Marco Melandri scored his first World Superbike win since Moscow in 2013 and his first double since 2012 with two closely fought victories over Sylvain Guintoli in Sepang.
|No one could touch the Aprilia’s in Sepang
Photo: Steven English
In a strong weekend for Aprilia, where Toni Elias also showed well, the Aprilia Racing team-mates couldn’t be touched in both races as they quickly forged ahead of the field to fight amongst themselves for the win.
In the first race Melandri hauled Guintoli in after a poor start and made the decisive move on lap ten, narrowly holding the Frenchman off for the remaining laps in a close contest.
Their job was eased somewhat in the first race when Loris Baz crashed at the tricky turn two, collecting team-mate and championship leader Tom Sykes in the process. Alex Lowes struck Sykes’ ZX-10R, taking him out of proceedings, and Jonathan Rea narrowly avoided a collision, losing valuable time on the rest.
Sykes was still fuming after the second race, claiming in the post race press conference that, “Loris proved a lot of people right at my expense.” It left Eugene Laverty to produce a fine run to third, his first podium since the season opener in Phillip Island. Chaz Davies got the better of Toni Elias at the final corner to place fourth while Jonathan Rea recovered from the first lap melee to gain an impressive sixth.
The second affair was reduced to a ten lap sprint after Claudio Corti’s MV Agusta dumped oil on the racing line on the fourth lap of the opening effort. Again Melandri and Guintoli built a comfortable advantage over Sykes, Elias and Baz early on. The pair were together throughout before a flurry of overtakes on the final lap. Melandri led going into the final corner but Guintoli charged under, ran wide and allowed the Italian to power to only his second ever World Superbike double.
Sykes came home third ahead of Elias, Baz and Rea to maintain his championship lead at a reduced margin of 13 points. Guintoli rose to second overall with Rea’s pair of sixth places keeping him in touch, 22 points back of Sykes.
A delighted Melandri said, “A double win that was just what we needed! Despite the difficulties we never gave up. We kept working and fighting. I had a good feeling straight away with my RSV4 here. I had to give 100 percent down to the chequered flag. Anyway, all the riders deserve admiration today because riding in these conditions is not easy at all.”
Guintoli was satisfied with his work for the day, saying, “In Race 1 I thought I had implemented my strategy well, but unfortunately toward the end Marco just had a really good pace and forced me into a few mistakes. I think I did better in Race 2, trying to pull the pin straight away, but toward the end Marco quite simply had just a little more.”
Sykes was far from pleased with a single third place but found comfort in the championship standings. “We got a podium and we are still leading the championship, which is very important,” he said. “It is was difficult to see the two guys up front go away because if I was riding fit then I think we could have tried to give them something to think about.”