Reigning World Superbike Champion Tom Sykes took the day’s first race win and extended his points lead in the world championship at Portugal’s Autodromo Internacional do Algarve on Sunday morning. The Portimao round of the series marks the factory Kawasaki rider’s seventh victory of the season and his 21st win of his career.
Sykes started the day’s opening race from pole position after winning Superpole the day before. Although he trailed Pata Honda’s Jonathan Rea and Aprilia’s Sylvain Guintoli at the start of the 20-lap race, Sykes went on to overtake them both and eventually began pulling a gap on the field.
“Not the best of starts, but honestly there’s two long races here today so I wasn’t in too much of a panic,” Sykes said on Cycle News. “It was good. We settled in after a couple of laps and managed to get to the front. I was able to manage a little bit of the front, the Ninja was working very well and giving me a lot of feedback.”
Granted, Sykes’s day was not ideal. Spotty rain resulted in inconsistent track conditions and it was touch and go for a little while for the Kawasaki rider, but in the end he was able to prevail. Joining Sykes on race one’s podium was second-place finisher Guintoli.
“I tried my best to use these conditions,” Guintoli said. “It felt a bit slippy for a couple laps, but I thought I’d just have to keep going. It was the only opportunity to catch (Sykes) really, because his rhythm was a bit quicker. But anyway I gave everything this race. I tried everything I had. And so I’m happy for that. We’re going to try to improve a bit for race two and again just give it all.”
Rounding out the first race’s podium was Sykes’ factory Kawasaki teammate Loris Baz, who had struggled at the Portuguese track throughout the weekend.
“I lost a little bit of time when the rain came,” Baz said. “Sylvain was really strong at this moment… I’m really happy because it’s another podium for us and we’ve been struggling all the weekend. I really want to thank all the team, all the guys from Kawasaki because yesterday I didn’t think we could fight for the podium. I was hoping for top five, so it’s really good to be on podium.”
Early-race leader Rea wound up finishing fifth.Tags: Aprilia, Cycle News, Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki, Loris Baz, Motorsports, Pata Honda, Portimao, Sylvain Guintoli, Tom Sykes