WSBK Portimao: Sykes defeats drizzle, rivals in Portimao opener

Not even tricky weather conditions can stop Tom Sykes from claiming a commanding seventh WSBK win of the season in Portimao.
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  • Tom Sykes eases to a seventh WSBK win of the season in a drizzly first race in Portugal
  • The Kawasaki rider took the lead on lap four and proceeded to control the pace out front
  • Guintolii ad Baz keep him honest overall with second and third after a hard fought battle

Tom Sykes shrugged off potentially tricky weather conditions to extend his advantage at the top of the World Superbike Championship standings with a comprehensive seventh win of the season at Portimao.

Looking to make it a seventh WSBK win of the season from pole position, the defending champion had his work cut out initially when he was out-dragged down to the first corner, with Jonathan Rea and Marco Melandri getting the jump through the tricky opening complex instead.

However, while Rea held firm out front during the opening revolutions, he would cede the lead on lap four as the recovering Sykes eased past into the first turn, with Melandri following through.

From here, no rival could stop Sykes as he steadily eked his advantage over each sector, his cause aided by Melandri's apparent struggle to keep the chasing pack bunched up behind him.

Instead, it was 'Mother Nature' that would create potentially bigger issues for Sykes as the heavy clouds hanging over the Portuguese circuit began to crack, with drizzle falling on lap 11 of 20. At a disadvantage as the rider 'testing' the conditions, the change was enough to spook Sykes and spur on Sylvain Guintoli – now in second place – behind him.

With his lead reduced from 3.2secs to less than 1.5secs in just three laps, it seemed a battle for the win could well go to the chequered flag.

However, when the conditions stabilised with five laps remaining, so did Sykes's speed, the Briton proceeding to control the margin back to Guintoli to cross the line a comfortable winner by 2.5secs.

Though Guintoli's hard fought run to second place means Sykes's lead increase is pegged to 'just' five points, it does mean he now has a substantial 44 point advantage at the head of the WSBK standings.

Indeed, with Sykes faultless out front, the fight for second demanded much of the attention as Melandri, Guintoli, Rea, Loris Baz and Chaz Davies tussled it out for the remaining podium spots.

In the end, Guintoli would battle his way to second place before the drizzle served to split the group up, with Baz once again fending off the attentions of Melandri to secure another podium result on the second Kawasaki.

Rea faded to fifth having looked strong during the opening-half of the race, though there was disappointment for PATA Honda team-mate Leon Haslam after his attempt to pass Davies saw them collide, crash and slip down the order.

As such, Alex Lowes claimed sixth place after prevailing in an entertaining scrap with seventh place Davide Giugliano and eighth place Eugene Laverty, even if the good result on paper belies the fact Suzuki were otherwise uncompetitive in racing conditions.

A fight that went right down to the chequered flag, David Salom notched up another EVO win with a run ninth overall, the runaway class leader edging out tenth place Sylvain Barrier by just 0.020secs on the finish line.

Haslam recovered to be classified in 11th place (though Davies retired), while Jeremy Guarnoni, Niccolo Canepa Riccardo Russo and Alessandro Andreozzi completed the points' paying positions once the Alstare Bimota's of Ayrton Badovini (12th) and Christian Iddon (13th) were removed from the results.

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