Posted: 25 Jul 2013
The Russian round last weekend marked the mid-point in the 2013 World Superbike season and this year the championship challenge is really starting to heat up. A DNF for Sykes in Moscow puts Guintoli back into the lead of the championship by just four points while the race win for Melandri pushes him to third in the championship, thirty two points in arrears of the Frenchman.
With fourteen races still to come, in literal terms the championship could go to anybody at this early stage but there are key players starting to emerge at this mid-way point. Guintoli has been at the sharp end of the championship since he took the win in the first race of the season at Phillip Island; although an interesting point to note is the Leicestershire based Frenchman hasn’t won a race since that weekend back in February. He has however finished on the podium in ten out of the season’s fifteen races to date. His consistency could be the key to a title challenge, with his main rivals having already suffered numerous technical difficulties, crashes or poor performance in races.
The Brits are cheering on Tom Sykes this year, who despite a couple of crashes and a technical issue has put in a display nearing total domination this season. Having been off the podium just twice in races he’s finished this season, Sykes has shattered lap records, qualifying records, taken six out of eight pole positions and won five races, more than any other rider.
After taking the victory last time out at Moscow, Marco Melandri has elevated himself further into the championship battle and with BMW’s recent announcement about their withdrawal from the series at the end of the season, it’s expected the team will push even harder to win the title. Someone else who’ll be pushing hard is Eugene Laverty, having taken four wins this season (behind only Sykes in the total win tally) he languishes down in fourth place in the standings after five non-scores through mechanicals and crashes.
An outside bet for the championship could be Welshman, Chaz Davies. After his double win at Aragon things seemed to quieten down for the Goldbet BMW rider although his form seemed to be reignited this past weekend in Russia. Qualifying second on the grid, Davies went on to take the lead early on in the race where he was consistently lapping faster than anyone on track to build a strong lead. Things then changed for the Brit as the heavens opened he lost just a few seconds during his pit stop which saw his team mate Melandri in a position to pass him on the following lap. Second place was still a strong result for Davies, who sits fifth in the championship. Sixty-five points is a large gap to make up but as we’ve seen over the years in Superbikes – anything can happen.
The first half of the season has also thrown up a couple of surprises and the first of these is that PATA Honda’s Jonathan Rea is yet to win a race this season. The Northern Irishman has only made two visits to the podium this season despite displaying threatening pace at times. This season could well end up being the final straw for the Northern Irishman, who is rumoured to be looking to break a long relationship with Honda next year in favour of winning machinery.
Two riders to watch out for in the second half of the season are almost certainly Davide Giugliano and Carlos Checa. Giugliano has shown immense pace recently and took his first ever pole position in Moscow, if he can figure out how to stay on his bike the Italian is a cert for podiums if not wins. Checa has had a miserable first half of the season with the exception of pole position however appeared to find some pace in Moscow at the weekend – two unlucky crashes saw him run out of luck in terms of results however there’s nothing to suggest there isn’t more to come from the 2011 World Champion.
The series resumes next week at Silverstone.