22 April 2012
Guintoli overcomes chaos for maiden WSBK win
Sylvain Guintoli takes his first World Superbike Championship victory at a rainy Assen after a breathless race full of drama and incident.
Sylvain Guintoli has taken an astonishing maiden World Superbike Championship victory after a hugely eventful and unpredictable opening race of the day at Assen.
A race that was halted at 14 laps after a deluge of rain curtailed what was shaping up to be an immense victory fight, the restart in treacherous conditions proved equally dramatic as several came down in the heavy rain.
In the end, it was Guintoli who would prevail, but only after Leon Haslam fell from a lead of more than nine seconds, Carlos Checa dropped back with an error and Ayrton Badovini crashed out having just nosed ahead for the first time in his career.
In fact, a Guintoli victory looked very unlikely when the race got underway in dry conditions, the Frenchman getting a terrible start from the front row that dropped him onto the fringes of the top initially.
Instead, it was Sykes who got away from his third Superpole of the season best, the Kawasaki rider assuming the early advantage from Jonathan Rea, a fast-starting Marco Melandri, Carlos Checa and Jakub Smrz.
Quickly attempting to get a gap on his rivals, Sykes forged an early lead as the chasing pack jostled behind him, with several overtaking manoeuvres mixing things up behind him. Indeed, Melandri was past Rea for second by lap four, but the latter's attempts to respond would see him almost flicked into a high-side on the exit of Strebben, Rea being sucked into the busy pack as a result.
Together with Sykes slowing the pace down in an effort to preserve his tyres, the sight of up to ten riders battling as the lead group was a remarkable one.
As such, by lap ten, Sykes was leading a train of Melandri, Leon Haslam, who had picked up his pace after running off at turn one on lap four, Checa, Eugene Laverty, Smrz, Rea, Chaz Davies, Guintoli and John Hopkins, all ten riders line astern.
Indeed, when Rea made his error on lap ten, his slow exit served to mix the order up, but more chaos would ensue on lap eleven when 'steam' began pouring from the rear of Sykes's Kawasaki, the Briton suffering with a broken water hose it would later turn out.
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