The French-born, British based “Guinters” piloted his Pata Ducati 1098R up from sixth place on the opening lap to take the lead on lap 15 of 23, then pulled away to win by a convincing 6 second margin. The big crowd around the sodden, 4.411 km long Magny venue were clear about their support for the famously calm Guintoli.
For much of the race, Kawasaki’s Tom Sykes was in control, getting clear of the busy pack and seemingly ready to move up from second in the series point standings. Series point leader Max Biaggi, looking in control of the Championship chase, crashed his Aprilia while braking on lap three, meaning that Sykes’ race one effort on the ZX-10R Ninja was all-important.
However Sykes couldn’t hold off the on-form Guintoli, and soon the works ZX-10R Ninja pilot also succumbed to the challenge of BMW’s Marco Melandri. Riding hurt, S1000RR mounted Melandri worked through the pack from tenth, pacing “Guinters.”
Melandri’s second place finish ahead of Sykes tightens the chase at the front of the standings with only this afternoon’s second race left to run. In what has been a crazy season at the front of the standings, with many twists and turns, the final event stacks up as a three way, “cliff hanger” battle.
Biaggi continues to lead the standings with a total of 347 points, followed by Sykes at 332.5 and Melandri’s 328.5 point total. Sykes certainly needs a strong finishing kick, but for instance if Sykes wins race two and Biaggi nets sixth, Sykes would be Champ by .5 of a point! If Biaggi nets fifth or better, he will earn his second career World Superbike Championship.
Honda’s Jonathan Rea looked to have the race won, holding more than a ten second lead on lap 12, pulling away from second placed Sykes by as much as two seconds a lap. But the British star high-sided his Ten Kate prepared CBR1000RR, and then fell off again at low speed trying to regain the slippery track surface. Rea then pitted for repairs, and still managed to score points with a 13th place finish.
Outgoing SBK World Champ Carlos Checa was in the fight for first in the early going aboard the Althea Ducati. But he crashed on lap eight, and could not remount. None of the riders who fell were injured.
Maxime Berger, a former team-mate of Guintoli on the defunct Liberty Effenbert Ducati team, earned a solid fourth in his debut as a fill-in rider for the Red Devils Roma Ducati team. Berger held off a determined effort by Leon Haslam on the second works BMW, who settled for fifth in the first race.
Fastest in the rainy warm-up this morning, Leon Camier crashed the sole factory FIXI Crescent Suzuki GSX-R1000 on lap 10, having worked his way up to sixth after a poor start. Camier tumbled through the gravel run-off, was hit by his bike, and eventually walked from trackside with the assistance of the Marshals.
Track conditions are expected to be less wet, but probably not completely dry, for the final eni Superbike World Championship round of 2012, slated to start at 3:30 pm local time.