Superbike World Championship Donington, May 2016

Sykes Super Class

Apparently Tom Sykes has no opponent capable of cutting it on the Donington circuit. The Kawasaki rider scored his fourth twin-win in a row on the UK track, at the same time regaining second place in the overall standings.

The Races

On his home turf in Leicestershire, Tom Sykes didn’t do things by halves. Clocking up the fastest lap times in the practice test sessions, the Kawasaki rider confirmed his domination on the circuit by winning both races over the weekend. The first after getting the measure of Davide Giugliano, the second after getting the upper hand over Jonathan Rea. Handicapped on Saturday afternoon by a minor gearbox problem which forced him to settle for third place, the defending world champion still managed to make it twice to the podium by finishing second on Sunday.

The Kawasaki riders also gave another superb performance in Supersport with Kenan Sofuoglu’s fourth victory and a place on the podium for Randy Krummenacher. After taking pole position, the Turkish rider quickly got rid of Jacobsen to lead the race while his Swiss teammate managed to climb back from fifth place to finish third.

The Championship

By pocketing fifty points at Donington, Tom Sykes has returned to second place overall and reduced the gap with Jonathan Rea to fifty-six points. The latter, who has never missed a place on the podium since the start of the season, managed to consolidate his leadership with the fall of Chaz Davies on Sunday afternoon. With nine wins in fourteen races, both Kawasaki riders have confirmed their domination of the Superbike World Championship in 2016.

The same applies in Supersport where Kenan Sofuoglu and Randy Krummenacher are continuing to ride it alone. With three wins in his pocket, the reigning world champion now leads his teammate by twenty-six points.

The Background

Tom Sykes is continuing to make history on the Donington Park circuit. This year the Kawasaki rider chalked up another twin-win on the Leicestershire circuit, his fourth in a row. Eight consecutive wins on the same circuit is a feat that only Carl Fogarty has achieved before him, in Assen, between 1993 and 1996. Tom tied another record set by the British World Superbike legend by taking his 35th pole position this weekend. The Kawasaki rider has now also taken ten podium places in a row at Donington, a record only equalled by a certain Colin Edwards who, between 1998 and 2002, made it to the podiums ten times on the Monza circuit.

“People often ask me why I’m so good at Donington,” grins Tom Sykes. “To be frank, I have no idea. It’s a circuit I like, but there are others. And it doesn’t feel as if I’m making more effort here than elsewhere.”

It seems his luck in Leicestershire is just part of the sport’s magic.

MotoGP World Championship-Italian Grand Prix (Mugello) May 2016

The Cruel Mugello Circuit

Success was not in store this weekend for the riders of the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS team on the Mugello circuit. The best result was obtained by Franco Morbidelli with an eighth place in Moto2.

The Races

Eighth to take the chequered flag, Franco Morbidelli didn’t make the podium he dearly wanted on his home turf. After scoring two fourth places in a row in Jerez and Le Mans, the Italian was unable to move up gear during the Moto2 race which was reduced to ten laps after a fall forced the directors to stop the race.

Victim of a collision with Luca Marini before the red flag was flown, Alex Marquez had to take the second start from the back of the grid, and despite a great recovery the Spaniard finished in sixteenth position, just outside the points.

In MotoGP, the streak of bad luck was even worse for Michael Bartholemy’s riders. Tito Rabat broke a collarbone  during the practice test sessions and Jack Miller ended up in the gravel trap at the first bend after colliding with Alvaro Bautista. The clumsiness of the Spanish rider who risked too much in the braking section and lost the front end also cost Loris Baz a fractured foot.

The Championship

Having missed the event at Mugello, Tito Rabat has slipped back to eighteenth place in the overall MotoGP standings. Jack Miller remains in twenty-second position with the two points he clocked up in Qatar.

In Moto2, Franco Morbidelli retains his ninth place while Alex Marquez has dropped down to twenty-second position. The Spaniard is now counting on the next race in Catalunya to get his season back on track.

The Background

Planted between two green hills of the Tuscan town of Scarperia, the riders and public are unanimous about the unique Mugello circuit. It is true that the track, now owned by Ferrari, offers an incredible array of difficulties with a hilly terrain, a series of corners to take your breath away and a long, long straight at the end of which the riders are close to 350 km/h. Mugello hosted its first Grand Prix in 1976. That year, Barry Sheene won the race with his Suzuki 500 ahead of Phil Read. The Brit was en route to his first world championship title. Note that in forty years, the 5.245-kilometre Italian track has undergone virtually no change at all.

Superbike World Championship Malaysia (Sepang), May 2016

Sykes wins, Rea leads

The Kawasaki team came through the Malaysian leg of the Superbike World Championship with flying colours: Sykes won the first race and Rea, with two podiums, consolidated his position as overall leader.

The Races

After chalking up his 34th Superpole on Saturday in Malaysia, Tom Sykes scored his 28th win in the Superbike World Championship. A clear success for the Kawasaki rider who handled his superiority from start to finish of the first race, which was held under excellent conditions. The second race was not as fortunate for the Brit. Starting in the rain, the 2013 world champion found the track difficult as it dried with the passing laps.

“The bike wasn’t tuned correctly and all I did was lose ground,”

he regretted after crossing the finish line in eighth position.

Finishing second on Saturday afternoon, Jonathan Rea managed to make it back to the podium the next day by snatching third place from Chaz Davies.

“The weekend was complicated but in the end I managed to take points twice from Chaz and at present he’s my most serious rival in the title race,”

grinned the leader of the championship.

In Supersport Kenan Sofuoglu and Randy Krummenacher were both affected by the bad weather. They finished sixth and eighth respectively.

