Tuesday, April 24


Sylvain Guintoli ( Photo Craig Dawson)
By Michael Esdaile

Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli scored his first world championship win with a heady ride to victory in the re-started first race of the 2012 Eni Superbike World Championship at Assen, Holland on April 22.

The Assen round was marred by crashes due to cold, wet conditions.

English Kawasaki rider Tom Sykes started the weekend strongly, taking pole position with a lap more than a second faster than anyone and led the first race until a coolant hose clip broke. Up until then, the Kawasaki man was looking strong and despite being reeled in by the chasing pack, the ZX-10R was more than a match for them in acceleration.

With Sykes’ retirement, Marco Melandri (BMW) took over at the front while Guintoli pulled through from tenth on the opening lap to annex second spot. Then, when Melandri crashed when rain hit, the Frenchman was leading when the race was re-flagged.

After a break, the race was re-started over nine laps on a streaming wet track, the starting order determined by the finishing postions from the first segment. This helped 2010 SWC Champion Max Biaggi (Aprilia) who had missed out on Superpole and had started from 17th grid position the first time. For the re-start, Biaggi was 13th on the grid and worked his way through to finish fourth.

Unfortunately for Sykes, the Provec Kawasaki team was unable to switch engines in time, so the Englishman missed the re-start.

Once again Guintoli made a poor start from the front row of the grid, but kept his wits about him while Haslam shot off into the lead and ran away from the field, building to a nine second lead before crashing.

Carlos Checa then took over the lead, briefly, before Guintoli took over, going on to win from Davide Giugliano (Althea Ducati) who got the better of defending World Champion and team-mate Carlos Checa on the last lap. Checa finished third to make it a Ducati 1-2-3 while Biaggi got the better of his Aprilia team-mate Eugene Laverty for fourth. The 13 points Biaggi picked up here would later prove most important.

Guintoli was very happy to have scored his first win in any world championship class in 12 years of trying. The Frenchman started his world championship career in the World 250 Championship in 2000 on a Honda, switched to Aprilia in 2001, and competed in the 250cc class until 2007 when he switched to MotoGP with the Tech 3 team. In 2008 he raced a Ducati V4 for the Pramac team then joined the Crescent Suzuki team in the British Superbike Championship, where he started the 2009 season with 1-2 finishes at the opening round at Brands Hatch. However, he was skittled by Australian Josh Brookes in the build-up to the fifth round at Donington Park, sustaining a broken tibia and fibula in his right leg.

In 2010 Guintoli joined the Alstare Suzuki team in the Superbike World Championship and last year he raced for the Effenbert Liberty Racing Ducati team, finishing sixth in the title chase.

He started 2012 strongly with a third place finish in the first race of the season at Phillip Island, but crashed in the second. Then at Imola for round two, he crashed out of the first race after being bumped off track by BMW’s Leon Haslam, then finished 11th in the second race.

But at Assen, a fully fit Guintoli was in great form and showed considerable maturity in his run to the chequered flag in atrocious conditions.

It was the first win for a French rider in the SWC since Regis Laconi won both races at Misano in 2005.

Many riders crashed, including Guintoli’s team-mate Jakub Smrz, Honda’s Jonathan Rea and both Suzuki riders – Leon Camier on the sighting lap and Hopkins in the race. ParkinGo Aprilia rider Chz Davies was another faller, as was Italian Ayton Badovini, who had briefly inherited the lead after Haslam’s crash.

For race results, click on: http://sbk.perugiatiming.com/pdf_frame.asp?p_Round=ROUND&p_Anno=2012&p_Manifestazione=03&p_Gara=01&p_Sessione=501&p_Stampa=CLA