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If there's one thing about English weather that's predictable, it's that you never know what's going to happen next - and rapidly changing conditions turned Round 10 of the 2012 World Superbike series at Silverstone on its ear.
In the first race 19-year-old Kawasaki rookie Loris Baz, who started the season in the Superstock 1000 series, became the second youngest rider ever to win at this level and, in the second, Sylvain Guintoli - who walked out of one privateer Ducati team at the previous Brno round and into a place in another - posted his second win of the year on a Ducati 1098R in horrendous conditions after a delayed and shortened Race 2.
Established stars were left struggling in both qualifying and races as the track conditions shifted from dry and sunny to fully wet, and everything in between. Points leader Max Biaggi (Aprilia) was a non-finisher in Race 1, then only 11th in Race 2.
Marco Melandri (BMW) is now only 10.5 points from Biaggi after finishing seventh and then eighth. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) was eighth and 12th at his home round, Carlos Checa (Ducati) was fifth and sixth, despite crashing late in Race 2, then being included in the results on the lap countback.
Baz won after weather conditions played an ever-changing role in the first 18-lap race of the day. The first attempt to run it was halted after two separate crashes, and the restart was declared wet, but with a mostly dry track surface visible over the length of the circuit.
Light rains came and went as the lead changed a bewildering number of times, but with a few laps to go the rains got even heavier and rider movements forward and back got even more frenzied.
Baz won by 0.383sec, with BMW duo Michel Fabrizio and Ayrton Badovini second and third respectively and Jonathan Rea (Honda) fourth. As Badovini crossed the line he fell on the edge of the track and Rea - just behind him - crashed into Badovini's bike, but after each had crossed the line.
Checa was fifth, but championship leader Biaggi was a late faller and did not score.
Loris Baz: “At the beginning it was dry and I was missing grip but when I saw the rain coming I kept pushing to the front. It was hard at the end because it was wet, but I stayed on the bike and I'm really happy.
Michel Fabrizio: “It was the craziest race but I'm very happy to be on the podium. I don't know what clicked in my head! We have to be happy with the first podiums this year for our team, and my team mate was here with me as well so it's a great result! I feel sure I was in a position to win, but there was only one problem - Baz!”
Ayrton Badovini: “It's incredible! Finishing without a bike is crazy! I'm happy because I started from 18th, but with these conditions I could push and I saw that the conditions were changing.”
Guintoli was declared the winner of an eight-lap second race after the rains fell so hard that three riders fell on the same part of the circuit and the red flag came out.
Half points were awarded to the top 15 riders. Baz had been in the lead on the lap that the flag was shown but he had fallen shortly before, so on the countback he was credited with second. Third went to Jakub Smrz (Ducati) with Aprilia rider Eugene Laverty, who was 16 seconds behind rain master Guintoli when the flag went out, fourth. Maxime Berger (Ducati) was fifth.
Sylvain Guintoli: “What a day, what a last couple of weeks actually! It's been an up and down road after Brno, but I've just bounced back quickly with the Pata team and Ducati. I made the wrong choice of tyre in the first race, but in Race 2 I went from zero to hero! I was really angry with myself at the start then when the rains came I eased off for the podium because I didn't want to go from zero to zero!”
Loris Baz: “A fantastic weekend, in the beginning it was not so wet and I was saving the tyres for the big rain to come, but Kuba and Sylvain were fast. I passed them then I crashed without doing nothing because there was fuel and oil on the track.”
Jakub Smrz: “I'm really happy because it was a tough Sunday for us. I was taken down in Race 1 and we were still fixing the bike and had no time to get new parts. In Race 2 it was good, I was together with Sylvain, we were fast but there was so much rain that I just crashed without doing nothing.
“I'm happy that they counted the end of the race one lap before and this is the first podium for me this year.”
A thrilling race-long fight between three Honda riders ended up in a man-to-man duel between eventual winner Jules Cluzel and Sam Lowes, the two banging fairings on the final corners but Cluzel was not to be denied and won by just 0.157sec.
Broc Parkes (Honda) came up from the pack to take third, 0.591 seconds back, while South African Ronan Quarmby (Honda) hung in with the leading group almost throughout the restarted race and was an impressive fourth. Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki) ran off the circuit early on but recovered to take fifth, ahead of two more Kawasaki riders, Fabien Foret and Sofuoglu's South African team mate, Sheridan Morais.
