2014 Jerez World Superbike Sunday Roundup: Team Orders?

Team orders, an unpopular aspect of team racing, usually come into play at this point of a title chase, with Eugene Laverty gifting Max Biaggi points to win the 2012 championship being the most blatant example of recent years.

This weekend showed that, for now at least, team orders aren't in effect. Sylvain Guintoli is in second place right now, and took thirteen points off Tom Sykes. The one person that could have the most impact to Sylvain Guintoli's attempt to wrest the championship from Tom Sykes is Guintoli's teammate Marco Melandri. While Melandri is in a chance for the title, it is an outside one, as if Sykes gets on the podium at any point between now and the end of the season, Melandri cannot win the title, and this weekend, if Melandri had sat behind Guintoli, he would be in almost the same position, requiring 4 DNFs from Sykes, but Guintoli would have halved the difference to Sykes. twenty-one points from the title with four races left is a lot better than thirty-one points. Twenty-one points is four victories and one bad race for Sykes from the title, something that seems plausible.

Marco Melandri has his own fight to fight, though, and has finally got the Aprilia to act like his bike. Starting with Sepang, he has been able to push the front into turns in his inimitable style, allowing him the tight angles he loves and putting his rapier-thrust overtakes back in his arsenal, as Loris Baz will attest to from the gravel trap. Two wins this weekend from Melandri must be demoralising for Guintoli who, on the same bike, has no answer to him. At this point in a title fight, the last thing you want is someone better than you on the same bike.

Tom Sykes must have briefly thought that when his Kawasaki teammate Loris Baz took pole position on Saturday, but Baz left the weekend with nine points to Sykes's twenty-seven, and Sykes had a terrible weekend, scoring fewer points than all but two weekends this year. Loris Baz has only outscored Sykes one weekend this year, and that was at Philip Island, at the beginning of the year. Sykes is still odds on favourite for the title.

Chaz Davies is quietly getting the Panigale good results behind the big fights for the podium, and this weekend was no different. With his teammate Davide Giugliano once again self-destructing in race one and suffering from a technical issue in race two, Davies one again was the top Ducati man, and Melandri removing Baz from the podium left third place open for Davies to get another podium. While Giugliano's style may be more entertaining, Davies is the one racking up miles and points.

Third place in the championship, Jonathan Rea once again scored more points than his bike deserved, reverting to the older, less powerful engine to do so. Rea isn't really in the running for the title, with his bike being the most limiting factor, and his third place is under serious threat from an awakened Marco Melandri, but there is no disguising the fact that he has ridden around the limitations of a rather crappy bike with a solid team helping it look less crappy. As always, rumours of a GP Honda rear their head this time of year for Rea, rewarding his almost self-abusive loyalty to the marque, but for once, they are flavoured with a hint of Kawasaki. Leon Haslam also struggled, ending the races in his usual seventh and eight positions.

Eugene Laverty, along with Rea and, for once, Baz, is also rumoured to be in with a chance of a GP ride, but as with all rumours, the number of riders moving to GPs is always larger than the number of actual bikes available. Laverty at Jerez is supposed to be a show worth the ticket price alone, but the Suzuki just isn't the bike on which to shine, more so than the Honda. Alex Lowes, his teammate, made an excellent start in the first race, but it wasn't maintainable. Still, you're supposed to get all your stupid errors out in your rookie year, and as such, it's hard to blame him.

In World Supersport, the title chase is done and dusted. Michael van der Mark pulled it off in a race that will go down as one of the hardest-fought Supersport racers of recent years. We have had many two-way fights, usually involving Kenan Sofuoglu, over the years, but this was a three-way scrap between all three title-contenders that, for eleven laps, looked like the flashy violent bit at the end of a Mexican stand-off. In a phone box. With knives.

Van der Mark is the second-youngest World Supersport champion, behind Chris Vermuelen and is the first Dutch road race champion in forty years, and it is loudly rumoured that he will be vaulting up to World Superbike next year on the bike that Rea leaves, but, as with all rumours, none of this is certain.

