2013’s World Superbike season is done and dusted. All the appeals are settled and the points are final. The racing at Jerez was nearly touched by the weather, but luckily for the series, it stayed dry for the world championship races.
Eugene Laverty earned pole position and an incredible double victory, everything he had to do to keep his title chances alive, but unfortunately, Tom Sykes was able to bag enough points to secure the title. Laverty’s unfinished races throughout his career, luckily without injury, have defined his championship chances. With five DNFs this year and four in 2012, even his late runs of wins and podiums couldn’t garner him a title. Laverty is a man with a title in his future, but not this year.
Tom Sykes, on the other hand, is a man with a title in his hands. He didn’t take control of the title chase until halfway through the season, and even then, Sylvain Guintoli wrested it off him the next weekend. This weekend was about managing a Kawasaki that was not going to be able to give him a consistent tyre all the way to the end, where the Aprilia could, in the hands of Laverty. Sykes rode as well as he had to and was on the podium for both races and he crushed Raymond Roche’s lap record from 1990 in the process. The Kawasaki is still a tyre-chewing monster, but it’s now a championship-winning tyre-chewing monster and it has the bearded Yorkshireman to thank for that.
The first race was by far the more exciting of the day, due in part to Marco Melandri who couldn’t compete in the second race due to an injury he incurred at home, not related to motorbikes in any way. He went to Clinica Mobile after the first race and ruled himself out of the second. Melandri’s performance was a great performance to end his career at BMW, with the team closing their doors after this weekend. Melandri hasn’t signed a contract yet, but any team with a seat would take him, and others would even clear a seat for him if that’s what it took.
Sylvain Guintoli bagged a third and a fourth today, but more importantly, he was assured of third place. His contract with Aprilia was a one year contract with a renewal if he was in the top three at the end of the year. With the factory’s diminishing commitment to World Superbike and the defection of Gigi Dall’Igna throwing a flailing squid onto the dance floor that is silly season, it is uncertain what that promise is worth. His performance today was very much hampered by his injured collarbone, and the winter will allow him to get it fixed. If he had not injured himself, he may well have been in the running for the title, but with only one win all year, and that in the first race, consistency, the fewest non-scoring races of any rider this year and only six finishes off the podium, can only carry you so far.
The two satellite Aprilias had different fortunes. While Toni Elias finished behind Sylvain Guintoli in both races, an admirable advert of his riding in front of prospective employers, Davide Giugliano was dealt a bike that wouldn’t let him apply the power to the tarmac, with a visible lack of grip hampering his first race, limiting him to sixth place and a second race with even less traction, allowing anyone with some form of pace to pass him out of corners. What looked entertaining to viewers, plenty of lurid slides, was obviously not good for propelling a motorcycle forward. Hopefully Giugliano is already on teams’ lists for next year.
Chaz Davies closed BMWs year for them, with a seventh and a fifth. In the action-lacking sessions today, he rode a competent pair of races, and ended the year in a well deserved fifth place. Suzuki had a mixed bag, with Jules Cluzel lacking a little pace, albeit in part due to an eighteenth place start, and Leon Camier making up for it with a sixth. Returning from injury, Camier wasn’t expected to be on the pace, but he put his foot injury behind him and honoured his team.
Honda and Ducati both had, like much of this year, a bad day. Lacking the rabbit-pulling exploits of Jonathan Rea, with his magical ability to make a dilapidated Fireblade look good, and with Leon Haslam still walking wounded, it was left to Michel Fabrizio to fly the flag, especially as Haslam suffered from two mechanical DNFs, a task the Italian wasn’t capable of with the machinery provided. Honda has tests on Tuesday, and Jonathan Rea is on hand to help. Ducati don’t have Carlos Checa, unfortunately. The 41-year old Spaniard retired to a plush position of Ducati ambassador, allowing him to ride Panigales without having to hurt himself. In the first race, Xavi Fores and Ayrton Badovini were able at least to hold off Lorenzo Lanzi’s ancient 1098R on their space-age Panigales, but come race two, Lanzi was seventh while the factory bikes didn’t make the flag.
In World Supersport, we had what we have had all year; a fantastic scrap between Sam Lowes and Kenan Sofuoglu, with both riders pushing the other in a race apart from the rest of the field. So often, World Supersport gives us shows with two or three stand-out riders ahead of a field of exuberant hopefuls and cheque-cashing elder statesmen, and this year was no different. Michael Van Der Mark was the standout rookie while Fabien Foret, with his meerkat riding style, was the old hand. Foret, however, looked like he had raced as much race as he was going to race, while Van Der Mark was well up for it.
With no more World Superbike race weekends this year, we are already looking forward to the next. Will Tom Sykes field the number one plate or will he continue with his sixty six? Who will ride where? Which factories will be back and what new teams are on their way? What will the new cost-cutting rules bring?
For the moment, let’s not think about the future and instead just reflect on a great year of racing and two new World Champions.