RESULTS - RACE 1
1 Loris Baz (France) Kawasaki ZX-10R - 40min46.128
2 Michel Fabrizio (Italy) BMW S1000 RR +0.383sec
3 Ayrton Badovini (Italy) BMW S1000 RR +0.459
4 Jonathan Rea (Britain) Honda CBR1000RR +0.539
5 Carlos Checa (Spain) Ducati 1098R +1.012
6 Leon Haslam (Britain) BMW S1000 RR +2.619
7 Marco Melandri (Italy) BMW S1000 RR +6.123
8 Tom Sykes (Britain) Kawasaki ZX-10R +8.170
9 Davide Giugliano (Italy) Ducati 1098R +19.022
10 Eugene Laverty (Ireland) Aprilia RSV4 Factory +19.087
11 Maxime Berger (France) Ducati 1098R +29.840
12 Lorenzo Zanetti (Italy) Ducati 1098R +30.158
13 Hiroshi Aoyama (Japan) Honda CBR1000RR +44.222
14 Chaz Davies (Britain) Aprilia RSV4 Factory +1min20.387
15 David Salom (Spain) Kawasaki ZX-10R +1min42.698
16 Sylvain Guintoli (France) Ducati 1098R +1 lap
17 Jakub Smrz (Czech Republic) Ducati 1098R +1 lap
1 Sylvain Guintoli (France) Ducati 1098R - 18min42.051
2 Loris Baz (France) Kawasaki ZX-10R +0.881sec
3 Jakub Smrz (Czech Republic) Ducati 1098R +1.671
4 Eugene Laverty (Ireland) Aprilia RSV4 Factory +19.046
5 Maxime Berger (France) Ducati 1098R +22.116
6 Carlos Checa (Spain) Ducati 1098R +23.736
7 Chaz Davies (Britain) Aprilia RSV4 Factory +24.690
8 Marco Melandri (Italy) BMW S1000 RR +26.197
9 Jonathan Rea (Britain) Honda CBR1000RR +26.861 10 John Hopkins (US) Suzuki GSX-R1000 +27.194
11 Max Biaggi (Italy) Aprilia RSV4 Factory +29.243
12 Tom Sykes (Britain) Kawasaki ZX-10R +30.328
13 Michel Fabrizio (Italy) BMW S1000 RR +33.746
14 Hiroshi Aoyama (Japan) Honda CBR1000RR +34.906
15 Niccolo Canepa (Italy) Ducati 1098R +35.849
16 Lorenzo Zanetti (Italy) Ducati 1098R +40.091
17 Leon Haslam (Britain) BMW S1000 RR +58.530
POINTS (after 10 of 14 rounds)
1 Max Biaggi (Italy) Aprilia RSV4 Factory - 274
2 Marco Melandri (Italy) BMW S1000 RR - 263.5
3 Tom Sykes (Britain) Kawasaki ZX-10R - 222.5
4 Carlos Checa (Spain) Ducati 1098R - 220.5
5 Jonathan Rea (Britain) Honda CBR1000RR - 203.5
6 Leon Haslam (Britain) BMW S1000 RR - 170
7 Eugene Laverty (Ireland) Aprilia RSV4 Factory - 160.5
8 Sylvain Guintoli (France) Ducati 1098R - 122.5
9 Michel Fabrizio (Italy) BMW S1000 RR -108.5
10 Davide Giugliano (Italy) Ducati 1098R - 106
1 Jules Cluzel (France) Honda CBR600RR - 34min48.860
2 Sam Lowes (Britain) Honda CBR600RR +0.157sec
3 Broc Parkes (Australia) Honda CBR600RR +0.591
4 Ronan Quarmby (South Africa) Honda CBR600RR +2.068
5 Kenan Sofouglu (Turkey) Kawasaki ZX-6R +5.067
6 Fabien Foret (France) Kawasaki ZX-6R +19.484
7 Sheridan Morais (South Africa) Kawasaki ZX-6R +20.038
8 Alex Baldolini (Italy) triumph Daytona 675 +23.169
9 Andrea Antonelli (Italy) Yamaha R6 +23.964
10 Gabor Talmacsi (Hungary) Honda CBR600RR +27.081
11 Mathew Scholtz (South Africa) Honda CBR600RR + 28.982
POINTS (after eight of 13 rounds)
1 Kenan Sofouglu (Turkey) Kawasaki ZX-6R - 148
2 Sam Lowes (Britain) Honda CBR600RR - 134
3 Jules Cluzel (France) Honda CBR600RR - 120
4 Fabien Foret (France) Kawasaki ZX-6R - 118
5 Broc Parkes (Australia) Honda CBR600RR - 98
6 Sheridan Morais (South Africa) Kawasaki ZX-6R - 71
7 Ronan Quarmby (South Africa) Honda CBR600RR - 67
8 Alex Baldolini (Italy) Triumph Daytona 675 - 62
9 Vittorio Iannuzzo (Italy) Yamaha R6 - 51
10 Roberto Tamburini (Italy) Honda CBR600RR - 43