Monday, August 3


Jonathan Rea (centre) conserved his tyres, stalked Chaz Davies (left) and pounced in the final corner.  Max Biaggi rounded out the first race podium with a calm, intelligent strategy.
Tyre management was the major issue at round 10 of the eni Superbike World Championship at Sepang.  Those who did this best won races; those who did not ended up plunging backward through the field in the closing stages.  In the end, both races went to the last corner of the last lap, followed by a drag race to the chequered flag.

In addition, 'wild card' Max Biaggi again raced for the Aprilia factory team, scoring a podium in the first race, making history as the oldest rider to finish on the podium in any Superbike World Championship race since the series started in 1988.  And that was with a recent shoulder dislocation and ankle injury...

But he came crashing back to earth in the first corner of the second race, caught as the salami in the French-Yorkshire bread roll of Sylvain Guintoli and Tom Sykes.

Jonathan Rea was the best tyre manager in the first race and scored his twelfth win of the season, albeit narrowly over Racing-Ducati SBK Team man Chaz Davies.

Davies returned the favour, out-foxing Rea to win the second race.  But with podium finishes in each one of the 20 races run so far, Rea is firm favourite to wrap up the 2015 Superbike title.
Jonathan Rea has a 144 point SWC series lead with three rounds to run.
Going into a six week break before the eleventh round at Circuito de Jerez in southern Spain, Rea has a healthy 144 point lead over Davies with Kawasaki team-mate Tom Sykes slumping back to third in the title chase with 295 points to Rea's 452.

While Rea basked in the glory, Tom Sykes had reason to go home with his head in his hands wondering what might have been had he played his Pirelli cards slightly differently.


It is hard to understand how the 2013 Superbike World Champion got things so wrong.  In his rookie SWC season as team-mate to Ben Spies in the Yamaha team, he attended a pre-race press conference before the 2009 opening round at Phillip Island at which Spies - accurately as it turned out - predicted how the racing would go.

Asked what he thought it would take to win races at Superbike World Championship level, Spies said he thought most of the races would be decided over the final seven to eight laps and "making sure you look after the tyres so you can be strong at the end will be the key factor."

After an unspectacular year alongside Spies at Yamaha, Sykes joined Kawasaki and had to work extremely hard with the old ZX-10R in 2010 and 2011 but even then finished 14th in the 2010 title chase with 106 points and 13th with 141 points in 2011.

Tom Sykes burned his rear tyre in the first race after leading
for a long time, then got involved in a first turn melee
in race two.
Then, armed with the all-new ZX-10R in 2011, he turned into a title challenger, coming up just half a point short of taking the title Max Biaggi won for Aprilia. Slightly better tyre management could have seen Sykes take the crown but there were a few races in which he started strongly only to fade toward the end due to over-working his rear Pirellis.

This year Sykes struggled to adapt to the rules-mandated changes to the Kawasaki's specifications in the first four rounds but since Imola has turned things around.

At Sepang Sykes was faster than anyone in the practice session before final qualifying, and then was fastest in Superpole.  Both times the track temperature was just a whisker under 50 degrees Celcius and Sykes was clearly able to make the Pirelli qualifiers work very well in those circumstance.
Another Tissot watch for Superpole was scant 
compensation for scoring just 13 championship points 
at Sepang for Tom Sykes.

From the start of the first race at Sepang, Sykes was off and running, getting the hole-shot then quickly padding his lead over Davies and Rea, turning the fastest lap of the race on just his first flying lap with a full tank of fuel.

In the space of a few laps Sykes was four seconds ahead and maintained that gap to the mid-point of the race.  Then his pace started to ease while Rea and Davies maintained the same pace they set early on.

With 10 laps of the 16 run, Sykes was in trouble, his lap times increasing.  On lap 11 he clocked 2m 06.616s then a lap later he slowed further with a 2:08.394 then a 2:08 before slowing another two seconds a lap.

This gave the impression Davies and Rea had picked up the pace, but they too were easing up as their rear Pirellis got past their best, just not nearly as much as Sykes.