The Championship

Having let up the pressure a little in Italy, in Malaysia Jonathan Rea managed to further increase his lead over Chaz Davies in the overall standings. The Championship leader now has 42 points more than the Ducati rider. Tom Sykes stays third with 62 points ahead of the fourth place, flying Dutchman Michael van der Mark.

In Supersport Kenan Sofuoglu continues to lead the Championship with a 17-point lead over his Swiss teammate.

The Background

Jonathan Rea will be riding for Kawasaki again in 2017 and 2018. The reigning world champion has renewed his contract with the Japanese manufacturer for two more seasons.

“I am very pleased to be given the opportunity to extend my contract so early in the season,”

said the overall leader.

“It will allow me to concentrate on the rest of the championship in order to defend my crown under great conditions. It will also allow us to continue developing the ZX-10 R slowly but surely. Given the excellent relations I have with everyone in the team, staying with Kawasaki was obvious for me.”

Since joining the Greens last year, Jonathan Rea has chalked up nineteen victories and won his first world champion tile. If he manages to keep it this year, the Brit will become the first rider since Carl Fogarty in 1999 to win the Championship title two times in a row.

MotoGP – Grand Prix France may 2016

Morbidelli on the move

Fourth in Jerez, fourth at Le Mans, Franco Morbidelli is stacking up the places of honour and getting closer to the podium. In contrast, the other riders of the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS team were less successful, failing to cross the finish line of the French Grand Prix.

The Races

The podium is not far off for Franco Morbidelli. As he did a fortnight ago in Spain, the Italian rider was fourth to take the chequered flag. Second after the first lap, Morbidelli lacked a little pace to keep up with the leaders. He nevertheless brilliantly fought off the attack by Japan’s Nakagami at the end of the race.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” said the Italian. “The podium’s not far off; we have to continue working the way we’ve been doing these last few weeks.”

After some difficulties during the practice test sessions, Álex Márquez crashed once again. Falling twelve laps from the finish just as he seemed likely to score points, the Spaniard has accumulated disappointment after disappointment, not finishing a Grand Prix since the start of the season. Jack Miller and Tito Rabat, both of whom hoped to bring back points from their visit to the Sarthe region, also crashed in the MotoGP race.

“Although a lot of riders crashed, including MotoGP two-time World Champion Marc Marquez and both official Ducati riders, it was a bitter disappointment for our team”

said an annoyed Michael Bartholemy after the French Grand Prix.

The Championship

There’s been no change in the overall MotoGP standings for Tito Rabat, who is still placed seventeenth, the three riders ahead of him in the championship having failed to score any points at Le Mans. Jack Miller has lost a place, and is now in twenty-second position. In Moto2, Franco Morbidelli has moved up to ninth place with a total of thirty-seven points. Alex Marquez, still twentieth, has only chalked up five points this season.

TITO RABAT SPA ESTRELLA GALICIA MARC VDS HONDA
TITO RABAT SPA
ESTRELLA GALICIA MARC VDS HONDA

The Background

This season the MotoGP riders changed tyres, swapping their Bridgestones for Michelins, but they also inherited a unique new electronic management system as well as two litres of extra fuel. Has this affected the work of the Total Elf group engineers and chemists? “No, not really,” replies Romain Aubry, who works on the development of special fuels. The changes in terms of electronics create more work for the technical teams who are in charge of tuning the motorcycles, but for us the work is just the same. We constantly seek to improve the performance of the engines while reducing their consumption. Those are some of our constraints, as well as seeking to optimize fuel evaporation to avoid the phenomenon of “vapour lock” by selecting new molecules. Ongoing work that the engineers evaluate on the test benches in their research centres before sending their matrices to the various manufacturers.

Superbike World Championship Italy (Imola) May 2016

Rea bends but doesn’t break

Although Chaz Davies scored two wins, Jonathan Rea managed his Italian weekend perfectly well, finishing second in both races of the weekend. The reigning world champion has never been left out of the top three since the start of the season.

The Races

Having outclassed his opponents in the Netherlands, Jonathan Rea intelligently rode for a place on the podium at Imola. On a circuit that suited Chaz Davies’ Ducati down to the ground, the Kawasaki rider took two second places in difficult conditions :

 “I had a few technical hitches,” he admitted. “During the first race my rear wheel had a tendency to lock, probably because of an electronics problem, and in the second my dashboard broke down for a few seconds but it was enough to put me off for a while. So overall I’m fairly happy with the result.”

Especially since in each race he also had to deal with the onslaughts of his teammate. Tom Sykes finished third in both races on the Italian track.

In Supersport Kenan Sofuoglu chalked up his second success of the year. Randy Krummenacher was less fortunate, a leak in the cooling system of his Kawasaki having forced him to withdraw.

The Championship

Finishing second in both races on the Imola circuit, Jonathan Rea has lost a dozen points to Chaz Davies, who did the double. But the Kawasaki rider is still leader in the Championship, thirty-five points ahead of the official Ducati Superbike Team rider. Third overall, Tom Sykes follows up with thirty-two points.

In Supersport Kenan Sofuoglu used his victory and the troubles of his teammate to take command of the Championship. The Turk is fifteen points ahead of Krummenacher.

The Background

Since the opening of the Championship in Australia, Jonathan Rea has never left the podium. Ten races, ten podiums. Since the start of the World Championship Superbike, regularity of that kind that has only been seen five times: Carl Fogarty in 1995 and 1999, Neil Hodgson in 2003, Troy Corser in 2005, the same Jonathan Rea in 2015 for his debut with the Kawasaki team. Each time, the rider who scored a sequence of ten podiums in a row was crowned world champion at the end of the season. Should we see a sign in that for the Brit, the reigning world champion?

“Surely not,” he replies. “Nothing is ever certain!  It takes hard work to stay on a curve like that, but also because Chaz Davies is a quite a customer. He proved it again at Imola in winning both races.”