2014 Losail World Superbike
The 12th and final round of the 2014 World Superbike Championship gets underway this weekend at Losail International Circuit in Doha, Qatar.
Losail returns to the WSBK schedule following a four-year hiatus. The last time the FIM series traveled to Qatar was in 2009; that year, Ben Spies doubled there en route to taking the World SBK title.
But this year’s round – the sixth held at at 3.342-mile Losail – will be historic considering for the first time in SBK history, the race will be held under the floodlights – just like MotoGP.
The battle is on for the title between the reigning champion Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) and Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team).
Sykes entered Qatar with a 12-point lead over the Aprilia RSV4 pilot. Both riders have experience at Qatar, but due to his GP experience, Guintoli has the upper hand. The Frenchman raced at Qatar five times, including once under the floodlights in MotoGP (2008) when he finished 15th.
As for Sykes, he raced there in 2009 during his rookie season in SBK; he finished 7-5. At the last round held at Magny-Cours in France, Guintoli finished 2-1, and Sykes earned fourth in both races.
Tom Sykes says: “I am really looking forward to racing at Losail because it is a track I have competed at before and I was also here for the Ninja ZX-10R launch. I rode under the floodlights during the launch and it is a completely different experience – and one that I am really looking forward to again.
“The layout at Losail is fantastic as you can open up the full potential of a Superbike and you feel that there is a good element of safety, so I cannot wait to get going on Friday evening. It has come down to crunch time and there is a lot at stake at this meeting – but I am just looking to go out and do what we normally do.
“There has been some input from the weather in the championship recently, which obviously made it closer than it perhaps would have been, but the long and short of it is that we are the ones with the advantage, so we need to make the most of that. I am in the very fortunate position that this is the third year on the bounce that we have been battling for the world championship so we just need to see what we can make of it on raceday.”
Sylvain Guinoli says “Last visit to Qatar I won the race (“8h of Doha”) and the Team I raced for was World Champion (Endurance), back in 2010. I love the track and it will suit the RSV4 like a glove.
“I am very excited about this weekend and very focused on our target. I have worked very hard for this and since Laguna we have closed the gap from 44 to 12 points. Sykes is defending well but we are now very close.”
As Sykes and Guintoli vie for the title, many other battles will also be underway at Qatar. Following is from the official World Superbike preview:
Marco Melandri (Aprilia Racing Team), who has won four of the last six races, is aiming to keep up the momentum to finish the season on the highest possible note. He is trailed by Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike), who is 11 points behind Melandri in fourth and by Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team), currently fifth and 30 points adrift of 3rd place.
Toni Elias (Red Devils Roma Aprilia) is the World Superbike rider with the most experience in racing under floodlights at Losail, having contested the night version of the Qatari Grand Prix from the first running in 2008 up to and including last year.
This will be the last chance of the 2014 season for both Davide Giugliano and Chaz Davies (Ducati Superbike Team) to take a first win aboard their 1199 Panigale R machines. The two riders, who share a total of six podiums this year, will do their best to make this happen before focusing on next season, which will see them racing together again in “Ducati red” colors.
Eugene Laverty and Alex Lowes will contest their last event as team mates at Voltcom Crescent Suzuki, with the goal of returning onto the podium before the season draws to a close.
With Lowes officially confirmed for another season with the English team, Laverty is looking to conclude his racing year the same way it started off for him with victory before switching series in 2015. Back in 2009 the Irishman took his maiden World Supersport win in Qatar.
MV Agusta Reparto Corse and Team Hero EBR will give their all for an encouraging result in the last event of the year, hoping to gain some positives after a challenging rookie season in the series.
David Salom (Kawasaki Racing Team) enters the season finale as the firm favourite to win the first ever EVO title given the 30 point advantage he has on Niccolò Canepa (Team Althea Racing Ducati).
Many riders including Frenchmen Sylvain Barrier (BMW Motorrad Italia) and Jeremy Guarnoni (MRS Kawasaki), as well as South African Sheridan Morais (Iron Brain Grillini Kawasaki) will hope to end their season on a high. Australian Alex Cudlin will replace the still injured Luca Scassa at Team Pedercini Kawasaki. The 28 year old from Sydney has vast experience of Losail, having been a regular in the Qatar Superbike Championship where he is a four time champion.