The 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale made its worldwide racing debut this past weekend, winning a race in Spain and scoring a pole position and a pair of podium finishes in South Africa. Ducati‘s latest sportbike isn’t due to make its international racing debut until the Superstock 1000 Cup race, April 1 at Italy’s Imola circuit, […]
WSBK: 2012 Magny-Cours Results – Championship Decided by Half a Point
You would think carrying a 30.5 point lead into the final round of the 2012 World Superbike Championship would be a safe enough margin to win the title. Aprilia‘s Max Biaggi made it interesting, inexplicably crashing out of the first race at the finale in Magny-C0urs before scoring a fifth place finish in Race Two to give him a 0.5 point margin over Kawasaki‘s Tom Sykes to win the title.
The 358 to 357.5 point difference is the narrowest finish ever in WSBK. The final round capped off a season that saw Biaggi leading the points chase nearly the entire campaign despite looking very vulnerable at times through the season.
“This is the fourth world championship out of six that I have won at the final race, I seem to like difficult challenges!” says Biaggi. “The 2012 season went right down to the wire: we started well with a win at Phillip Island after totally renewing my team and we also had some difficult moments. We had to work hard to win the title, and maybe for this reason it’s even better. A big thanks to the Team, Aprilia and the Gruppo Piaggio, from President Colaninno to every factory worker, because my success is the result of the work of a great Italian company. Thanks also to my family, my fiancée and my two children, as well as Marino Laghi who is always present with me.”
Race One Highlights
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Overnight rainfall created tricky conditions which became apparent early in Race One. Biaggi, running all by himself in fourth place on Lap 2 suddenly his Aprilia RSV4 suddenly switched from being vertical to horizontal. Biaggi slid into the gravel and out of the race.
The crash was just the brake his rivals were looking. Sykes led the opening four laps after starting from the pole before losing the lead to Jonathan Rea. The Honda rider laid down a series of quick lap times and established a large lead over Sykes before crashing out on Lap 13.
Back in the lead, Sykes soon facing challenges from Pata Ducati‘s Sylvain Guintoli and BMW‘s Marco Melandri who also had an outside chance at the championship. Guintoli went through on Lap 16 and held on for the win with Melandri, who was racing with a pair of broken ribs, taking second ahead of Sykes.
After Race One, Biaggi’s 30.5-point lead was trimmed to just 14.5 points over Sykes while Melandri still in the hunt, trailing Biaggi by 18.5 points.
Race Two Highlights
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The Race One crashes set the stage for a dramatic final race of the season. Sensing the opportunity to steal the championship, Sykes jumped out to another strong start, followed by Biaggi’s teammate Eugene Laverty and Guintoli. Biaggi, meanwhile, found himself in 10th place after the opening lap.
The track had begun to dry for the second race but wet patches proved to be a hazard. Melandri was the first to go down, crashing out on Lap 6 and falling out of contention for the championship. Kawasaki’s Loris Baz was next, crashing hard moments later and narrowly missing Melandri’s fallen S1000RR.
Sykes was first across the finish, 1.354 seconds ahead of Rea, but the focus switched to Biaggi who crossed the line nearly 14 seconds later for fifth place, giving him just enough points to take the title.
“It’s difficult to accept that half a point separates us in a full season, but that’s all credit to World Superbike and how close it is,” says Sykes. “Max did a great job, but for me and my season I’m very happy, everyone gave me a full package to do something with and this weekend I was very strong. Overall we had a pole position, circuit record, two podiums and I’d like to dedicate that to Joan Lascorz, I’ve had some help from him this weekend. To close 30 points on Biaggi was magical. Now we’re all signed and sealed for next year, hopefully we can deliver!”