Sylvain Guintoli has hauled himself onto the fringes of the 2012 World Superbike Championship title fight after breaking his and Effenbert Liberty Ducati's long awaited victory duck at Assen.
Despite a podium finish in the opening round at Phillip Island, Guintoli came to the Netherlands having slipped down the order after a luckless Imola event, but a run to the front row at Assen suggested he could challenge for an elusive win.
Even so, the prospect of a Guintoli victory seemed unlikely when a poor start dropped him from third to tenth, the Frenchman nonetheless working his way back to second when the race was stopped due to the worsening weather conditions.
However, yet again Guintoli failed to get away well from the front row, dropping to seventh with just nine laps to make his way back up the order. However, the former MotoGP
rider proved comfortable in the treacherous conditions, so when Jonathan Rea, Leon Haslam and Ayrton Badovini all crashed out ahead of him, it unleashed him into a lead he wouldn't lose to the chequered flag.
Signalling his first win in 58 races, as well as a popular maiden triumph for the burgeoning Effenbert Liberty team, Guintoli was thrilled to emerge from the chaos with well-deserved triumph.
“We've been trying to catch that first victory for a while now,” he said, speaking directly after the win. “Since the start of the season we have showed that we have pace, but the results haven't come. Finally I did it today. For me it's a fantastic feeling, this race was crazy with a lot of crashes and I nearly crashed as well. It's the first race since the accident to Joan and I want also to dedicate this win to him as well.”
Very nearly making it a double victory in race two, Guintoli overtook his team-mate Jakub Smrz for the lead with four laps remaining, but could do nothing to halt the charge of Jonathan Rea when he caught him with two laps to go.
“For sure it's a great weekend for us. I thought I had the double, it was going well and I could control the gap. Then Johnny had a little extra and I was struggling and couldn't follow. It feels really good and I think I could get used to these results!”
Guintoli's results have seen him catapult up to fourth position in the overall standings, just 28 points behind leader Max Biaggi.