Eugene Laverty and Sylvain Guintoli led an Aprilia whitewash in the first round of the World Superbike championship at Phillip Island, north of Melbourne in Australia, taking a win and a second apiece, while Aprilia privateer Michel Fabrizio was third in Race 1 and fourth in Race 2, and Davide Giugliano, also on an RSV4 Factory, recovered from a crash in Race 1 to grab sixth in Race 2.
Aprilia’s 1-2-3 was in only its second in this class; the first was at the Nurburgring in 2012.
Laverty started well from second on the grid behind Superpole winner Carlos Checa on the new Ducati Panigale 1199R, and moved away to lead until Guintoli reeled him in during the latter stages of the race, passed him on lap 15 and held to take the chequered flag by 1.352sec for his fourth World Superbike race win.
Sylvain Guintoli: “It's great to start off with a win! Quite honestly, after the tests I know I could do well and from the start my intention was to give it my all. My goal has always been to win, but sometimes you have to adapt to conditions.”
“In the first race I didn't get off to a good start and I lost a few positions, but lap by lap I found the right pace to move forward. Eugene had gotten away well and when I overtook him I managed to keep the distance and take the win."
Late in the race Laverty had to deal with a confident Fabrizio, who closed the gap and had a shot at second, but Laverty waited until the last lap to make the perfect move on the Fabrizio at Lukey Heights.
Works BMW rider Chaz Davies battled it out all the way to the line with fellow Englishman Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) taking fourth by just 0.051sec, with team mate Loris Baz sixth, a second further adrift.
After being right on the pace for the first half of the race, Honda rider Leon Haslam struggle to stay with the leaders and eventually finished seventh, 11 seconds ahead of team mate Jonathan Rea.
Two potential podium contenders went out on lap 13 when Checa accidentally hit BMW star Marco Melandri from behind after outbraking himself, into Turn 4.
A formidable late charge Laverty the win from Guintoli (by less than half a second!) and Melandri (by 1.382 seconds), to tie the Aprilia team mates on points.
Laverty pulled the pin on lap 20, overtaking Melandri in Turn 4 and knocking an impressive 0.155sec off the lap record, then slipstreamed past Guintoli on the straight to grab the lead, which he held until ito the end and held onto 1st place up to the chequered flag.
Eugene Laverty: “We got off on the right foot - all the work from the past few days has paid off. My Aprilia was fast and it performed as I wanted it to from the first to the last lap.
"I may have been a bit too conservative with the tyres in Race 1, but in Race 2 I pushed a bit more decisively. At the end when it was Sylvain, Melandri and me, I tried and was able to get away, shaving a few more tenths off my pace.”
Sylvain Guintoli: “Eugene had a bit more than me in the last laps. He employed a strategy similar to the one I used in the first race, but this is a fantastic result for the team.”
Melandri had no answer for his former team mate's move on lap 20 but, after his bad luck in Race 1, he ended the first round on a positive note.
Fabrizio made a small mistake, running wide on the last lap in a desperate attempt to pass Melandri for third, after chasing the front-runner for most of the race.
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki), far from the ideally fit, finished fifth ahead of Giugliano, Jules Cluzel (Suzuki) and Jonathan Rea (Honda).
Cluzel’s team mate Leon Camier and Rea’s team mate Leon Haslam lost a lot of ground on the first lap when they ran wide at MG Corner after a Davies collided with Kawasaki rider Loris Baz. Davies was able to get the bike upright and to make it to the pits for a tyre change, but was later penalised with a ride-through by race direction for not observing the new pit-stop regulations.
Checa sat out Race 2 and went to Melbourne instead for medical checks after his nasty-looking crash in the first race.
Defending and three-times World Supersport champion Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki) won his 32nd World Supersport race, setting a new lap record of 1min33.283 and coming home 1.899 seconds ahead of pole-sitter Sam Lowes (Yamaha), after a thrilling race-long duel.
Michael van der Mark (Honda), the reigning European Superstock 600 champion, finished third in his World Supersport debut. He managed to stay with the leaders in the first half of the race but dropped back in the closing stages to come home 6.771 seconds behind Sofuoglu.
Sofuoglu’s team mate, veteran Fabien Foret (he was World Supersport champion in 2002!) got a horrible start from the third on the grid, finishing lap one in 14th, then rode the wheels off the ZX6R to finished fourth ahead of privateer Kawasaki team mates David Salom and Luca Scassa. Foret.
Roberto Rolfo was running fourth when he was forced to stop on the circuit after his MV Agusta F3 picked up a gremlin just two laps from the end.
South African hopeful Mathew Scholtz (Suzuki) finished 14th but Sheridan Morais was forced into the pits with mechanical problems after just one lap and lost a lot of time.
