Tom Sykes and his Kawasaki Racing Team Ninja ZX-10R once more made great progress in the SBK class, taking two second place finishes at Imola and staying within six points of the championship lead.
Having started from pole after blitzing the previous track best in Superpole qualifying Sykes was to leave Imola with the new lap record on raceday as well, a 1’47.552 lap set while trying to keep eventual double race winner Carlos Checa behind him. Tom was not able to perform that feat as 2011 champion Checa turned up the heat but even in the cool conditions on raceday, Tom was able to defend his second place, particularly in race two.
Tom has won an SBK race on the Ninja before, last year in Germany, but this can be considered his best weekend so far in many ways, as he took not only two consistent second places in dry conditions, but the best results to date. His total of podiums on the Ninja ZX-10R now is four, three coming in 2012.
For Joan Lascorz incidents involving other riders affected his final results but he still finished a strong seventh in race one, gaining places right up until the last lap, and he was ninth in race two. He had to fight through from 22nd on lap one of race one, making his seventh place a remarkable result in many ways.
In the points standings, Sykes is third on 69 points, only six behind leader Checa.
Team Pedercini new SBK signing Leandro Mercado scored points for 14th in race one, but retired in race two with a gearbox glitch. David Salom continued to fight against his weakened wrist, hurt in a fall in Australian testing, and took 19th place in race one, 17th in race two.
More success came along in the Superstock 1000 FIM Cup class, as Loris Baz took his MRS Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R to second in what was eventually a five-lap sprint after an interrupted first attempt. This was the best result for the Ninja ZX-10R in this class. Bryan Staring (Team Pedercini Kawasaki) was fifth in Superstock, another good result for the big Ninja in near streetbike spec.
Tom Sykes: “The plan was to get a good start in race one and we had a very clean launch in the Kawasaki. In the first nine laps or so it was just Carlos and I and saw there was a big gap behind us. Carlos rode a great race, hats off to him, and he knew exactly what he was doing. In race two I had a lot of pressure from Leon and Biaggi certainly in the last third of the race so I was forced to dig a little bit deep and it paid off. I heard Leon’s engine there for a few laps but I found I had a little bit of a gap on the last lap so second position was good. Overall I think it has been a very good weekend for myself and Kawasaki. The Ninja ZX-10R has been great again – pole position, and two seconds in the races – so I do not think we could ask for much more.”
Joan Lascorz: “In race one I got hit by Leon Camier in the first chicane, and was lucky not to fall off. I was well back but I worked hard to get nearer to the front. In race two we made a change to the rear shock but it made no big difference. I made one mistake and another rider hit me again and I lost five seconds. I raced with a guy who won the race here last year so that shows how difficult it is in this class. We have some good things to work on when we test tomorrow, and we will try another line of set-up to try to find even more.”
This was Fabien’s14th career win, his third for Kawasaki, the second Kawasaki win of 2012 after the Australian victory of Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki DeltaFin Lorenzini) meaning Kawasaki is leading the manufacturers’ championship by 14 points.
Kawasaki DeltaFin Lorenzini rider Sheridan Morais was also on course for a podium but fell at the final chicane while third, restarting to finish tenth. Kenan Sofuoglu had to use strong doses of painkillers to get into the grid but his injured left knee still caused him pain and some lack of movement. He too could have potentially won the race had he not run on while leading at the chicane opposite pitlane, be penalised with a ride through, then be disqualified for not coming into pit lane to serve his penalty.
Foret’s team-mate Romain Lanusse was 13th and in the points in Imola.
In the overall championship standings Fabien leads with 45 points, from Sam Lowes, who is 14 points behind. Sofuoglu is now third, on an unchanged 25, while Morais leaves Imola seventh, with 16 points.
Fabien Foret: “This is a good track for me, I love Italy and we have had a great start to the season. The team worked very hard for me and gave me an excellent bike. It has not been the easiest weekend and I was sixth in qualifying, but it ended very well for me, the team and all of us.”
Sheridan Morais: “I eventually lost the front and I was having a problem even when I was leading, because I made the same kind of mistake into the chicane and I there were about five or six laps where I kept running wide. That is where I crashed. I was basically struggling to stop for the chicane. I should maybe have calmed down a bit but I am here to win races, not here to finish third. I wanted to catch the two in front. I am trying hard and the only problem I was having for the race was stopping for the last chicane, otherwise the bike and the set-up were good.”
Kenan Sofuoglu: “In the race my plan was to make one lap see how my knee was and if I could continue I would continue. Before the race I had a lot of painkillers and I had less feelings on the bike. They final disqualified me because I had made a mistake at the chicane. They say if you make this mistake you have to go straight on, stop in that point, then restart. But it was impossible as I was into the corner, so I could not go straight. I think it is not fair because I was in first position, then dropped back to give four positions and two seconds away. But, I am not complaining, it is a decision from the organisation. I think I was maybe not fit enough to ride for the whole race in any case.”