2012 World Superbike
Spoiler Alert: 2012 World Superbike results from Portimao listed below
Heading into the penultimate round of the 2012 World Superbike Championship, the top three riders - Aprilia Racing's Max Biagg, BMW Motorrad's Marco Melandri, Kawasaki Racing's Tom Sykes - were only separated by 26.5 points.
Biaggi lead the points battle, 9.5 ahead of Melandri, with Sykes 26.5 points behind. And following Portimao World Superbike Sunday, Biaggi continues to lead the championship after a 4-3 finish, but things drastically changed behind.
This was due to Sykes, who took his eighth pole of 2012 World SBK at Portimao, taking the race one win, though the Brit failed to finish race two due to engine problems. Melandri, on the other hand, crashed out of the first race, the Italian suffering some back injuries. He suffered a DNF in the first race, and didn't start in race two.
These upsets allowed Biaggi to retain the points lead heading into the season finale at Magny Cours, France. The 2010 World SBK Champion 347, and leads Sykes by 30.5 points. Melandri trails by 38.5 points.
Rain plagued race one from the beginning, causing a first lap crash involving Melandri, Biaggi, and Althea Racing Ducati's Davide Giugliano. After the collision, ParkinGO Aprilia's Chaz Davies was attempting to miss the crash, but ran over Melandri.
Melandri was taken to hospital for precautionary checks, where it was found that he has contusions to the back and scans on a bruised kidneys, but no major injuries. Melandri will fly home Monday for recovery. Biaggi and Giugliano were both able to restart.
But frustrations continued when on lap eight oil on the track caused a red flag. After a half-hour delay, the race was restarted, though shortened to 16 laps. Sykes would take the win 0.3 of a second ahead of the reigning World Superbike Champion, Althea Racing Ducati's Carlos Checa; it would be Sykes third win this season. Taking the final podium position was PATA Racing Ducati privateer rider Sylvain Guintoli.
Biaggi would take fourth, followed by Team Effenbert-Liberty Ducati's Brett McCormick in fifth.
Race two couldn't have been more different. Held under dry conditions, Aprilia Racing Team's Eugene Laverty would take his first victory of 2012 World SBK, making for the ninth different rider this season.
Laverty would take the lead early on, and later receive much pressure from Honda World Superbike's Jonathan Rea. But the Northern Irishman couldn't catch Laverty, who took the win by 0.162 of a second. Taking the final podium position would be Biaggi. Fourth would go to Guintoli, with Checa in fifth.
As for Sykes, he suffered a DNF after his ZX-10R began billowing smoke, the Brit suffering engine failure.
The 2012 World Superbike Championship will now break for two weeks before the finale round at Magny Cours, France, Oct. 7.
2012 Portimao World Superbike Winner Quotes:
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team ZX-10R Superbike): "We have had some good luck today and also had some bad luck. Obviously on the good luck side in race one, in the first start, we were really struggling. We made two big changes to the bike after the red flag so on the restart it was a different motorcycle and I was able to do what I wanted with it. I felt more comfortable.
"So a big thanks to the team and Kawasaki for the snap decision to make those changes. I was feeling confident for race two because we had done a lot of work this weekend and I definitely felt we could have had a very strong race. Honestly I felt I could have been top two in that second race, or maybe even better, but it is what it is. Everybody has seen today what happens in racing.
"Melandri has been relatively on the pace this weekend and through a change of luck of his own he went out of two races. So anything and everything can happen. We had a win in race one, we had problems in race two, and that is what happens sometimes. We are racing at a very high level and sometimes you get dealt this card. I accept it even though it is hard to take having got to within 14.5 points of the lead after race one. I felt I could have reduced that gap again. But it was not to be, so what can you do? We got to France next, pick up where we left off and try to have a strong weekend."
Eugene Laverty (Aprilia Racing Team RSV4 Superbike) says: "My first win with and for Aprilia came on my favorite track with a lot of my fans trackside, who I'd like to thank. Grip in Race 2 wasn't perfect. I tried to push hard right away to gain an advantage and then I was able to maintain it to the end. This year we had some difficult moments, like we had in Race 1 today, but we're finally showing our potential with some good progress at the end of the season."
Portimao World SBK Race 1 results:
1. Tom Sykes (GBR) Kawasaki
2. Carlos Checa (ESP) Ducati
3. Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) Ducati
4. Max Biaggi (ITA) Aprilia
5. Brett McCormick (CAN) Ducati
6. Jonathan Rea (GBR) Honda World Superbike Team
Portimao World SBK Race 2 results:
1. Eugene Laverty (IRL) Aprilia
2. Jonathan Rea (GBR) Honda World Superbike Team
3. Max Biaggi (ITA) Aprilia
4. Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) Ducati
5. Carlos Checa (ESP) Ducati
6. Ayrton Badovini (ITA) BMW
World Superbike Championship Points after 13 of 14 rounds:
1. Biaggi 347
2. Sykes 316.5
3. Marco Melandri (ITA) BMW 308.5
4. Checa 278.5
5. Rea 255.5
6. Laverty 241.5