Eugene Laverty, leading on the works Aprilia, completes his last corner, last lap "squeeze play" on BMW team leader Marco Melandri to take victory in the opener of the eni Superbike World Championship at Jerez, Spain Eugene Laverty, leading on the works Aprilia, completes his last corner, last lap "squeeze play" on BMW team leader Marco Melandri to take victory in the opener of the eni Superbike World Championship at Jerez, Spain Colin Fraser for Inside Motorcycles

Laverty Wins Spanish SBK Opener But Sykes is 2013 World Champ for Kawasaki

Written by  on Sunday, 20 October 2013 07:45

Eugene Laverty of Ireland on an Aprilia staged a thrilling last lap battle to beat Italian Marco Melandri’s BMW at the eni World Superbike Championship opener at Jerez, Spain. 

Kawasaki’s British team-leader Tom Sykes netted a careful third, good enough to clinch his first career World Superbike crown.

Laverty lead much of the race on the factory Aprilia RSV4, with Melandri’s BMW Motorrad GoldBet S1000RR keeping the pressure on through the 21 lap opening race.  With less than two laps to go, Melandri made a bold move to take the lead, Laverty now in second for the first time.

Jerez is famous for drama in the final turn, and the first of today’s two Superbike races proved this belief.  Melandri clearly expected Laverty to dive for the inside of the final hairpin turn, and as the leader committed to his defensive mid-track line, Melandri switched tactics and moved to the outside while the pair slowed.

By the time the leaders reached the final apex, Laverty had made it around Melandri and then hung on to win the drag race to the chequered flag at the finish line.  The margin of victory was .21 of a second, and Melandri got some consolation by setting the fastest lap of the race.

“Melandri made a really aggressive move on the penultimate lap, and we’ve already talked about that,” started Laverty following his victory.

“When it came to that final turn, my mind was going about one thousand miles per hour,” continued the victor. “Then when I saw him start to brake, I switched sides (of the track) and then it all happened from there.”

A somewhat sheepish looking Melandri stated that he was sorry he couldn’t win the race, since he wanted to give his team a victory to end the season.  The works BMW squad will depart World SBK at the end of this year, while Melandri joins the impressive factory Aprilia team, taking the place of the departing Laverty.

Sykes on the sole works Ninja ZX-10R held off the second works Aprilia of Sylvain Guintoli for much of the race, eventually pulling clear to net third and the title by 2.5 seconds over fourth finisher “Guinters.”  Along with Laverty, Guintoli was the only other competitor with a mathematical shot of beating Sykes for the Championship prior to the start of the penultimate race of 2013.

After running with the leaders in the early going, popular Spanish rider Toni Elias placed a lonely fifth aboard the Red Devils Roma Aprilia RSV4 Factory.  Sixth place finisher Davide Giugliano, Althea Racing Aprilia mounted, started from the front row beside Laverty and Sykes, but faded to wind up seven seconds behind Elias.

A good battle for eighth was resolved in the final turn, with Leon Camier of the Fixi Crescent Suzuki edging the Team Alstare Ducati Panigale of ninth finisher Xavier Fores.

A great fight for tenth went right to the line. Jules Cluzel on the second factory Suzuki and veteran privateer Mark Aitchison aboard the Team Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R Ninja disputed the tenth spot.

 Cluzel caught up to Aitchison on the final lap, and then pulled the classic “Dive Bomb” maneuver on the brakes, entering the final turn.

Aitchison chose to stay wide on the entrance to the last hairpin, and then ducked under Cluzel on the drag race to the chequered flag.  As Aitchison passed for position, Cluzel started to drift back, and the Australian on the Kawasaki got his right elbow up before the Suzuki of Cluzel could bump his controls.

Aitchison was .12 second ahead at the line, good enough t earn a solid tenth, his best result of the season.

The final race in the 2013 eni Superbike World Championship is scheduled for 3:30 PM local time, and weather conditions are expected to remain hot and sunny.

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Colin Fraser

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