2012 Magny Cours WSBK Sunday Roundup: A Farewell To Duelists

The last weekend of World Superbikes in 2012 gave us tense action throughout the day, as the championship resisted all efforts of being straight-forward. In Supersport, a pantomime villain twirled his waxed moustache while in Superbike, a lantern jawed Englishman stood for victory and fair play in the field of sports while duelling with a skull and crossbones pirate.

With a morning of the Marseillaise, Tom Sykes fought hard to ensure God Save The Queen rung out to close the season, and many will be discussing the fact that he lost the title by only half a point. The blame will be placed at the feet of team orders, earlier races being only half points and other riders interfering in the title, but the real reason Max Biaggi beat Tom Sykes is that the Italian simply scored more points than him. To pick a single instance when either rider was robbed of a tiny handful of points does both riders an injustice. Biaggi won by the tightest of margins possible, barring an actual points draw, and he showed that his spirited ride for only three points at the Nurburgring was indeed the mark of a champion. It may not have been the popular result, but it's the right result. Tom Sykes in the podium press conference, demonstrated he still held a grudge against Ayrton Badovini for skittling him out of a certain podium at Aragon earlier in the year, but this year has been packed full of riders coming together. Sykes was aiming for a top five result at the beginning of the year and showed that he could get within a heartbeat of the title, so maybe the time for grudges is over.

On the subject of team orders, there are no rules against them in World Superbikes, and the sport can be thought of as a team sport, with riders helping their team mates by exchanging both data and occasionally places on the track. If rules against team orders were introduced, it would be a very difficult rule to police, and a dangerous rule to riders, as you would have to convincingly lose a place to your team mate in ways less safe than obviously waving them past with a shaken leg. With no way to safely ban team orders, it's unlikely the issue will ever be raised. They were used sparingly this year, and as unpopular as they are with fans of the sport, they will most likely be used next year as well.

Marco Melandri entered the weekend with an outside chance at the title, a chance that survived until his crash in race two, and his determination to fight on in spite of injury, like his team mate Leon Haslam, is a testament to his determination. A podium in race one kept his chances alive, but a wet piece of track ended his season, consigning him to a respectable third place finish in the championship, even if it was two places lower than he expected a few weeks ago.

When World Superbikes went to Assen earlier in the year, Carlos Checa was leading the championship, having won the three previous races. In the last year of the 1098R, so called for homologation reasons in spite of the 1198cc engine, the extra weight the bike carried as a reward for winning the year before meant that the Ducati would never be the fastest bike in a straight line, by some margin. As the slower of the four-cylinder bikes got faster as the year went by, the V-twin was eternally doomed. Sylvain Guintoli will likely be the last World Superbike rider to win on the 1098R, and to close the chapter with a 45-point weekend will do nicely. As Guintoli is likely off to Suzuki next year, he won't be rewarded for his efforts by the Italian marque.

One rider who will be rewarded is Jonathan Rea, who is getting both a faster bike and a faster team mate for next year. Hiroshi Aoyama's transfer to World Superbikes can safely be described as disastrous. Rea didn't want him as his team mate and he didn't bring any speed with him. Rea wanted a team mate that would spur him and development of the bike along. With Rea's good results on a bike that's considered not as good as he made it look, which undoubtedly contributed to Aoyama's fortunes, he has been rewarded by more Honda involvement next year, and promises of more power, assisted by Cosworth.

With racing this close and diverse, with five different marques in the top five places, the series obviously works. While the arrival of the Ducati Panigale will change the dynamic a little, along with the 17" wheels and headlight stickers, we hope that next year brings us as much actiuon and entertainment as this one did. Here's hoping that the excitement isn't sapped out of a winning formula in the name of progress and cross-series unification.

In World Supersport, Kenan Sofuoglu's 2012 will be remembered as fast, aggressive and unfortunately dangerous. Twice penalised for his one-track actions and missing out on a deserved penalty for a 170mph head butt at Aragon, there's no kind way to look at the man's actions. While many riders made aggressive passes throughout the year, Jules Cluzel on Sam Lowes for instance, none could be considered worthy of a penalty, yet Sofuoglu crossed the line from aggressive to dangerous a few times too often. As much as we have to acknowledge racing is a dangerous and aggressive sport, and that penalties for close hard racing damage the entertainment, there is a line that when crossed lives are put at risk. Sofuoglu crossed that line three times this year.

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What a joke of a penalty!!!! He has now proven himself to be consistent in his thinking, or lack of it. What will it take before he gets the suspension he truly deserves for repeated, dangerous infringements. I hope his new team mate for next year has a good sense of what he will do to ensure he is number one in the pecking order. Super sports has for along time been some of the most exciting racing I have watched. Normally clean and hard but this idiot will kill someone if he doesn't get the brain fade under control!!!!!