Another to go hard early and fry his rear Pirelli was Superbike rookie Jordi Torres on the second Red Devils Aprilia.  Initially Biaggi had led the Aprilia charge, in fourth place, with Leon Haslam and Torres line-astern behind. But on the third lap Torres got past Biaggi and Haslam went with him.  Torres then pressed on, slowly closing the gap to third-placed Rea.  Torres got to within two seconds of the Irishman, then slowly the gap started going the other way.  Torres held onto fourth place until five laps from the end, when Biaggi slipped by, followed by Haslam and Pata Honda's Sylvain Guintoli a lap later.

The rot did not stop there for Torres, and as his lap times blew out into the 2:11s and then 2:12s, he plunged backward through the field, ending up in tenth place with a 2:15.260 final lap.

That was the second slowest lap of the race, only exceeded by Randy de Puniet's final effort of 2:18.128 - but that was only after the Frenchman ran his Suzuki off the track and had to rejoin!


After overcoming Haslam and then Torres, Biaggi focused on maintaining a fast and consistent pace which allowed him to look after his tyres and, above all, make a brilliant comeback against Sykes who had begun to drop back and lose contact with Rea and Davies.  After an impressive progression it was in the final, exciting lap that Biaggi overtook the Yorkshireman, taking third place and stepping onto the podium for the first time since Portimão in 2012, the last full season of his career.

It was his 71st SWC podium.

While Sykes was dropping backward, Rea pressed his attack on Davies, out-braking the Ducati into the final corner, bumping Davies then running wide, then somehow gathering it up to out-drag the Ducati to win by 12 hundredths of a second.

Despite a banged up shoulder and injured ankle, Max Biaggi got on the podium at Sepang.

Biaggi crossed the finish line 10.7 seconds back from the battling red and green bikes while Guintoli brought his out-classed Honda home in fourth place after passing the hapless Sykes toward the end of the final lap.

"The podium is an incredible result, Biaggi said.

"It is a challenge overcome, the challenge of raising the bar to something that no one had ever done before.  My race pace was consistent.  Rea, Davies and Sykes pulled away at the front straight away.  I tried to find my pace without destroying the tyre by overheating it.  It wasn't easy because at the same time you have to push.  After overtaking my team-mates I began to focus on Sykes who was getting closer and closer.  I managed to catch him up and overtake him right at the last lap.  I'm super happy.  This is the result I was dreaming of, a real cherry on top and the best I could have hoped to achieve."

Despite being denied the first race win, Davies was all smiles.

"The race went really well, especially considering where we were yesterday, when I was thinking we’d do well to finish top six.  Anyway, we made some changes overnight that put us in a position to fight for the win, though we were still missing something in the last laps in terms of the grip and electronics working together," the Welshman said.

For full race one results click here.


Chaz Davies had to work hard for the second race win.
There was excitement from the first corner of the first lap to the last corner of the last lap i race two.

While the records will show Chaz Davies led every lap to win on the Ducati Panigale, they do not reveal the full picture.

I the run through the first corner, Davies led and Sylvain Guintoli, anxious to get his under-powered Honda as close to the front as possible as soon as possible, dived up the inside of Biaggi, who stood his Aprilia up, made contact with Tom Sykes' Kawasaki, and went down.  This saw Sykes and Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) take avoiding action, which cost them a lot of time.  Sykes completed the opening lap in 14th, Lowes in 17th.

"We were unlucky," said Sykes after eventually finishing 14th.  "Someone got on the inside of Max and he was pushed wide.  He had nowhere to go and he picked it up.  I was on the outside so bad luck really.  After that I was catching the group in front and felt good after making a change to the bike after race one.  It was better but not perfect."

Sykes managed to get up to eighth but then crashed and dropped to 19th place and had to battle just to score some points.

"I struggled with a bent brake lever after the contact and then I fell later on and bent the gear lever up about 15mm and broke the footpeg off, so I only had a little stub. We were unlucky today, which is a shame because we had great pace on the bike. The tyre dropped a lot in race one and we never expected that.”

