Sylvain Guintoli took two positive results from the opening round of the 2015 World Superbike championship at Phillip Island in Australia this afternoon, with his Pata Honda team-mate Michael van der Mark impressing with a strong fifth place finish in the first race, his WSBK debut.
The two 22-lap races around the 4.445km Phillip Island circuit were won by British riders Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam, with 2014 champion Guintoli riding hard in the first outing from his ninth place on the grid to post a seventh at the flag.
Guintoli’s crew made further changes to his Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP for race two, but with temperatures above 30°C, the 32-year-old Frenchman, injured in a big testing crash in Spain recently, endured another tough physical battle to bring the CBR home in fifth place.
Fifth was where Dutch sensation Michael van der Mark finished his debut World Superbike race after starting from fourth on the grid and battling in the early stages with the leading group before dropping into a solitary race and finishing four seconds ahead of 2013 WSBK champion Tom Sykes.
The 22-year-old reigning World Supersport champion enjoyed an even better start to race two, blasting past Rea’s Kawasaki into the lead at the start of the eighth lap. Van der Mark led for the following five laps before rear tyre wear forced him back. He finally crashed out of fourth place with just three laps to go but was more than satisfied with his World Superbike debut.
Sylvain Guintoli Sylvain Guintoli - 7th and 5thI tried everything I could and we did both races with very different set-ups, although the results were much the same. But at least we’ve got some good data that we can work on now. After missing so much winter testing, I’ve really been treating this weekend as another live test session because I’m still not quite yet clicking with the bike. We’ll just keep working though and come back strong in Thailand. To be honest, I’ve never felt so physically drained after two races. I think the injury from Jerez must have somehow added to the dehydration because I felt really ill during both the races. I’ll focus on recovering as much as possible before the next races now. But one of the highlights of the weekend for me was being on the track with Troy Bayliss. He had already retired when I came to SBK but we had a few laps scrapping out there in race two which was a bit special!Michael van der Mark Michael van der Mark - 5th and DNFFriday morning started as a bit of a nightmare really because we changed the bike a lot compared to the test earlier in the week. It was just not working but from the second free practice we started getting faster and faster and when the temperatures went really high yesterday we were still fast and managed the tyres well. I had a good feeling for the races but we were a bit unlucky that the weather was not as hot as yesterday. I had quite a good start to the first race and was aggressive in the first couple of laps, but I couldn’t stay with the front guys. I had a big drop in the tyre as well, so I had to focus on the guy behind me and save some tyre to bring it back in fifth. We made a couple of small electronics changes for the second race but I was hoping for a bit more hot weather. The start wasn’t reall y great but I was really aggressive and could stay with the front guys this time. I even led the race for a few laps which felt really good before I had another big, big drop in the tyre. I tried to follow the guys but just pushed a bit too hard and lost it. But my guys did an amazing job this weekend and to be fifth in my first Superbike race was incredible. To be leading in my second Superbike race was just too good to be true! Pieter Breddels Pieter Breddels - technical co-ordinatorWe didn’t have an easy first weekend with Sylvain but we kept changing the CBR to give him more feeling for the race and he finished seventh in race one. For race two we changed the bike again and he finished fifth. He’s fifth in the points and considering everything that’s not too bad. We’ll study everything to consider the best way forward but I’m confident that we’ll be stronger in Thailand. Race one for Michael was a lonely ride but to get fifth in your first Superbike race was a very good effort. We made some changes for race two to work the tyre a little better and it worked out well. He got a good start and even led the race for a few laps before dropping back to fourth. He had a small crash three laps from the end so no points there, but for sure he showed the world that on the Honda he has all the speed and talent needed to run at the front.