Round 11 - Race 1 (Saturday 1st Oct 2016)
The opening race of the Magny Cours FIM Superbike World Championship weekend had begun in wet conditions but the track dried out through all 21-laps, after which Tom Sykes (KRT) had taken third place and Jonathan Rea (KRT) fourth.
Both Superpole winner Rea and second fastest qualifier Sykes started out on full wet tyre options at the start of the first race but changed them after making a pit stop as conditions improved. Sykes took on slick tyres and almost took second place as a result, on the very last lap. Rea earned fourth place on a set of intermediate tyres.
The entire race was punctuated by many riders moving rapidly back and forward through the rankings but early leader Sykes led, with confidence, for eight laps. Rea was in second place until lap eight, as a dry line appeared more emphatically with every passing lap. Realising they had to stop for tyres, the KRT riders entered pitlane together, and went out tog ether, dropping to the lower reaches of the top ten as a short-lived consequence of their pit lane entry.
On their different tyre choices they rode at the same pace for some time but eventually Sykes passed by Rea and then made up ground and positions, running at a high pace. Tom eventually got to within touching distance of second place on the very last lap. He set the fastest lap of the race on the very last circuit, posting a 1’40.491.
Rea had played a patient game to take a fourth place finish, passing one rider on the final lap to end up just one place behind his main championship rival Sykes. Jonathan had won Superpole in wet conditions earlier in the day, his seventh Superpole success of his career but his first in 2016 on the all-new Ninja ZX-10R.
Chaz Davies won the opening Magny Cours race, with Michael van der Mark second. In the championship points, Jonathan has 406; Tom is 44 behind on 362, with Davies now 86 points behind Jonathan and in third place overall.
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team Rider): “That was a really tricky race. Some riders went on intermediates and some on wets. I was one of those on full wets, as I wanted to be a bit safer in the early laps. Chaz went on intermediates, and it paid off for him in the end. I think we had a good race, considering we had a pit stop. After that it was definitely a good comeback through the field. The lap times were really competitive compared to the others guys. We just ran out of time, but that is racing. I am grateful to be on the podium in such tricky conditions, which could have easily gone another way. Tomorrow I hope it is fully dry and we can improve the result. In fu lly wet conditions we were good, also in dry conditions, so we are prepared for any of those. It is just that you can’t really make a perfect set-up for those ‘in between’ conditions. Tomorrow we will be prepared in any case.”
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team Rider): “It was a race of strategy today and unfortunately we were not on the winning one. The bike was working OK and in the first part of the race I was patient, just marking time behind Tom. Our main opposition right now is Tom so when he was on rain tyres it made the decision of when to come into the pits much easier. I am just a little bit disappointed in myself for not being clear to ask for slick tyres at the pit stop. I did not have complete confidence and I expected the intermediate would last much longer, as the track was taking a long time to dry. When I saw that he had exited from the pit stop with slick tyres it was very difficult to find the same edge grip as the slick tyres had. All in all, I am happy, because we made some mistakes today but we finished fourth in the race and did not lose too many points. Being the championship leader we had to adopt the more conservative option today, rather than the more aggressive one.”
Round 11 - Race 2 (Sunday 2nd Oct 2016)
Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes (KRT) finished second and third respectively in the second 21-lap FIM Superbike World Championship race at Magny Cours, with Rea extending his championship lead over his team-mate to 48 points.
Rea has scored nine race wins on the latest Ninja ZX-10R so far this season and Sykes five, but despite being joined in a battle out front for much of the 21 lap contest - held in fully dry conditions - the late pace of Saturday race winner Chaz Davies also gave him a win on Sunday.
With both official Kawasaki Racing Team riders keen to add to their race victory tallies, especially after Sykes had been third and Rea fourth in Saturday’s opener, the front-running action was close and competitive between the riders who still occupy first and second places in the championship.
The conditions of race two could not have been more different from the wet and drying track encountered on Saturday. The dry surface allowed Sykes to post a new lap record of 1m 37.864 seconds, on lap three, as he rode away out front to try and gap the field.
The undulations and heavy braking areas of the 4.411km Magny Cours circuit provided many passing opportunities for Rea after he had caught up with Sykes, but Tom proved determined to hold onto his lead. He only surrendered it on lap 16 – temporarily to Rea and then finally to Davies. Rea re-passed Sykes with four laps to go and set about trying to reel in Davies. Rea had lost too much ground by that stage but still scored his first podium of the weekend in second place.
The top three riders were covered by just over 2.5 seconds at the end, with Sykes half a second from Rea across the line. After race two in France Rea has now scored 84 podium places during his career and Sykes 81. In the current championship standings, Rea has 426 points, Sykes 378 and Davies 345.
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team rider): “I tried to plan my pass on Tom because he is strong right now and he is hard to pass at the best of times. When I overtook under braking, unfortunately it let Chaz come past us. Then I had to try to pass Tom again but already the gap to Chaz was too much. Maybe I spent too much time behind Tom but he is riding so well. I am happy with my race because, today, second place was the best I could do and I am happy with the way I rode. We need to improve the bike set-up in some areas but all things considered I am happy with the result. It is a 48-point gap now and it is nice to extend the championship lead, if by one point after Lausitzring last time and by another single point here! Championships can be won by a point so every one of them is important. If we can just have a clean end to the season hopefully we can do the job.”
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team rider): “When I started the race the bike felt really nice and it was quite easy for me to manage 1m 37 second lap times. Unfortunately, for the first time all weekend, our pace dropped and I am confused about this. I then struggled to carry corner speed so that is something for us to look at. On Friday we were very fast and consistent but we had some issues in the second part of the race today. We were more consistent over the whole weekend this time, however, and we are making steps forward. Unfortunately it is quite late in the season now but at least we are able to fight at the front and be somewhere close for the race win.”
The next races in the championship will take place on Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th October, at Jerez in Spain. The last round will be held at the Losail Circuit in Qatar, between 28th and 30th October.
2016 Superbike World Championship Leaderboard after Round 11:
1. J. REA 426
2. T. SYKES 378
3. C. DAVIES 345
4. M. VAN DER MARK 234
5. N. HAYDEN 202