WSBK Aragon: Tom Sykes takes double win and championship lead

Kawasaki rider rebounds from so-so finish at Phillip Island to put stamp on title retention aspirations

Melandri (33) tries a banzai last-lap pass attempt on Sykes (1) on the final lap of Race 2 at Aragon...it didn't work.Fabrizio Porrozzi

"Don't ever underestimate the heart of a champion," former Houston Rockets' coach Rudy Tomjanovich once said. In a faster, less wordy fashion, Tom Sykes paraphrased the concept during the two WSBK races in Aragon. The reigning world champion, coming off a sluggish start to the season in Phillip Island, made a silent, yet undeniable statement to take his first double win of his career on the variegated, technical Spanish track.

Asked if he wanted to send a message to his detractors during the race, Sykes ambiguously replied: "No. But if anyone doubted me after the race in Australia, then yes, no problem." Still, the Brit was all smiles after fending off the attacks from teammate Loris Baz and Aprilia's Marco Melandri in race two to claim the lead in the championship.

"Baz and Melandri really kept me on my toes," added the Kawasaki rider, who was the only one opting for a medium rear in the warmer afternoon conditions. "They closed in on me in the last leg of race two, taking advantage of the softer compound. I had a plan to defend my lead, but I won't go into much detail. Suffice it to say, it worked."

Sykes' display—two wins from flag to flag after seizing pole position—also pushed his teammate's ambitions somewhat back. The 21-year-old Baz has surely been the most interesting young prospect in 2014, with three second places already to his tally, but the number one sticker is still solidly on his teammate's fairings. "I'm not surprised by Loris' progress," Sykes admitted. "We're all racing in a world championship for obvious reasons. He's undoubtedly riding well, but this will be a long season. Anyhow, it doesn't matter to me. Whoever beats me, beats me."

No one did, today, and with Imola and Donington—where Sykes scored double wins last year—quickly approaching, the opponents are facing a tough challenge. "I blamed myself a lot during the six weeks after Phillip Island," Sykes added. "Now, I leave Aragon as the championship leader for the first time in my life, but it doesn't change much for me. The new Sunday schedule gave us quite a few headaches with tire choices, I'm sure it will mix things up again soon."

Pata Honda's Jonathan Rea (65) scored third and fifth place finishes for the day, surviving a bermshot attempt by Ducati's Davide Giugliano (34) with two laps to go in Race 2.

Besides Baz, Rea and Melandri stepped on the third step of the podium in race one and two respectively. The Honda rider, who bested Davide Giugliano with two turns to go after a contact at the hairpin, leaves Spain in a rather optimistic mood.

"It's been definitely a good week-end," Rea said. "Our gap is much narrower than in Phillip Island. Unfortunately, I made the wrong choice for the front tire in race two, going for the softer one. The engine brake was pushing a lot, and I made a lot of mistakes in Turn 8, going off the lines."

As for the concact with Giugliano, who quickly went to his box to have a clarifying chat, Rea said: "It was a normal last-lap battle move. He tried to use me like a berm in motocross. But, honestly, I would have done the same if I were in his place. I didn't know him much before, but he seems like a really nice and laid-back guy. All is good between us."

Compared with Rea, Melandri got much closer to taking the top step in race two. The Italian was somewhat off the slipstream in the last back straight, but still dived in at the hairpin, braking late and trying to take the inside line. With the back wheel about six inches up in the air, however, he went slightly wide and was passed again by Sykes, with Baz also taking advantage of his position.

"I knew I was probably too far from Sykes, but also that I could win, so I had to give it a shot," Melandri said. "Race one was a waste, we made the wrong tire choice with a soft rear and I didn't have the pace from the very beginning. In the second race I only lost a bit of time early on, but I was lapping about two seconds faster than before. I will carry my confidence on to Assen."

Team Hero EBR's Aaron Yates scored two 17th place finishes at Aragon, the team's best result so far.

Team EBR also made significant strides, to claim two seventeenth place with Aaron Yates as its best result, ahead of team Toth's BMWs, despite the power gap with the four-cylinder bikes. “I feel satisfied," said the American. "I've completed both the races, collecting a lot of data for the team and we also tried a couple of adjustments to the bike that will help us to be faster starting from the next race."

