Guintoli marks BSB arrival with debut victory
13 April 2009
Sylvain Guintoli has completed victory on his British Superbike Championship debut at Brands Hatch after shrugging off a poor start to win an exciting 2009 season opener.
The Frenchman entered his maiden race on a Superbike as the favourite following a convincing run to pole position in qualifying, but he was made to work hard for victory when he dropped as low as sixth at the start of the race.
Nonetheless, he gradually forged his way into contention, capitalising on errors from his rivals to lead home Honda pair Glen Richards and Stuart Easton.
Starting from his first pole position in, what he claims is, nine years, Guintoli scrambled his Worx Crescent Suzuki off the line slowly, leaving him down in sixth as the bikes tumbled into Paddock Hill Bend for the first time this season.
Instead, it was Easton who emerged out front, the third place starter sweeping into the lead of the race from fellow front row starters Steve Plater and Karl Harris, while Glen Richards and Leon Camier got away well in fourth and fifth.
The first safety car period of the season promptly followed though when Tom Tunstall came off his bike at Clark Curve, his rider-less Hardinge Honda promptly collecting Matt Bond and sending him crashing down. However, despite requiring some medical attention, the MIST Suzuki rider has not suffered any serious injuries.
Racing resumed on lap seven, with Richards immediately planting a move on team-mate Plater to move up to second, the reigning British Supersport champion going on to need just a further lap to dispatch Easton from the lead.
By this point, Guintoli was already up to fourth position having overtaken Camier and Harris on lap eight and was quickly onto the back of the top three. Harris' race, however, would come to a premature end on lap ten when he dropped his Hydrex Honda at Druids, whittling the leading group down to five riders.
Back at the front, this time it as Plater on the move, passing Easton on lap eleven before overtaking Richards for the lead at Druids just a lap later. His moves were being replicated by Guintoli, who was up behind him by lap 13 after demoting both Richards and Easton to third and fourth.
Despite his rapid ascension, Plater was capable of keeping Guintoli at arm's length for three laps, only for the Supersport rider to throw it all away on lap 16 when, as he was backing his Honda into Druids, the bike got away from him and sent him tumbling down.
He was almost joined on the sidelines by Camier at the same time after the local rider entered the corner too quickly and was forced to take a frustratingly slow trip across the gravel trap.
With Harris and Plater out, and Camier delayed down to ninth position, Guintoli led for the first time, comfortably ahead of Richards and Easton, who in turn held a four second gap over a competitive dispute for what was now fourth position.
From here, Guintoli's lead would not be questioned, Richards' brief mid-race fight back eventually being reigned in by fading tyres.
It meant Guintoli was free to celebrate an outstanding victory on what is not only his debut in the BSB, but also in Superbikes as a whole. A perfect performance to show off his overtaking skills – which included one at Surtees - around one of the toughest circuits on the BSB calendar, only a poor start would blot his copybook.
Richards was satisfied to open his HM Plant account with a second place finish, having started in sixth position, while third place Easton was delighted to record his first BSB podium for Hydrex.
The battle for fourth, meanwhile, went down to the finish line and would be defined by a superb recovery from Camier, who gradually picked his way through the order, dipping his Yamaha R1 past a number of his rivals, including team-mate James Ellison, whom he passed with a fine manoeuvre at Clearways with two laps remaining.
Ellison maintained fifth to cement a reliable finish for the new Yamaha R1, just ahead of Gary Mason, who recorded a clear Cup victory with a superb run to sixth position from 12th on the grid.
The Quay Garage Honda rider had even run as high as fifth as he disputed the position with Simon Andrews, who was another to put in a stellar ride from 15th on the grid. Eventually, the injured rider slipped back to seventh, but it was a promising performance for both himself and the MSS Colchester Kawasaki team.
After a fairly quiet weekend on the SMT Honda, Jason O'Halloran showed strong race pace to gradually work his way up to eighth place, initially ahead of John Laverty, although the Buildbase rider would be demoted to 12th position with a ten second penalty after being judged to have passed a rival under the safety car.
Instead, Graeme Gowland upheld Rob Mac Yamaha honours in ninth, but only after dropping as low as 15th from eighth on the grid. It was a tough race in all for the Yamaha team, with Chris Walker running 19th briefly before eventually claiming 14th, while Michael Rutter found himself outside the points in 16th.
By contrast, Kawasaki enjoyed a decent race, locking out positions tenth, 11th and 12th in the order of Tristan Palmer, Julien Da Costa and the penalised Laverty, while the hobbled Ian Lowry, Walker and tenth place starting Jon Kirkham completed the points.
Although well behind Mason on the track, Martin Jessopp claimed second in the Cup class on the Riders Racing Yamaha after a lengthy battle with Atsushi Watanabe. Peter Hickman was third.