Laguna WSB Race 2: Sykes wins crash-strewn dash to lead championship into summer break
With Chas Davies not returning to the grid - after a particularly large high-side in the earlier race saw him sent to the medical centre with concussion - the British contingent were short of one rider at a sunny Laguna Seca for race two.
Tom Sykes, with a thirty-nine point lead in the championship, once again made a great start, as did Eugene Laverty on his Voltcom Crescent Suzuki, who had risen to fourth by lap two. Between them both - predictably - the chasing Aprilia's of Guintoli and Melandri were looking intent on repeating their race one strength.
By the beginning of the fifth lap, the leading pack of five - Guiglioni had recovered from an earlier wide line to join them - were breaking away, and the silver and red pair of Melandri and Guintoli were taking shots at the bright green, Kawasaki ZX10-R of Sykes.
Elsewhere in the middle of the pack, Rea, Baz, Haslam and Lowe were battling strongly for the seventh to tenth spots. In front of them was Tony Elias, showing great pace in the tight corners of the American track and closing down the gap between himself and Guigliani to join the leading group.
And so - with ten laps on the board - began the expected, slow war of attrition between the hunting attack of the two Aprilia riders and the lone Yorkshireman up ahead of them. Until the red flags were shown a lap later, as Alex Lowes found himself launched over the side of his bike on the deep entrance to the Corkscrew and hit the barrier hard, his bike careering off into the gravel. The rider appeared to be OK as the marshals moved in, but he will undoubtedly need some treatment after a big fall; with concerns naturally being focused towards the left leg that he broke earlier in the year.
The sprint restart got underway some fifteen minutes later; a seven lap dash of the short, Laguna Seca track. A good start from the lights would be critical. And so proved Melandri, with a superb break into turn one, ahead of Sykes, Guintoli and Elias. This show of pace wasn't to last for Elias however, as the Pata Honda of Rea slipped into fourth and began an assault on Guintoli by lap four. And then a second red flag was shown as Sylvain Barrier and his BMW S1000RR Evo met the wall of the fast, start/finish straight in a strange yet horrific crash that saw the Frenchman surrounded by medical staff as he lay prone on the asphalt and his bike firmly implanted against the wall.
With news that Barrier was both conscious and alert in the medical centre, the second restart of race two began in much the same way as the first - with Melandri again taking the lead with Sykes, Elias and Guintoli behind. In turn eleven of lap two however, Melandri made the mistake that would gift Sykes the lead. Taking the corner wide, a low side saw Melandri in the gravel and Sykes in first place. Three corners later, Sykes would need to use his avoidance skills once more, as the Ducati of Guigliani left it's rider at the very top of the Corkscrew and launched itself downhill and back into the track; it was a wonder how no other bikes were involved.
So with two potential collisions negotiated and an extension of his championship lead up to 43 points, Tom Sykes took the win ahead of Guintoli and a resurgent Jonathan Rae.
Unless anyone can find something special during the summer break, it's hard to imagine the championship leaving his grasp.
1. Tom Sykes GBR Kawasaki Racing ZX-10R 7 laps
2. Sylvain Guintoli FRA Aprilia Racing RSV4 +1.014s
3. Jonathan Rea GBR PATA Honda CBR1000RR +2.793s
4. Eugene Laverty IRL Voltcom Crescent Suzuki GSX-R1000 +3.681s
5. Toni Elias ESP Red Devils Roma Aprilia RSV4 +4.165s
6. Loris Baz FRA Kawasaki Racing ZX-10R +7.160s
7. Leon Haslam GBR PATA Honda CBR1000RR +7.331s
8. David Salom ESP Kawasaki Racing ZX-10R +15.061s (E)
9. Alessandro Andreozzi ITA Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R +15.674s (E)
10. Leon Camier GBR MV Agusta RC F4RR +17.015s
11. Jeremy Guarnoni FRA MRS Kawasaki ZX-10R +18.338s (E)
12. Bryan Staring AUS IRON BRAIN Kawasaki ZX-10R +19.270s (E)
13. Sheridan Morais RSA IRON BRAIN Kawasaki ZX-10R +20.040s (E)
14. Larry Pegram USA Foremost insurance EBR 1190RX +23.845s
15. Gabor Rizmayer HUN Team Toth BMW S1000RR +25.592s
16. Geoff May USA Team Hero EBR 1190RX +26.688s
17. Chris Ullrich USA GEICO Honda CBR1000RR +31.893s