2014 Phillip Island World Superbike Races Results
Arguably one of the most beautiful race circuits in the world – Phillip Island – was host to the WSBK circus this weekend. The first round of the Championship saw the usual double header two-races-on-one-day format. It held a little more anticipation and drama than usual because it’s the first major motorcycle roadracing Championship to start their 2014 season.
Qualifying held some surprises, including 2013 World Champion Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) crashing out without injury, and 2013 British Superbike Champion Alex Lowes (Suzuki) setting fastest time in practice on a circuit he’d never seen before. Sylvain Guintoli ultimately set Pole Position on his Aprilia, and Davide Guiliano on the Ducati Panigale in second.
Marco Melandri freshly off the BMW from last season joins Guintoli on the Aprilia and claimed third on the grid, and the man he displaced from the factory Aprilia squad – Eugene Laverty, put the other Suzuki GSX-R1000 in a surprise fourth on the grid.
The stage was set for a couple of great races (for results, including full standings, click here).
It’s hard to decide who was the bigger winner in Race 1, Eugene Laverty or the Suzuki GSX-R1000. Laverty lost his Aprilia seat for 2014 and the Irishman made it known that he felt he’d lost out because he had the wrong passport trying to ride for an Italian factory. His seat went to popular Italian Melandri, giving some credence to Laverty’s gripe. So to come from several seconds behind, overtake both Aprilias with relative ease, and then win the opening round by a very healthy 3.9 seconds–must feel very sweet indeed. WIN
And of course there’s Suzuki. The AMA dominant GSX-R1000 for so long in the hands of Mladin and Spies has struggled mightily since the Alstare glory days with Troy Corser back in (gulp) 2005. That’s a long time in the World Superbike wilderness, and so to win the opening race in such dominant, convincing fashion must leave the factory even more elated than Laverty, if that’s possible. The GSX-R1000 looked like it was turning better than its competitors and Laverty clearly had exceptional confidence in the front end which bodes well for the tighter circuits on the calendar. WIN
Arguably losers, both Alex Lowes and Leon Haslam crashed out in separate solo, unforced incidents. However Lowes walked (well, hobbled) away from a very, very fast crash in Turn 2; and Haslam was unhurt at the circuit where last year he shattered his leg so badly that it ruined his 2013 Season. From a points perspective these guys both lost out badly, but walking away from any crash–especially at super-fast Phillip Island–we all have to consider it a win for these guys. WIN
Ducati with Guiliano put the controversial and somewhat troubled Panigale on second place in qualifying, and carded a fourth place finish in Race 1. More to the point, he was competitive with the Aprilias through the whole event, and although he must be disappointed to finish off the podium having run in third for so much of the race, nevertheless this must be considered cautiously promising news for Ducati to have found competitiveness (at least, so far) again, finally. WIN
Melandri started well, dropped off behind Guiliano on the Ducati at one point, but then got back past him again and then ultimately past Guintoli as well. To take second in the first race, on a new bike, and with a new team must feel pretty good. It’s an excellent start to the season and must make him feel good about the future.
Chaz Davies on the other Panigale finished in 8th, and although some 20 seconds down on the Winner it was nevertheless a creditable ride for his first time on the Panigale. Curiously Chaz took the fastest lap of the race, so all things considered both he and his new employers must be very encouraged. WIN.
Johnny Rea in 6th did well on the Honda CBR1000RR and it seems the electronics package is coming together. Of course he will be looking for more, but all-in-all, for the opening round, this wasn’t bad. WIN.
Departing the AMA/DMG USA National debacle (er…series, if you can call so few rounds a series, veteran Aaron Yates finished but in last place and a lap down on the the EBR 1190RS from Erik Buell Racing. But, they made the difficult and expensive transition to the World Stage, and finished the race without embarrassment. They’re an American team with an American rider on an American designed bike, and for that reason we’re damn proud of them. We will watch with interest as they learn and grow. They might not consider it a win as such, but we do. WIN.
