WSBK Round one
LUCK OF THE IRISH
The first round of the 2014 Superbike World Championship ignited Phillip Island in February and set the scene for what may turn out to be the best season in years.
Irishman Eugene Laverty stunned not just the crowd but the other racers as well by coming from mid-field in race one to take a completely unexpected victory for Suzuki in its return to this class of racing after a three-year absence.
Laverty finished ahead of the Aprilia RSV4 Factory pair of Melan and Guintol. The race was an inauspicious debut for a number of new brands including MV Agusta and Eric Buell Racing. More was expected of the full SBK-spec F4RR but it only managed a 13th in race one and 18th in race two.
The Eric Buell Racing entry was 45km/h slower in the main straight than the leading group and, clearly, more work is required.
Race two saw Laverty’s Suzuki explode (a rod through the cases) after 15 laps and the resulting mess saw the red flag being waved. Results were determined by positions on lap 14 and, despite being in second place at the time, Laverty was excluded.
Guintoli (Aprilia RSV4 Factory) was declared the winner with Baz (Kawasaki ZX-10R) second and last year’s overall winner, Tom Sykes (Kawasaki ZX-10R) third.
The modest showing of MV Agusta’s F4RR in the main game was upstaged by an MV victory in the World Supersport class. Frenchman Jules Cluzel gave MV Augusta its first top-of-the-podium finish in an international event for 38 years. Giacomo Agostini was the last MV rider to win and that was at the Nurburgring in 1976.
While Cluzel richly deserved the win, it was achieved after the hot favourite, Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki), crashed on lap two while leading.
It will be fascinating to watch MV Augusta’s progress throughout the year in both classes.
MEANWHILE, BEHIND THE FENCE…
The crowds which flocked to Phillip Island for the weekend were treated to somewhat variable weather leading up to Sunday but the day itself was glorious as only Phillip Island can be.
The AMCN Expo was in full swing throughout the weekend and, as you’ll see from Russell Colvin’s camera evidence, everyone appeared to enjoy themselves.