Race 1 results:

Pos. Rider Country Machine
1. Tom Sykes (GBR) Kawasaki
2. Loris Baz (FRA) Kawasaki
3. Jonathan Rea (GBR) Honda
4. Chaz Davies (GBR) Ducati
5. Eugene Laverty (IRL) Suzuki
6. Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) Aprilia
7. Toni Elias (SPA) Aprilia
8. Davide Giugliano (ITA) Ducati
9. Leon Haslam (GBR) Honda
10. Alex Lowes (GBR) Suzuki
11. Marco Melandri (ITA) Aprilia
12. Leon Camier (GBR) BMW EVO
13. David Salom (SPA) Kawasaki EVO
14. Jeremy Guarnoni (FRA) Kawasaki EVO
15. Sheridan Morias (RSA) Kawasaki EVO
16. Luca Scassa (ITA) Kawasaki EVO
17. Aaron Yates (USA) EBR
18. Imre Toth (HUN) BMW EVO
19. Alessandro Andreozzi (ITA) Kawasaki EVO
20. Peter Sebestyen (HUN) BMW EVO
DNF Michel Fabrizio (ITA) Kawasaki EVO
DNF Niccolo Canepa (ITA) Ducati
DNF Geoff May (USA) EBR
DNF Claudio Corti (ITA) MV Agusta
DNF Fabian Foret (SPA) Kawaski EVO
NC Ayrton Badovini (ITA) Bimota EVO
NC Christian Iddon (GBR) Bimota EVO

Race 2 results:

Pos. Rider Country Machine
1. Tom Sykes (GBR) Kawasaki
2. Loris Baz (FRA) Kawasaki
3. Marco Melandri (ITA) Aprilia
4. Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) Aprilia
5. Jonathan Rea (GBR) Honda
6. Eugene Laverty (IRL) Suzuki
7. Davide Giugliano (ITA) Ducati
8. Leon Haslam (GBR) Honda
9. Toni Elias (SPA) Aprilia
10. David Salom (SPA) Kawasaki EVO
11. Niccolo Canepa (ITA) Ducati
12. Leon Camier (GBR) BMW EVO
13. Sheridan Morias (RSA) Kawasaki EVO
14. Luca Scassa (ITA) Kawasaki EVO
15. Fabian Foret (SPA) Kawaski EVO
16. Alessandro Andreozzi (ITA) Kawasaki EVO
17. Imre Toth (HUN) BMW EVO
18. Peter Sebestyen (HUN) BMW EVO
19. Aaron Yates (USA) EBR
20. Geoff May (USA) EBR
DNF Michel Fabrizio (ITA) Kawasaki EVO
DNF Jeremy Guarnoni (FRA) Kawasaki EVO
DNF Claudio Corti (ITA) MV Agusta
DNF Chaz Davies (GBR) Ducati
DNF Alex Lowes (GBR) Suzuki
NC Ayrton Badovini (ITA) Bimota EVO
NC Christian Iddon (GBR) Bimota EVO

Championship points (after 2 events):

Pos. Rider Country Machine Points
1. Tom Sykes (GBR) Kawasaki 75
2. Loris Baz (FRA) Kawasaki 71
3. Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) Aprilia 64
4. Marco Melandri (ITA) Aprilia 49
5. Jonathan Rea (GBR) Honda 48
6. Eugene Laverty (IRL) Suzuki 46
7. Davide Giugliano (ITA) Ducati 43
8. Chaz Davies (GBR) Ducati 30
9. Leon Haslam (GBR) Honda 25
10. Toni Elias (SPA) Aprilia 23
11. David Salom (SPA) Kawasaki EVO 22
12. Niccolo Canepa (ITA) Ducati 16
13. Alex Lowes (GBR) Suzuki 9
14. Fabian Foret (SPA) Kawaski EVO 9
15. Leon Camier (GBR) BMW EVO 8
16. Sheridan Morias (RSA) Kawasaki EVO 7
17. Glenn Allerton (AUS) BMW EVO 6
18. Jeremy Guarnoni (FRA) Kawasaki EVO 4
19. Claudio Corti (ITA) MV Agusta 3
20. Luca Scassa (ITA) Kawasaki EVO 2