The barge pass Sofuoglu made on Dan Linfoot was not the most dangerous stunt he has pulled over the years, but man was it unneccessary. Why on earth would you make such a risky move when you are already world champion, robbing the other rider of a first podium in the process? Of course the will to win is what marks a champion, but risking others in this situation is simply stupid. And he almost went on to run Lowes off track as well.
Of course the 25-second penalty was carefully calculated to sort out the situation and Linfoot was rightfully awarded third place (thanks to him being able to remount and finish fourth), but I wonder if the brain of Sofuoglu will ever get sorted.

Congratulations to Biaggi, it is so cool that he won the title (again) at 41 years of age!
And anyone saying it was just luck because of other people's mistakes and mishaps does forget he has had his share of bad luck as well. And yes he made some mistakes, but on a whole he kept his head cool throughout the year and fought for lesser results as well, if the win was out of reach. I have seen him fighting a sliding and moving bike around the track in 8th place or thereabouts on several occasions, not to mention the amazing rides from the back of the field at race 2 Phillip Island and race 2 at the Nürburgring. The work for those three points in Germany has been seriously rewarded!

Obviously in race 1 he wanted to get to the front to take the title in the best possible style, and in race 2 he rode on calculation. To be that cool-headed after the crash is also what makes a world champion. I for one lost most of my nails in the process just watching.

Oh and big cheers to Sykes and Melandri as well! They both rode a stunning season. I was almost hard to choose a favorite, but me being over 40 and my bike being an Aprilia, eh well...

Just wanted to say Thank You for your great WSBK coverage, it's greatly appreciated! :)

Fair play to Max and Tom. Thrilling final race to decide the title. Well done Biaggi. Its going to be a long time before a 41 year old wins a world series road race championship again. Great to see Lorenzo backing his childhood hero on the big day. Nice touch.

Neither are good at actually staying on the bike. Melandri's move at Donington cost them that day and most likely cost him the world championship. Marco crashed 3x in the last 4 races, by my count.

When Rea went to the front, I suspected it was just a matter of time before he went off and was proved correct. I realize the conditions were difficult and many others fell, but Rea has seemingly crashed a LOT.

Both talented riders, neither seem to be particularly good at racecraft. Biaggi's crash in race 1 wasn't smart either, although it did make Race 2 a nail biter. And Biaggi stayed on and got points paying finishes enough to make him champ again. So many what if's etc in this championship, but the main one was Syke's bike blowing in race 2 last week. Many of the mistakes that made this championship were rider error, this one was not and the timing of this engine failure was incalculably bad.

Also, it seemed that Max wagged his finger at Laverty crossing the finish line, was that because Max felt that Laverty should have basically pulled over and let Max get more points? I am glad that it came down to straight points, as team tactics allowing Max to win over Sykes would have left a bad taste in my mouth.

Team tactics did play the role in who won the title. If EL hadn't let max pass earlier in the season , Sykes would be world champ. But that's top level racing.Hats off to Tom, he made a great season. The whole Kawi team has me saying wow! They came so far ths year, from a team that had one lap speed to a team that developed the bike to have outright pace. Truly a great season for them and for WSBK fans. Looking forward to next year!

Was Loris Baz obeying team orders when he failed to finish in front of Sykes race after race? Or was Baz simply not as fast as his teammate? Was Haslam following team orders when he kept throwing his BMW to the ground?

I'm not sure when Laverty LET Biaggi pass, and I'm pretty sure I've never seen the team, Max or Laverty refer to team orders in public.

I am sure that when Max caught Laverty in Moscow, Eugene's rear tire was utterly destroyed by the end of the race - something that's not unusual when a team is trying to figure out a setup on a wet-but-drying track that no one ever has raced on before.

I'm sad to see the end of this World Superbike Championship. What a ride it's been! I am, of course, a little sad for Tom Sykes, who really put his heart into his riding this season and deserved to win as much as Max. Happy for Max Biaggi, who fought hard for this well deserved championship, twice coming back from disaster and the back of the pack (and getting up to second place in one of those instances).

It's been great to see Chaz Davies emerge as a real superbike talent and "emerge" is really the word: he came on little by little through the season until he really announced his arrival, banging fairings with Melandri at Aragon on his way to his first podium. He could be a championship threat next year. As could Eugene Laverty, now that he's come to terms with the Aprilia. Sylvain Guintoli was also impressive a few times on the Ducati — it put a big smile on my face to see him with the first race at Magny-Cours, even though I was cheering for Sykes.

I feel bad for Leon Haslam. He was riding so well for the first half of the season until Melandri's crazy last-corner lunge and the ensuing mayhem at Donnington. The wind seemed to go out of his sails from that point on. Here's hoping he has a better season next year on the Honda.

So I can while a way a few winter nights re-watching 2012 races. I can't say I've seen a MotoGP race this year that I'll want to watch again. Bring on 2013!

Has he re-signed with Ducati again? I thought I sad somewhere that he was NOT happy with his first few rides on the new Duc. Any info?