Unlike the opening race it was Racing–Ducati SBK Team rider Chaz Davies who attempted to make the break, with champion-elect Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) giving chase. 
Jonathan Rea chased down Chaz Davies in race two.
Davies maintained his pace, and the lead, right to the second last lap. 

"Then I saw that Johnny was closing in but over the last two laps my tyre really dropped off and it took everything I had to hold him off.  It was a battle to the line again, and through the last corner when we made contact.  I thought it was all over, but fortunately we both stayed upright and I was able to cross the line in front!" Davies revealed. 

"I’m so pleased about today’s results, obtained at one of the most difficult tracks for us.  This shows how much progress we’ve made.  I’m also pleased to have moved into second place in the championship, having made up a lot of points over Tom this weekend.  Thanks go to my whole team, the guys have done a fantastic job here!  Now it’s time to relax, and after a good holiday we’ll get back to work.”

Jordi Torres was delighted with his second podium of the season.
Jordi Torres (Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils) obviously learned plenty from the first race and the Spanish SWC rookie was able to lap steadily consiste in the 2:06s bracket for almost the duration of the second race to claim his second podium finish of the season.

Torres' only lap outside the 2:06 range was his final circuit at 2m 07.734s.

While that was impressive, it was not as  impressive as Rea's performance.  The Irishman operated with almost clock-work precision, running low to mid 2:05s then easing to high 2:05s to low 2:06s.  To close the more than one second lead Davies enjoyed, he even managed to squeeze off a 2m 05.883s lap on the second last go-around, at a time everyone else was either in the high 2:06s, mid 2:07s or 2:08s.

Jonathan Rea just seems right at home on the ZX-10R Kawasaki.

"With three laps to go, Arturo my mechanic gave me a bit of a secret signal and I knew if I went then I could catch Chaz." Rea revealed.  

"Halfway around the last lap I realised it would be possible.  I passed Chaz and went through clean.  We had contact but I do not blame him for that – I would do the same – but I almost crashed at the same time.  I am really happy because we got another first and second and a bagful of points.

“I’m really happy after a good weekend and happy to go into the summer break now healthy and looking forward to Jerez.  If I had won the championship here maybe my wife would not have spoken to me for a day or two because she is at home!  I just wanted to have a really good weekend and we did that.”

So it was a happy podium:  Davies grinning after a hard-earned win; Rea delighted to have had such a strong finish and Torres rapt to be on the podium again.

“First of all I would like to thank my team," Torres said.  

"Between race one and race two the guys did an incredible job, changing the bike, working on the set-up and the electronic adjustment, particularly on the engine brake.  This let me ride much more smoothly.  I may have wanted to be more aggressive just out of my own instinct, but this let me look after my tyres well in the second race and take this podium which makes me happy.

"Evidently it's just my destiny this season - I need a bad race one to have great results in the second one.  It was an important race for me because it taught me a lot and that is what I want out of this season.  Now I can't wait to get to Jerez.”
Pata Honda rider Sylvain Guintoli, here leading team-mate Michael van der Mark and Leon Haslam (Aprilia), finished fourth in both Superbike World Championship races at Sepang in Malaysia - his best results of the season on his CBR1000RR Fireblade SP. Team-mate van der Mark finished just behind him in fifth in race two after a DNF in the first outing.
Behind Torres' Aprilia, Sylvain Guintoli maintained a solid fourth place from the opening melee - apart from one lap when his Pata-Honda team-mate  Michael van der Mark briefly got the better of him.  After that Guintoli carried on to grab his second fourth place of the weekend.

While the podium trio were spraying the fizzy, Max Biaggi was rather sanguine.

"The crash in doesn't take anything away from my satisfaction.  Now that the weekend is over I can reveal that my crash during the tests last week 'gave' me a left shoulder dislocation and an injury that required stitches on my right ankle.

"It was mainly the shoulder that bothered me, especially in the more flowing parts of the track.  But we gritted our teeth and everything went brilliantly - just one more reason to rush into a happy holiday break."

For full race two results click here

Chaz Davies has finally got a Ducati Panigale capable of winning races....