Effenbert Liberty – Pata Racing
There aren't many riders who have begun a racing season with one team, won a race, been controversially axed, returned with another team and won two more races, but that was the brief synopsis of Sylvain Guintoli's rollercoaster of a year.
Following a stealthily impressive 2011 season that yielded sixth overall with series newcomers Effenbert Liberty Ducati, Guintoli remained on board for a second year with his sights set firmly on breaking his WSBK victory duck.
It was an objective he had fulfilled by the third round at Assen, the Frenchman starring in slippery conditions to claim a popular first win for both himself and the Czech team. He even went on to secure pole position at Monza, but it was at this venue where Guintoli's relationship with Effenbert Liberty would begin to sour.
With the team's top brass laying into organisers for their handling of the Monza weather fiasco, a debacle that drew great attention from money-wielding sponsors Effenbert – who threatened to pull their backing -, the emphasis shifted on Guintoli to save face with more victories.
As it happens, Guintoli's form would dip in the coming rounds, raising speculation that all was not well behind-the-scenes. Despite this, it was still a surprise to learn that Guintoli had been dropped from the Brno round onwards and even more of a surprise when the team cited 'disappointing results' as its justification.
To his credit, Guintoli didn't react to the harsh rebuttal from his former employers with words, instead choosing to respond on the track by sourcing a deal with Ducati counterparts Pata Racing, who admirably doubled their efforts to accommodate the 30-year-old.
It was an investment that immediately reaped rewards, Guintoli enjoying the satisfaction of showing Effenbert Liberty what it was missing by winning on his return at Silverstone. Prompting a flourish of positive results during the final races, including an emotional third win of the season on home soil at Magny-Cours, Guintoli would be up to seventh by the season's conclusion, despite missing a round altogether.
Often regarded as one of the quieter members of the WSBK paddock, Guintoli's year in the limelight – some wanted, some unwanted – did at least have the effect of raising his stock coming into the off-season.
A popular figure in the WSBK paddock, 2013 arguably marks the most important season in Guintoli's fairly substantial career having been earmarked as retiring champion Max Biaggi's replacement at Aprilia Racing. With podiums, wins and a year of headlines under his belt, Guintoli has arguably never better equipped to fill those substantial leathers…
Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2011:
Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2010:
Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2009:
Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2008:
Top 10 WSBK Rider of the Year 2012: