- Superbike World Championship Round 14, France
- Date: 7 October, 2012
- Circuit: Magny-Cours (4.411 km)
Sykes Races for the Championship! Wins Race 2 for Fourth Win of the Season, and Ends Up Just 0.5 points Short of the World Championship!
The final round of the Superbike World championship was held at Magny-Cours in France from October 5 through 7. After scoring his third win of the season at the previous race in Portugal, Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) came to France in second spot in the standings, only 30.5 points behind championship leader Max Biaggi (Aprilia) and aiming for a come-from-behind championship win. "Magny-Cours is one of my favourite tracks," said Sykes. "I'm going for the win here. We've definitely got the package, all we need now is a little luck. This year we've had both good luck and bad. Making up 30.5 points won't be easy, but it's not impossible."
As the race weekend got underway, the weather was sunny and warm, and Sykes took his 9th Superpole of the season. Once again the awesome power and incredible speed of Sykes' Ninja ZX-10R symbolised the teams' impressive run for the 2012 championship.
Hopes for an all-out fight in the sun were dashed when race day dawned wet and rainy. But that didn't deter Sykes as he got the holeshot off the start and held the lead until mid-race, when Marco Melandri (BMW) and wet weather ace Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati) dropped Sykes to 3rd. However, championship leader Biaggi crashed out of the race, cutting his lead in the championship to a mere 14.5 points.
When the riders rolled to the line for Race 2 the rain had stopped but the track was still partially wet, making for very difficult conditions. Still, all the bikes were fitted with slicks. With an upset title win in his sights Sykes took the lead on the opening lap, put his head down and never looked back. In spite of Sykes' torrid pace, Guintoli and Jonathan Rea (Honda) stayed right with him for the full 23 laps. "I did everything I had to do," said Sykes after the race. His fate was in Biaggi's hands. By finishing 5th Biaggi took the World Championship by a mere 0.5 points, the closest finish in World Superbike history.
That 0.5 points came from Round 4 at Monza. Because Race 1 was cancelled due to rain and Race 2 was shortened due to rain, only half the usual points were awarded. In spite of winning four races, finishing on the podium thirteen times, winning nine Superpoles and setting three fastest laps, Sykes missed out on the title by only the narrowest of margins. The stage is now set for revenge in 2013!
Sykes' teammate Loris Baz qualified in 13th, finished Race 1 in 10th but crashed out of the 10th spot on lap six of Race 2. Baz joined the team at Round 5 to replace the injured Joan Lascorz. He did a splendid job in the remaining ten rounds, winning one race, getting three podiums and finishing the season 13th overall.
Of the other Kawasaki riders, Claudio Corti of Team Pedercini qualified 12th and finished 9th and 12th.
Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Lorenzini) wrapped up the Supersport World Championship at the previous round in Portugal, but there was still plenty of drama here in France. Sofuoglu collided with Dan Linfoot (MAD R-N Team India Kawasaki) while fighting for 3rd place, and although Sofuoglu finished 3rd he was penalized 25 seconds, moving Linfoot to 3rd and Sofuoglu to 4th. Fabien Foret (Kawasaki Intermoto Step) came home 5th. This result put Foret 4th in the championship standings. Sofuoglu's teammate Sheridan Morais (Kawasaki Lorenzini) finished 14th, ending the season 6th overall.
Tom Sykes (3rd/1st) :
"We won a lot of Superpoles this year and set some track records. We got on the podium, we won races, and at the end we managed to close a 30-point gap to Biaggi. Fighting for the title with a rider of his calibre was really tough. Yes, obviously there is a massive disappointment on one hand because we were only half a point from the world championship! But on the other hand, being realistic, we are very happy and we have – by far – overachieved on expectations this year. I think the Lascorz replica helmet I was wearing made a difference, I was able to ride even harder. I have had massive support here from my family, friends and the Kawasaki fans so to sum up my year it has been fantastic. And I want to specially thank Kawasaki and all our sponsors. All of them have put us in the situation of fighting for the world championship. Hopefully next year we can be very consistent from the start."
Loris Baz (10th/RET) :
"I was hoping to do better at my home race. Things certainly didn't go too well. Today was quite a bit better, but on Saturday I was feeling unwell and it wasn't fun to ride. I started off confident to have a good result in the wet Race 1, but I just did not have the same feeling as I had in warm-up. If I hadn't run off the track I could have finished 7th or 8th. In Race 2 I rode over an area of standing water and had a huge highside crash. My back and ribs really hurt, but I didn't break anything. Later I had a terrific headache so I went to the clinic for a check-up, but everything was okay. We have a test coming up soon so it's good that I wasn't hurt. I'm not 100% now but I'll do my best at the test to help us get a good start to next year."