It wasn’t just the weather that was hot this weekend at Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit. The competition was also heated at the Asian track’s first-ever FIM World Superbike races on Sunday. But in the end, factory Aprilia rider Marco Melandri won both 16-lap races and celebrated his first two victories of the 2014 season.
In Sunday’s first race, it was all about Melandri and Aprilia teammate and pole-sitter Sylvain Guintoli. The two battled it out for the entire race, with Guintoli leading and then Melandri. But eventually, Melandri took the win and Guintoli finished a close second. Rounding out the race one podium was Voltcom Crescent Suzuki’s Eugene Laverty.
The second race of the day wound up being a real nail-biter and started with a red flag after just three laps. Apparently, Claudio Corti’s MV Agusta caught on fire, though trackside workers quickly extinguished the flames.
Upon the 10-lap re-start, a fierce battle commenced off the line but eventually came down to Melandri and Guintoli fighting it out again. What ensued was one of the closest races that World Superbike fans have seen all year and even included a bit of contact between riders. But in the end, Melandri took the win and Guintoli finished second.
“It was an unbelievably tough race,” said Melandri on Cycle News online. “At the beginning I was battling a little bit with Kawasaki, so I lost a little bit of time from Sylvain and I think he was riding more aggressive than race one. I tried lap by lap to close the gap, but it was very tough because he was very consistent.
“In the last two laps when I connect with him I just say to myself that I had to try to do everything,” Melandri continued. “Maybe I don’t win, but I have to try to the last turn. My bike was working so good. I think it was an amazing day for Aprilia.”
Reigning World Superbike Champion Tom Sykes completed the race two podium. The factory Kawasaki rider crashed out of race one after getting tangled up with his teammate Loris Baz.
In the overall World Superbike championship points standings, Sykes continues to lead, with Guintoli in second and Pata Honda rider Jonathan Rea in third.Tags: Aprilia, Cycle News, Eugene Laverty, FIM World Superbike, Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki, Loris Baz, Marco Melandri, Motorsports, MV Agusta, Pata Honda, Sepang International Circuit, Sylvain Guintoli, Tom Sykes, Voltcom Crescent Suzuki