Voltcom Crescent Suzuki racer Eugene Laverty stormed to third position at the Sepang International Circuit today in the opening race of the eni FIM Superbike World Championship round in Malaysia.
After starting from seventh on the grid, Laverty avoided the second-corner collision, which brought down three riders including his team-mate Alex Lowes, and got up-to-speed quickly to pursue the front-running pack of four riders. The Irishman held fifth place for the initial eight laps before advancing on Aprilia’s Toni Elias and then Ducati’s Chaz Davies three laps later. He maintained consistent speed on his Yoshimura-powered GSX-R and held third to the line to take a well-deserved podium and 16 championship points.
Race two got underway at 16:30hrs local time and after a red flag four laps in, the 10-lap sprint restart did little to dampen the momentum. Resuming from his previous race position of ninth, Laverty rode a determined race, catching Honda’s Leon Haslam and the Ducati pairing of Davide Giugliano and Davies before running out of laps to catch the next group and taking his GSX-R1000 across the line for seventh.
Despite the collision in the first lap ending his race one campaign early, Lowes regrouped for the second outing, taking his ninth-place spot on the grid for the late afternoon contest. After the brief interruption of the red flag, he restarted the race from 11th and then held 10th for the majority of the shortened 10 lap race; the British racer pushing his Suzuki GSX-R past Giugliano to take ninth on the final lap.
Air temperatures of 32°C left the track a blisteringly hot 52°C for the opening race, rising to 36°C and 59°C respectively for the later outing. Aprilia’s Marco Melandri got the better of his team-mate for the race one win, with a similar manoeuvre on the last lap of the day granting him the double.
Voltcom Crescent Suzuki now travels back to its UK headquarters to continue the motivation in preparation for the Riviera de Rimini round at the Misano World Circuit “Marco Simoncelli” in Italy on June 22nd.
“It was fantastic to get back on the podium in race one - a nice reward for all the guys because they deserved it in Donington but I threw it away in race one, so we are back where we belong I think. Race two, with the shorter distance, didn’t suit my Suzuki because we were better on old tyres but it’s been a positive weekend in all and it’s nice to finally be back in the top-three for the first time since Phillip Island.”
“There’s not much I can say about race one, but I definitely learnt something in race two. I really didn’t feel good at all, it was a big impact in the race one crash, but I dug deep and it was a good experience overall on a new circuit. It is a great track here at Sepang and I wish I could have done better, but now I’m really looking forward to Misano and seeing how close we can get to the front.”
Paul Denning - Team Manager:
“Following Alex’s superb podium at Donington, to follow that up with a podium for Eugene in very difficult conditions here at Sepang is a positive sign that we have got the GSX-R in the ball park and hopefully we can create further positive momentum from here on. Eugene’s not in the best of conditions with a broken bone in his right foot and is generally a bit battered after a testing accident last week, but he did very well to not let that affect him and to push forward so strongly and get to the podium in race one. Seventh was disappointing in race two, in that the potential was much better and I believe it was very possible to finish fourth if the race hadn’t been cut to such a short distance of only 10 laps.
“For Alex it has been a tough first visit to Sepang but we could have seen a very strong performance today. Only making one corner in race one before being violently taken out in the accident triggered by Loris Baz’s very rash move caused Alex a fair few injuries and a very severe bang on the head. All things considered he did very well to ride the bike in race two and even better to find a good pace, especially over the final five laps and fight his way up into the top 10. We are looking forward to the next three races at circuits we feel could be very positive for the bike and hope to arrive in Misano with two fit riders and some luck on our side.”
Sepang – eni FIM World Superbike Championship – Race One: 1. Marco Melandri (Aprilia) 33’42.359: 2. Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia) +0.620: 3. Eugene Laverty (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +12.865: 4. Chaz Davies (Ducati) +15.437: 5. Toni Elias (Aprilia) +15.723. DNF Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki).
Sepang – eni FIM World Superbike Championship – Race Two: 1. Melandri 21’00.424: 2. Guintoli +0.166 3. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) +2.689: 4. Elias +5.386: 5. Loris Baz (Kawasaki) +5.514. 7. Eugene Laverty (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +7.476. 9. Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) +15.866.