Jules Cluzel's crash that ended his title hopes and handed Florian Marino second place in the title chase was an unjust end to the race, but that pace, that close, was bound to have consequences. Cluzel and Marino's fight for second place, along with Sofuoglu's redemption, will give us something to watch in the last two rounds, but we will be doing so knowing we have a worthy champion.

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Actually, the complete lack of team orders from the Aprilia camp this weekend demonstrates just how much rubbish Laverty's cheerleaders were talking back in 2012 when they started with the "team orders" excuses.

There's no evidence (and we've debated this here before) that Laverty actually ever finished behind Biaggi on orders of the team.

There is PLENTY of evidence that Biaggi beat his teammate like a gong on a regular basis.

There were team orders in place in 2012 at the end of the season as Laverty was no longer in the running for the title. 

Again, go back and look at Laverty's rear tire at the end of that race. It was gone. He couldn't have held off Biaggi.

To believe that team orders were in place at Moscow, you have to believe that Aprilia decided with six - actually, eight, if you count Moscow - races to go to fix the order of its riders. That flies in the face of credibility, and the fact that Laverty finished in front of Biaggi in four of the next six races.

I think that Laverty was happy to let people think there were team orders to excuse his lack of performance that season. Interesting comment on the issue on crash.net today from Aprilia's Sporting manager Romano Albesiano.

“In very extreme situations we could do something,” he said. “But it must be a very extreme situation.”


Six races to go in the season is not a "very extreme situation."

So his slowing down at the end of the last race of the season to potentially let Max past could be considered an extreme situation?

Last race of the season = absolutely. Turned out to be unnecessary, anyway, so no one was gifted any points. And as mentioned, it defies logic and facts to suggest that Moscow was rigged.

I think Laverty's talented, but he's been hired to ride a proven title-winning bike twice in his WSBK career and has failed to deliver said title.

I'm not a guy who accuses riders of "whining" when they are explaining when something went wrong. But I've got little respect for a rider who s**ts on someone else's accomplishment in private, has nothing to say in public, and then when given the same opportunity, fails to deliver.

The Laverty/Aprilia "team orders" thing is a myth, and deserves to be dismissed as such.

believe what I'm reading.. I do wonder at the nature of subjectivity, or whether sometimes people just inhabit some kind of parallel universe where things happen in a completely different way for them when compared to everyone else..

If you look at the lap times Laverty was the slowest one out of the top 5 from pretty much lap 17 onwards, when he had a 6+ sec gap on Biaggi. Davies was closing the gap rapidly after running wide or something on lap 19 and brought Biaggi along. Davies passes then crashes in front of Laverty and he loses a few more tenths. Biaggi is the fastest rider on the track for the last 2 laps and passes his teammate. No team orders necessary for that to be a reasonable explanation.


I firstly have to admit to having a poor view of him ever since Donington, when he took out Haslam and made no apology whatsoever.
Last weekend seems similar to me, even if the situation is quite different. He could have helped his teammate and the team/company he rides for by giving points to help their world championship aims. Instead he considers only #1...
It could have been done in such a way that everyone would know (certainly those who matter within his team and racing generally) and he would lose nothing and gain some kudos from most.

Being aggressive and selfish is fine when a potential title is there, and you have as much of a mathematical chance as the teammate. At this stage of the game though, a little more sporting and team-player attitude would make him a better prospect for any team, in my view.

Fabrizio never recovered from taking Haga's championship away from him and, whilst I don't wish that on anyone, Melandri should look himself in the mirror and ask if he's too selfish, and if that's a good thing for him.

Melandri has never, nor will he ever, care about anyone but himself. That includes teammates, his own team/manufacturer, other riders, etc. It's clearly evident by his riding. I also lost any respect for him at Donington. Haslam and BMW deserved that win. I personally hope Baz will give him a little payback.

I saw in interview with Haga where he said that racing is racing, the only way he wanted a championship was if he earned it. Saying that a "teammate" should gift another points spits in the face of what racing is all about. This is not team endurance racing. If you're a racer that thinks that someone else should slow down to gift you points then your sense of entitlement is a bit overactive.

