Sylvain Guintoli chased down teammate Eugene Laverty to claim the first victory of the 2013 Superbike World Championship as Aprilia secured a clean sweep of the podium positions. Michel Fabrizio took the final place on the rostrum for Red Devils Roma in a race which saw title favourites Carlos Checa and Marco Melandri come to blows.
Checa’s afternoon got off to a difficult start as he struggled to keep the Ducati’s front wheel on the ground as he left the start line. The loss of momentum allowed Laverty and Tom Sykes to streak past from the front row with Checa forced to fend off Melandri for third. The Kawasaki seemed unable to keep pace with the Aprilia ahead and Laverty eased into a 1.5s lead as no fewer than nine riders formed a group behind.
After a brief battle with Leon Haslam, Checa forced his way to the front of the chasing group as Sykes slowly tumbled down the order but the man on the move was Guintoli, picking off his rivals one-by-one to grab second shortly before half distance.
Another rider making steady progress was Melandri after a poor start had dropped him to seventh and with Checa unable to match the factory Aprilias, Melandri had designs on third. The outstanding straight-line speed of the BMW enabled the Italian to ease through into turn one on lap thirteen. Checa’s plan was to use the Ducati Panigale’s prowess on the brakes to strike back at Honda hairpin but the end-result was heavy contact with the rear of Melandri’s machine. Both were out on the spot with Checa knocked unconscious in the process, ruling him out of today’s second race.
The drama had exploded the leading pack with the two factory Aprilias now clear of the fight for third, headed now by Fabrizio after overtaking Haslam. Chaz Davies was now the sole GoldBet BMW in fifth with Kawasaki pair Tom Sykes and Loris Baz hanging on in sixth and seventh.
Almost unnoticed with the action going on behind, Guintoli had wiped out the gap between himself and Laverty and with eight laps remaining, the factory RSV4s were nose-to-tail. Heading into turn one on lap fifteen, the Frenchman ended Eugene’s race-long spell in the lead by outbraking the Irishman, giving Sylvain a lead that would never be threatened.
Laverty’s grip on second was far less secure and Fabrizio hauled himself on terms with the no.58 on lap eighteen, breezing past on the home straight. Having looked after his tyres, Laverty was able to launch a counter attack and left his move until the MG hairpin on the last lap, putting a block pass on Fabrizio. The Red Devils rider attempted to snatch back second on the run to the finish line but the chequered flag came just in time for Laverty, giving him second by inches.
Fourth place was settled in similar fashion with Chaz Davies edging out Tom Sykes with Loris Baz following his teammate home in sixth. Leon Haslam faded in the closing stages to end up seventh, line astern with the second PATA Honda of Jonathan Rea in eighth. Leon Camier kicked off his campaign with ninth while the retirements up ahead promoted Max Neukirchner into the top ten.