Desert Delight as Guintoli Grabs Debut Pata Yamaha Podium
Confident from the start of the final 2016 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship weekend, Sylvain Guintoli solidified his standing under the desert lights by claiming the first podium for Yamaha since its return to the top flight of production racing, much to the delight of his Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team. A strong fight from Alex Lowes at the Losail International Circuit saw the number 22 rider claim seventh.
Leaving the lights from his second row position, after securing fourth in the early evening Superpole, Guintoli instantly encountered Tom Sykes, vying for place for the opening laps before making his move on the third turn. Pushing his Pata Yamaha forwards, the Frenchman quickly entered into a six-lap battle with Nicky Hayden for podium glory, manoeuvring into third place with ten laps to go and holding the approaching American off for the ensuing circuits. Breaking the hold with six to go, Guintoli mastered his YZF-R1 around the 5,380m layout for the remainder of the race, crossing the line to the satisfaction of his crew to claim the 16 points and gifting Yamaha a rostrum visit for the first time since its four-year absence from the class.
An equally strong Superpole performance saw Lowes join his teammate on the second row of the grid, in sixth position, for the opening Qatari race. Caught in a three-way battle for sixth position for the opening revolutions, the British rider held eighth for the majority of the 17-lap contest. Attempting a move on Jordi Torres on a number of occasions, Lowes finally took his chance on the final lap to take seventh and nine championship points at the flag.
Guintoli and Lowes return to Losail for tomorrow's early evening warm up, on track at 17:30 local time, as the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team prepare for the concluding race of the year at 21:00.
Race: 3rd / +10.498 / 17 laps. Championship: 11th / 128 points
"It's been a good day with a great race this evening. I started by qualifying well and then took a good rhythm into the race straight away, with a strong pace. I really feel like I raced well, I was pushing on the limit with some good moves in the early stages before pulling away. It's a really positive result for us and a great satisfaction for me to take the first podium for Yamaha in their return, especially after almost five months away from racing, so I'm very happy."
Race: 7th / +18.461 / 17 laps. Championship: 12th / 125 points
"I'm really happy for the team to get their first podium of the year! The YZF-R1 was working well today but unfortunately I made a bad start and struggled to make my way back through which was quite frustrating as I know we had the potential for more. We are looking forward to doing a better job tomorrow as we have worked hard this weekend and over the last few events. Everything is starting to feel better so I really want to finish the year with a strong result."
Paul Denning Team Principal
"It's been a challenging return for Yamaha into the WorldSBK Championship after its four-year absence, despite the obvious base potential of the YZF-R1 as a production machine. The level has improved over the course of the year but for a number of reasons hasn't always been reflected in the result and for Sylvain to achieve the podium today is massively pleasing for him after his comeback from the horrific Imola crash, and of course a confidence booster for everyone else involved in the project who have worked so hard over the course of the season. It wasn't an easy podium, Sylvain had to pass some of the best riders in the championship to get there but both bike and rider really looked like they belonged in that position, many congratulations once again.
"Alex is of course pleased to see the R1 on the podium but disappointed, as any top competitor would be, that he wasn't the one to achieve it. Nonetheless we all thought he rode a very solid and controlled race, never gave up and got a reward in passing Torres in the last sector of the last lap.
"Both riders will be looking for further improvements in the race tomorrow, and lets hope we can finish the 2016 season in a similar fashion."