Where most riders would have thrown in the towel, however, Morais insisted on finishing, even though he was still four laps behind the leaders when the flag came out.
RESULTS – RACE 1
1 Sylvain Guintoli (France) Aprilia RSV4 Factory – 33min47.109
2 Eugene Laverty (Ireland) Aprilia RSV4 Factory +1.352sec
3 Michel Fabrizio (Italy) Aprilia RSV4 Factory +1.359
4 Chaz Davies (Britain) BMW S1000 RR +5.702
5 Tom Sykes (Britain) Kawasaki ZX-10R +5.753
6 Loris Baz (France) Kawasaki ZX-10R +6.769
7 Leon Haslam (Britain) Honda CBR1000RR +6.830
8 Jonathan Rea (Britain) Honda CBR1000RR +17.944
9 Leon Camier (Britain) Suzuki GSX-R1000 +19.152
10 Max Neukirchner (Germany) Ducati Panigale 1199R +26.557
11 Jules Cluzel (France) Suzuki GSX-R1000 +30.305
12 Ivan Clementi (Italy) BMW S1000 RR +30.411
13 Alex Lundh (Sweden) Kawasaki ZX-10R +45.185
14 Glen Allerton (Australia) BMW S1000 RR +48.632
15 Jamie Stauffer (Australia) Honda CBR1000RR +53.453
16 Federico Sandi (Kawasaki ZX-10R) +1min22.730
17 Vittorio Iannuzzo (Italy) BMW S1000 RR +4 laps
1 Eugene Laverty (Ireland) Aprilia RSV4 Factory – 33min45.938
2 Sylvain Guintoli (France) Aprilia RSV4 Factory +0.418sec
3 Marco Melandri (Italy) BMW S1000 RR +1.382
4 Michel Fabrizio (Italy) Aprilia RSV4 Factory +2.282
5 Tom Sykes (Britain) Kawasaki ZX-10R +11.545
6 Davide Giugliano (Italy) Aprilia RSV4 Factory +12.508
7 Jules Cluzel (France) Suzuki GSX-R1000 +17.330
8 Jonathan Rea (Britain) Honda CBR1000RR +17.339
9 Leon Camier (Britain) Suzuki GSX-R1000 +19.886
10 Leon Haslam (Britain) Honda CBR1000RR +19.996.
11 Max Neukirchner (Germany) Ducati Panigale 1199R +27.629
12 Glen Allerton (Australia) BMW S1000 RR +42.809
13 Jamie Stauffer (Australia) Honda CBR1000RR +42.893
14 Federico Sandi (Italy) Kawasaki ZX-10R +44.899
15 Alex Lundh (Sweden) Kawasaki ZX-10R +57.824
16 Vittorio Iannuzzo (Italy) BMW S1000 RR +1min22.574
17 Chaz Davies (Britain) BMW S1000 RR +2 laps
POINTS (after 1 of 14 rounds)
1 Eugene Laverty (Ireland) Aprilia RSV4 Factory – 45 points
1 Sylvain Guintoli (France) Aprilia RSV4 Factory – 45
3 Michel Fabrizio (Italy) Aprilia RSV4 Factory – 29
4 Tom Sykes (Britain) Kawasaki ZX-10R – 22
5 Marco Melandri (Italy) BMW S1000 RR – 16
5 Jonathan Rea (Britain) Honda CBR1000RR – 16
7 Leon Haslam (Britain) Honda CBR1000RR – 15
8 Jules Cluzel (France) Suzuki GSX-R1000 – 14
8 Leon Camier (Britain) Suzuki GSX-R1000 – 14
10 Max Neukirchner (Germany) Ducati Panigale – 11
1 Kenan Sofuoglu (Turkey) Kawasaki ZX-6R – 23min32.480
2 Sam Lowes (Britain) Yamaha R6 +1.899sec
3 Michael van der Mark (Netherlands) Honda CB600RR +6.771
4 Fabien Foret (France) Kawasaki ZX-6R +11.095
5 David Salom (Spain) Kawasaki ZX-6R +12.076
6 Leon Scassa (Italy) Kawasaki ZX-6R +12.943
7 Andrea Antonelli (Italy) Kawasaki ZX-6R +50.934
8 Lorenzo Zanetti (Italy) Honda CBR600RR +24.536
9 Massimo Rocolli (Italy) Yamaha R6 +24.782
10 Jack Kennedy (Ireland) Honda CBR600RR +24.809
14 Mathew Scholtz (South Africa) Suzuki GSX-R600 +34.067
24 Sheridan Morais (South Africa) Honda CBR 600RR +4 laps