Prior to the WSBK showdown at Losail this weekend all the talk in the paddock had been about team orders – what role would Marco Melandri and Loris Baz play in the destination of the championship? Both had played huge roles in the previous race at Magny Cours – Melandri theatrically moving aside to let team mate Sylvain Guintoli take the lead, while Baz did the same for Kawasaki stablemate, and defending champion, Tom Sykes. However race two saw Melandri put the cat among the pigeons and ignore team orders, riding for the win, taking five precious points from Guintoli, leaving the Frenchman 12 points behind Sykes. Would Melandri, still without a ride for 2015, follow team orders and assist Guintoli? Would Baz be in a position to take points off the Aprilias and help Sykes? Would the teams issue orders?
Race one in Qatar saw that question answered unequivocally by Frenchman Loris Baz, who refused to obey pitboard instructions to pull over and let Sykes past. Guintoli finished the race first, Baz second, Sykes third. That result left Guintoli trailing Sykes by just three points going in to the final race.
A war of words quickly broke out between the Kawasai riders, who have had a strained relationship at the best of times.
In a post-race interview Baz admitted he had deliberately ignored his team’s orders. he said: “I saw the pit-board, but I am only nice with the people who are nice with me,” he said. “Things could have been different if things could have been different in the last three years. I didn’t think my mechanics deserved to finish third instead of second, they have been working hard for three years so it is for them.
“About team orders. At least I’ve helped him once in my life, in Magny-Cours. Not sure he can say the same.”
A furious Sykes bit back, clearly riled by his team mate’s defiance. He said: “That just shows how immature and disrespectful he is. That was a team order, a fairly pivotal one. We lost points in Sepang from his misjudgement and another five now. I could have followed Sylvain in the next race and now it is winner takes it all.”
Even former double WSBK champion James Toseland threw his weight to the debate by saying that if he was the Kawasaki team boss he would have sent Baz home. “He’s a disgrace and was riding for himself. He showed a total lack of respect for his team. He’s no use on the track at all. I’d send him home.”
Race two, and ultimately the championship itself, was decided by Guintoli, who had the quicker bike and put in the ride of his life and cut through the leading pack to hit the front. He never looked back and secured his first title, finishing ahead of Rea, who rode the wheels off his Honda, and Sykes, taking the championship by just six points.
So racing decided the title, and WSBK was the beneficiary. Aprilia’s slogan this year has been #bearacer, and in the end it was a victory for Guintoli, a victory for Aprilia, who secured the manufacturer’s championship, and a victory for racing.