corner speed to take the lead for the first time.
Fabrizio soon made it three Aprilias at the front as the privateer Red Devils Roma rider closed up on Laverty before launching an attack on second. The duo traded positions in a thrilling tussle that included with a few close calls, their battling allowing Guintoli to run away at the front.
The Frenchman went on to claim the first win of the season in Race 1 at Phillip Island, beating his fellow Aprilia riders as Laverty took second ahead of Fabrizio
Behind them the Kawasaki Racing riders found some late pace with Davies and Sykes, who had their own brief battle in the final two laps, working their way back up the field to finish fourth and fifth ahead of Baz and Haslam.
Race 2 got underway a rider short as Carlos Checa did not make the grid after his crash in the morning. The Althea Ducati rider was taken to a hospital as a precaution.
Tom Sykes led off the line ahead of Laverty, who was bumped up to pole position in light of Checa's absence, and Race 1 winner Guintoli. It was a short-lived race for Chaz Davies and Loris Baz, who crashed at the MG corner. Davies suffered a rear puncture while Baz was stretchered away clutching his leg.
Back at the front Laverty overtook Sykes with Guintoli following his Aprilia teammate through leaving Marco Melandri with a line at Sykes that he was quick to take. Meanwhile Guintoli was all the back of Laverty and - as with Race 1 - did not take long to make a move on the Ulsterman for the lead.
A breakaway group of eight led the way with Guintoli in charge while Max Neukirchner struggled to hold onto the back in ninth place. The leading group was soon down to three as the Aprilia teammates and Melandri pulled away while Davies afternoon went from bad to worse as he was slapped with a ride-through penalty for a pit lane infringement.
Lap after lap Guintoli led the race while Laverty stuck to his rear wheel and BMW's Melandri kept the two Aprilias in his sights. Chasing from behind Fabrizio began to close the gap but it was 'all hold stations' for several laps despite the quartet being separated by less than a second.
With six laps to go Melandri made his move on Laverty, diving up the inside to take second place. Laverty fought back with back-to-back fastest laps before sliding through to resume second. Another fastest lap - and new lap record - gave him the impetus needed to overtake his teammate for the lead on the penultimate lap.
It was all to play for on the final lap as Guintoli looked to make a move only to have to back off. Laverty crossed the line in first place, 0.418s ahead of his teammate in a reserve of the Race 1 result.
"Happy to get the win in the second race after the disappointment in the first one where I was too careful," said the Irishman.
"A great day for Aprilia. It looks good for the season because the continuity is there."
Melandri held on for third ahead of Fabrizio with Sykes, riding with a broken wrist, finishing a distant fifth ahead of Davide Giugliano. Jules Cluzel and Jonathan Rea completed the top eight.
RACE 1 RESULTS
01. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 33'47.109
02. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 33'48.461
03. Michel Fabrizio (Red Devils Roma) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 33'48.468
04. Chaz Davies (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 33'52.811
05. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 33'52.862
06. Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 33'53.878
07. Leon Haslam (Pata Honda World Superbike) Honda CBR1000RR 33'53.939
08. Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike) Honda CBR1000RR 34'05.053
09. Leon Camier (Fixi Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 34'06.261
10. Max Neukirchner (MR-Racing) Ducati Panigale 1199 34'13.666
11. Jules Cluzel (Fixi Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 34'17.414
12. Ivan Clementi (HTM Racing) BMW S1000 RR 34'17.520
13. Alexander Lundh (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 34'32.294
14. Glen Allerton (Next Gen Motorsports) BMW S1000 RR 34'35.741
15. Jamie Stauffer (Team Honda Racing) Honda CBR1000RR 34'40.562
16. Federico Sandi (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 35'09.839
17. Vittorio Iannuzzo (Grillini Dentalmatic SBK) BMW S1000 RR 35'20.483
RT. Carlos Checa (Team Ducati Alstare) Ducati Panigale 1199 18'28.459
RT. Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 18'28.468
RT. Davide Giugliano (Althea Racing) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 3'10.979
RACE 2 RESULTS
01. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 33'45.938
02. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 33'46.356
03. Marco Melandri (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 33'47.320
04. Michel Fabrizio (Red Devils Roma) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 33'48.220
05. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10R 33'57.483
06. Davide Giugliano (Althea Racing) Aprilia RSV4 Factory 33'58.446
07. Jules Cluzel (Fixi Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 34'03.268
08. Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike) Honda CBR1000RR 34'03.277
09. Leon Camier (Fixi Crescent Suzuki) Suzuki GSX-R1000 34'05.824
10. Leon Haslam (Pata Honda World Superbike) Honda CBR1000RR 34'05.934
11. Max Neukirchner (MR-Racing) Ducati Panigale 1199 34'13.567
12. Glen Allerton (Next Gen Motorsports) BMW S1000 RR 34'28.747
13. Jamie Stauffer (Team Honda Racing) Honda CBR1000RR 34'28.831
14. Federico Sandi (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 34'30.837
15. Alexander Lundh (Team Pedercini) Kawasaki ZX-10R 34'43.762
16. Vittorio Iannuzzo (Grillini Dentalmatic SBK) BMW S1000 RR 35'08.512
17. Chaz Davies (BMW Motorrad GoldBet SBK) BMW S1000 RR 34'08.663
RT. Ivan Clementi (HTM Racing) BMW S1000 RR 17'14.862
RT. Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team) Kawasaki ZX-10