BTW, I commented on a specific comment, but this is aimed at all the pro team orders comments, not bashing one person here.

Mathematically Melandri is in the title race end of story. Like Fabrizio was Mathematically in the title race. I wouldn't quit either. If he wins every race the rest of the year, he did his job to get the title.

who isn't selfish, and I'll show you a racer who'll be happy with second places. Sorry, it's a racers job to win races, and Melandri is a racer. I'm sure Sylvain doesn't want race wins handed to him, none of them do.
I can see teammates getting pissed at each other due to stupid moves (hello, Loris Baz!) but, as Rossi once famously said 'it's not ballet dancing out there' or words to that effect.
Good on you, Marco!

While I agree with the tenet of your argument, you destruct it by calling out Loris Baz for what you refer to as "stupid moves", yet by reference excuse Melandri taking out Haslam.

Perhaps you should apply the same test?

Incidentally, The way I saw the relative incidents is that Melandri's deliberate bowling off of Haslam was far more egregious than Baz's seeming error in hitting Sykes.

Mathematics are a very objective assessment and it could be said that he has a chance.
Businesses usually make decisions based upon objective and subjective assessments. Gut instinct plays a part.
Melandri has a very extremely limited chance of a title. Guintoli has a pretty good shot, given a fair wind and some luck (or bad luck for Sykes). Melandri has little chance. Guintoli has a chance.
My assessment of that would involve a discussion with Marco, and agreement over what would be a nice thing to do if he gets the chance.
Not extreme, just sensible business. He's being paid. It's not ballet dancing.
Guintoli having a proper chance would be like the BSB showdown - not totally fair to a runaway winner, but good entertainment.
Could have brought some fans to Magny Cours.......
Sometimes the sport and entertainment needs to be bigger and better than the rider's ego.

I think it's up to Sylvain to win, and if Marco has the pace to do it then he should go for it. But knocking off Baz to get there is bad form. His passes tend to be these last second lunges at the apex, which in the case of Haslam and Baz, are done without much thought as to the outcome for the other rider. I'm all for racing hard, but fair.

needs to be renamed 'doing a Melandri'. :) David calls it 'rapier-like' in the write-up above, but I would equate it to more like a claymore!

It seems to have been his calling card for recent years. Although, I think that was Baz's mistake in that race. He tried to cut back too fast after Marco had gone past, and front tyre vs. back tyre will result in victory to the latter 95% of the time.

Who is this David of whom you speak? laugh

If I were to recharacterise it, I'd call it an ice-pick: stabbed in, prised to breaking point.

At least Marco was 'honest' in his intention to win the race. He didn't 'do a Talmasci', of pretending he was riding wing-man to Guintoli for the team effort and then pass on the last straight..

Of course Marco absolutely had the right to ride as hard as he could and beat Guintoli. He's obviously confident enough in his own contract and future rides that he doesn't have to care about what either Aprilia (or any other team watching for that matter) think of him winning those races.

If it comes down to less than 10 points, or what the difference would have been (as has happened several times before - Talmasci/Kallio example above being one, Haga/Fabrizio in WSB another) then I can imagine where most people's sympathies are going to lay, and no doubt Melandri will go onto Sykes' christmas card list.

I would have tied up Sykes mid race and let Guinters get a very healthy lead.
Then hunt him down, with too few laps left, but enough to show what could have been.

I was shouting at Melandri to do that.

But I wasn't surprised at all, seeing do what he as always done.

We have had many personalities like this, some mentioned here.

I remember a rider who has a z in his name that said at the beginning of the season his target was ten wins. The last race he did a ' Melandri' just to get the 10th , and entirely unnecessary win, as the tootle was already in the bag

As much as we like Guinters, he does have to stand up and deliver more. He needs to stay with the pack, and not take a hole shot. The tires just are not made to take the early abuse. Think back to Baylis, he adopted a wait, wait, wait and go tactics to very good effect.