Tom Sykes, Eugene Laverty and Jonathan Rea headed the front row for World Superbikes race one at the fast and undulating Algarve circuit of Portimao in Portugal this afternoon. As the lights went out MAHI Kawasaki pole sitter Tom Sykes got a textbook start and got the holeshot in to the downhill right-hander of turn one as Goldbet BMW man Marco Melandri made an equally good start to drop in to second place ahead of Laverty, Rea and Sylvain Guintoli.
|Melandri tops the podium in Portimao
Sykes tried to make a break in the early laps of the race as at Donington Park last time out as the chasing pack fought to assert their authority on the proceedings and chase down the Yorkshireman with Melandri and Laverty have a big battle between themselves before the Northern Irishman made the telling pass on the Italian and set about closing the 0.5s gap to Sykes by putting in a 1:43.0s lap, just shy of max Biaggis lap record.
Behind the leading five of Sykes, Laverty, Melandri, Rea and Guintoli it was Loris Baz & Davide Giugliano having their own private battle to be best of the rest before the Althea Aprilia rider lost the front round the back of the circuit; meanwhile at the front Laverty continued to harass Sykes at every opportunity but the Kawasaki had the power in the early stages.
Top 5 circulated together posting almost identical lap times when Laverty took the lead on lap 7 with a move on the brakes up the inside at the downhill turn 1, the most popular passing place on the circuit, and put in a lap 0.5s faster than the Yorshireman to try and break the tow and build a gap but such was the pace the Aprilia man was kept firmly in sight by the four behind. After his positive showing in qualifying it was heartbreak for Jonathan Rea as his Pata Honda Fireblade developed technical problems forcing his retirement from proceedings.
It was a double blow for the Pata Honda team as the returning from injury Leon Haslam withdrew from the race with pain from his still healing broken left leg after banging his left knee on a kerb and aggravating the injury to such an extent that the Derbyshire man had to withdraw.
Laverty got a good drive on to the front straight and looked to challenge Sykes but his RSV4 engine cried enough and blew as he put the power down on the straight costing Laverty a likely podium position whilst at the front Melandri slipped inside Sykes at Turn 1 to take the lead for the first time whilst behind them Lavertys team mate Guintoli began his charge to the front after conserving his tyres whilst keeping a watching brief on proceedings ahead.
It took a strong move from Sykes on Melandri at turn one on lap 17 to regain the lead, punting the little Italian on to the rumble strips and off on to the asphalt run off as Guintoli slipped through to relegate the Goldbet BMW man to third. Two laps later it was Guintoli’s chance to get in on the turn one action as he took the lead from Sykes on lap 19 as a red-mist Melandri chased down the pair and passed Sykes for second place three corners later.
In the closing three laps it was down to Guintoli and Melandri to fight it out for the win as Sykes lost touch but remained safe in third place. Turn one was the pace to be once again on lap 20 as Melandri snatched the lead for all of 10 metres as Guintoli dropped his Aprilia back over the nose of the BMW as the two experienced men fought it out for the win.
Melandri went for the lead again at turn one on the final lap and this time the Frenchman Guintoli had no reply but took a calculated lunge at the Horseshoe Curve turn 5 but unfortunatley ran wide and in doing so handed a small enough advantage to Melandri to hold on for the win by just 0.007s from Guintoli in the 4th closest race finish in WSB history.