Red Flag Cuts Short Guintoli's Double Podium Dash
Sylvain Guintoli concluded his season with the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team, and Yamaha's returning year in the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, with an almost fairy-tale ending, closing in on second position at the mid-point of Losail International Circuit's final race. However, a red flag on the eighth lap meant it wasn't to be and a hard-fought fourth position in the 10-lap restart proved to be his swansong. An equally dramatic turn of events left Alex Lowes fighting from the back of the grid to claim a top-10 finish in the evening's restarted second race.
Rapid from the off, Guintoli looked to be easily on for a double podium as the last race of the year got underway. Running third from the first lap, an early tussle first with Tom Sykes and then Xavi Fores was soon put to rest as he confidently got into a smooth rhythm. Picking up the pace as he broke the chasing pack and headed for second he was untimely stopped by the red flag, as a competitor's machine left oil on the track. A clean-up operation and quick restart procedure was engaged shortly after and the race was reduced to a 10-lap dash.
A disappointing restart saw Guintoli fighting from fifth place on the opening lap, with the newly-crowned Champion Jonathan Rea dropping him to sixth a few corners later as his pace on new rubber failed to match that of his earlier effort. Regrouping, the Frenchman continued his charge, launching to fourth after as many laps and hunting for the trio ahead. With time in the sprint race quickly running out, he was ultimately unable to bridge the gap needed to remount the podium. Consolidating fourth at the flag to round out his most successful weekend of the season, Guintoli finishes 11th in the WorldSBK Championship on 141 points, having completed 15 of the 26 races.
Caught out by an uncharacteristically bad start, Lowes found himself trapped in the first turn mix as the race began, coming together in a three-rider clash and running far off the circuit. Managing to remain on his YZF-R1 and return to the action, the British rider found himself at the back of the pack, in 24th, and with a mountain to climb as the race unfolded. Pushing himself and his Yamaha he regained five places before the red flag came out, sitting him 19th on the grid for the second attempt.
Renewed by the restart, Lowes jumped four positions as the condensed contest began, continuing to climb a further three places in the next revolution before settling into a rhythm and catching the main group. Promoting himself to 11th on lap seven, Lowes had the top-10 firmly in his sights, achieving the move on the final lap to take a well-earned six points, bringing his total to 131 and sitting him 12th in the final standings.
2016 may have drawn to a close but there is little time to reflect as the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team returns to Europe. Preparations are already underway for the closely-following 2017 season with two winter tests planned for the coming-weeks ahead of the season opener at Australia's Phillip Island in mid-February.
The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team would like to thank Sylvain for his hard work, dedication and professionalism in assisting the development of the YZF-R1 throughout its returning year to the WorldSBK Championship. This weekend has provided the perfect reward for these efforts and everyone at Crescent and Yamaha wish him all the best in his future racing career.
Race: 4th / +8.493 / 10 laps. Championship: 11th / 141 points
"It was a shame about the red flag that's for sure, because, even more so today we had a very strong pace on used tyres but were lacking the outright pace with the new tyres. For the first race, it was a perfect race for me, a perfect start and a perfect first-half anyway. I had a really good start and didn't lose too much in the opening laps, managed to hang in there and then when the red flag came out, it was on two or three laps where I had been catching Tom and pulling away quite a lot from fourth, so it looked and I felt really good.
"In the restart I tried to fight as much as I could but our pace with new tyres just wasn't strong enough. It's a shame, it would have been a podium without the red flag but we've finished on the strongest performances of the year and I feel like I'm ready to fight another day."
Race: 10th / +14.414 / 10 laps. Championship: 12th / 131 points
"A disappointing weekend for me in terms of results, but honestly it pretty much sums up my year. I had a problem with the starts which meant that I got away slow, normally on this bike it has been a strong point for me this year, so that in itself was disappointing. Because I didn't get a good start, I was in turn one with van der Mark on the inside and Savadori on the outside and I literally had nowhere to go, we all came together and I ran off track. It's a racing incident, one of those things, and obviously I got lucky with the race being red flagged.
"In the restart, to come from the back of the grid to 10th place in 10 laps was quite good, it's the best pace I've had all weekend, very similar to Sylvain and after yesterday that's really positive because obviously he outperformed me then, so to close that gap right up today is good. It's been a disappointing year as a whole but the team have worked really hard, it's really nice for them to get their first podium and although my results weren't great I think I rode well this weekend - I've not made any mistakes and I've brought the bike home as best as I could. It is what it is, I feel fit and healthy, the best I've felt all year so I'm looking forward to winter testing and upping my game next year!"
Paul Denning Team Principal
"At some stages the comeback season in WorldSBK for Yamaha has been very challenging so it's quite strange to feel disappointed with a fourth place finish in the final race of the year! Sylvain's track position and pace when the race was stopped would have seen him finish, at worst, on the podium again in third, but more likely in second position - but we can't really complain. It was another strong performance after the restart and overall a superb weekend for Sylvain. Thanks to him and his crew for their effort and commitment.
"On paper for Alex, today doesn't look so positive, but having had an extremely near-crash in the first corner melee in the first part of the race, in which he was lucky to stay on two wheels, and starting in 19th on the restart, within the short space of just 10 laps he forced his way up into the top-10 and far more importantly he had a much better pace than yesterday and was able to ride with more speed and more confidence.
"Thanks to everyone at Yamaha, all the team's partners, and to all the team members for their efforts this season. 2017 starts in a couple of weeks with our tests in Spain and we can't wait to get to work."