THE WSB WINNER
A WSB champ on 2017’s hottest new bike – we’d give short odds on Guintoli being at the front from round one
ONE MAN hoping to spoil the Shakey vs Haslam party is 2014 World Superbike champion Sylvain Guintoli, who returns to BSB from the world series with one goal. With only Kawasaki and Ducati in a position to win in World Superbikes, the Frenchman wanted a fresh challenge and with the level of competition in BSB already high, taking a step back to the UK wasn’t a big issue for him to get his head around.
“Racing in the UK makes no difference to me,” he says. “I just want to be somewhere I can challenge. You get frustrated when you can’t compete for victory. I was lucky enough to be part of that exclusive group who had the right bike to fight for the win in WSB in 2013/14. I won quite a bit and took the 2014 world title, but over the last two years, even when things were good it was very, very, hard to fight with the top four bikes.”
Having already raced in BSB, albeit briefly in 2009, Guintoli has one race victory and a number of podiums
to his name, but the series isn’t the only challenge for the former MotoGP man this year.
Joining the Bennetts Suzuki squad, he’ll race the all-new GSX-R1000. But while on paper it looks to be a massive step forward, on the race track it remains an unknown quantity.
Knowing that, Guintoli and the Hawk Racing squad behind the team started their winter testing preparations as early as February with a cold, wet shakedown test at Mallory Park. Guintoli has since ridden various iterations of the bike, including the Yoshimura-spec World Endurance bike he’ll race at the Suzuka Eight-Hour next year.
“I did quite a few laps on a stock bike at Mallory before Spain and it’s quite amazing,” Guintoli said. “The way the new Suzuki is built – the dimensions, the engine position and how the engine works – is ideal for a race bike. They’ve built it with that in mind; the project leader for this bike worked in MotoGP for many years.
“I rode the Yoshimura race bike in Malaysia and for me that package was ready to race. Obviously, we have the difference between electronics to deal with but apart from that our bike is identical because Yoshimura have sent us all the parts!”
While Guintoli seems quietly confident ahead of the new GSX-R’s race debut, he’s clever enough not to say too much having yet to be on track with his championship rivals.
“We won’t know how good this bike us until we have a straight fight at the first race. In testing, the bike has been working really well, but we haven’t been up against anyone else yet! We don’t know if we’re there, if we’ll have an advantage or if we’ll be a second behind!
“What I do know is that I’ll be going out to go as fast as I can from the off. There’s no need to think about it and take it easy because we have a new bike. Whenever I race I push as hard as I can. If I don’t, it won’t be a true reflection of where we are with the bike.”
‘WE REALLY WON’T KNOW HOW GOOD THE NEW GSX-R IS UNTIL WE HAVE A STRAIGHT FIGHT AT THE FIRST RACE OF THE SEASON’
Could the return of Guintoli upset Shakey and Haslam’s apple cart? Sylvain started the year with a damp test at Mallory