Tom Sykes on the Championship winning Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R, has always felt Phillip Island to be a bit of a bogey track and he ran wide at Honda corner ultimately finishing 15.6 secs down in 7th place. Not horrible by any means, but for the reigning Champ that cannot sit well. LOSE.
Sylvain Guintoli on the factory Aprilia looked good. He had a torrid off season with two shoulder surgeries (the second to fix the first that went wrong) and so to be lining up on the grid and feeling strong must be a huge relief. He started in Pole Position, got the holeshot, and led the race until Lap 17 of 22. He then missed out on second place to his new teammate Melandri and finished third. It’s difficult to think of a Bronze medal finish as a lose, but Guintoli must be disappointed that he didn’t finish standing on the top step. LOSE.
The race wasn’t the most exciting we’ve seen, and although the top 4 were relatively close at the finish with 4th place finisher Guiliano on the Ducati finishing four seconds behind the Winner, the fifth place finisher (Loris Baz on the Kawasaki) was considerably further back and 11 seconds behind the Winner (7 seconds behind the guy in front of him). That’s not great for the viewer as we’d like t see a much closer show deeper through the field. But it’s only the first Race, so let’s see how the season progresses. LOSE.
Race 2 was a lot closer than Race 1 and ended with a Red Flag on Lap 16 due to Laverty’s Suzuki letting go in spectacular fashion. With only eight engines for a season, that isn’t good for Suzuki.
Guintoli redeemed Race 1 and put his Aprilia RSV4 on the top step of the box and now leads the World Championship by 10 points. WIN
Loriz Baz and his Kawasaki Ninja took 2nd early on Lap 3 and stayed there. He briefly took the lead on Lap 7 but got shed back a couple laps later. He was 3rd when Laverty went bang, so got a very, very creditably 2nd place finish and takes second in the World Championship. That’s gotta feel good! WIN
Tom Sykes on his Kawasaki Ninja also redeemed himself and fought his way to the front. He was making excellent progress by the red flag and could possibly have done even better. But, a podium finish is a podium, and at least in 6th place in the Championship he’s started some forward momentum in the defense of his title. WIN
Guigliano and the Ducati Panigale finished 4th again, so although he will be disappointed not have a podium in either race, the Panigale is finally showing some real promise. WIN
Likewise Haslam on his Honda CBR1000RR did much better and finished 6th. At one point he was ahead of his teammate Rea on his Honda, but at the red flag it was Rea in 5th, Haslam 6th. Showing promise. WIN
Chaz Davies did fine and finished 7th, at one point he was up to 4th; again things look promising for a good season on the Ducati. WIN
The viewers. Race 2 was much more electrifying than Race 1, much closer, much harder fought and lots of position changes. WIN
Kawasaki. Both Ninjas went from nowhere in the first race to 2nd and 3rd in Race 2. Excellent! WIN
Most obviously–Laverty and Suzuki. Boy, racing can be a hard mistress. From convincing win …to big bang in one afternoon. Laverty’s dejection was plain to see and who can blame him for that. To win a race and finish the meeting 5th in the Championship must feel weird. LOSE
The crew reaction in the Suzuki pit was predictable–heads hanging, hands thrown up in horror, etc. So although this has to be a lose for Laverty and Suzuki, nevertheless the big Gixxer and rider are looking very, very good for the season …but only 7 engines left… yikes. Nevertheless, welcome back Suzuki, it’s very good to see. LOSE
Alex Lowes. Jeepers! Alex gets pushed off again early in Race 2, battles his way up to 9th and at one point was easily the fastest guy on track. He then runs wide again, and after bashing through a gravel trap starts the comeback process once more. He did finish in the points at least, in 13th. Overall his results absolutely did not reflect the speed he showed at Phillip Island; the rest of the season is going to be very interesting watching Alex Lowes. LOSE
Melandri in 8th. Ouch. That’s irritating after his result in Race 1, although he takes consolation that he’s third in the Championship and just three points down on Baz. LOSE