Aprilia’s Sylvain Guintoli closed the gap to World Superbike Championship leader Tom Sykes at a sopping Magny-Cours after Marco Melandri adhered to team orders and waved the Frenchman through for victory in race one.
And Sykes was gifted fourth place in France as his Kawasaki team-mate Loris Baz was shown a pitboard that said ‘Lose 1P Sykes’ and he ground to an almost-halt at the last chicane, making it as obvious as possible what job he was doing.
Pata Honda’s Jonathan Rea had a rather lonely race in the end, but still finished on the rostrum, bagging third place on the podium, but was five seconds adrift of the duelling Aprilias.
Rea got the hole-shot with Guintoli on his tail, and the Northern Irishman edged ahead, only for the local rider to take the lead on the final corner on the opening lap. But the first lap was not without some drama – first of all Ducati’s Chaz Davies crashed at Adelaide, only for Red Devils Roma’s Toni Elias to fall in exactly the same place moments later.
Two laps later Voltcom Suzuki’s Alex Lowes entered the pits with a technical problem, and his team-mate didn’t fair much better as Eugene Laverty crashed unhurt at Estoril. While all of that was going on at the front Rea fell back to give Guintoli a four second advantage by lap five, with Ducati's Davide Giugliano narrowing the gap.
But the fiery Italian went wide on the last turn and fell back to tenth. Meanwhile championship leader Sykes and his team-mate Baz were steadily making their way up the soaking wet track and with ten laps remaining were up inside the top five. But they had to contend with the other Aprilia machine and the diminutive figure of Marco Melandri.
The former MotoGP rider forced his way up to second, with Baz matching his pace. On lap 13 Rea was neck and neck with Sykes but the Isle of Man based resident pulled ahead in the wet and into third. Elsewhere there appeared definitive team orders in the Aprilia garage. Melandri went ahead of Guintoli with only five lap remaining, and a sad face appeared on the Roman’s pit board, to suggest that the team were not happy with the fact that Melandri has gone into the lead.
But on the start of the seventeenth lap Melandri signalled for Guintoli to move on ahead and the local lad went back into the lead, and the angry face was swiftly removed from Melandri’s pit board. The pair had a nine second lead over Rea who was in third.
But there were obvious team orders in the Kawasaki garage too, with ‘lose P1’ appearing on Baz’s pit board, on the penultimate lap the tall Frenchman left it till the last corner to let the Huddersfield rider go past to grab fourth, with Baz rounding up the top five. Now the gap has closed to 19 points at the top of the championship table.
Pata Honda’s Leon Haslam had a steady race ending the morning in sixth, followed by Giugliano and Lanzi. BMW Italia’s Sylvain Barrier took the Evo class victory.
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