WorldSBK : Record-breaker Rea fights off Davies for Imola Double
RACE 1 : Imperial performance by Rea who increases championship lead
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) took his first win at Imola since 2015 with a dominant performance at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola, controlling the race from the start and not giving anyone on the track any opportunities. His teammate Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) completed the second consecutive KRT one-two of the season, with Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) returning to the podium in third.
The Kawasaki riders shot out from the lights, quickly opening up distance with the riders behind. That gap would increase to 3-4 seconds between the British pair at the halfway point, with both riders leading the race from that point forwards. Rea is now just one win away from the all-time win record in MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship history, and opens up a 42-point lead at the top of the standings.
Sykes too gave no option to the rest of the field, showing that his Assen pace was no fluke and that, when he’s got room in front, his ZX-10RR’s pace is almost unparalleled. It will be interesting to see how the rider from Yorkshire fares starting from 8th in Race 2, given the issues that have plagued him in the past. He now moves up to fourth in the championship.
The first two laps were a nightmare for Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), looking for his fifth consecutive win here. Following his crash in the Superpole 2, the Welshman struggled at the lights, falling back from third to seventh. After climbing back to fourth, Davies went straight through the Variante Bassa chicane, losing several positions along the way and any chance of a victory. He later redeemed himself with two wonderful passes at that same turn 21, but by then the podium was out of sight, thanks to the fantastic rhythm shown by Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) in front of his home fans. The Italian equaled his best WorldSBK result here in third, while Davies’ fourth will at least have the consolation prize of starting from P1 tomorrow.
Behind the two teams that have dominated proceedings throughout the weekend, Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team) repeated his 2017 Race 1 finish with fifth place, finding the pace to hold off Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) in sixth. The Dutchman will however be pleased at his performance, after starting from the back of row 4.
Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Junior Team) had an extraordinary start to Race 1, moving up to third in lap one. He fell back as the race progressed, but his seventh-place finish equals his best result in WorldSBK. Just behind, Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) completed his best finish of the season in eighth.
Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) finished a successful return to the WorldSBK paddock in ninth, pipping ahead at the line of fellow Brit Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team). Haslam beat his teammate for this weekend in Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing), whose WorldSBK Imola debut finished with him in eleventh.
Rea equals Carl Fogarty’s legendary win record in thrilling Race 2
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) has won Race 2 at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola, equalling Carl Fogarty for the most wins in the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship in the process. Victory number 59 came after a stunning battle with Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), who fought off several attacks from the reigning champion before having to settle for second place.
The battle had been anticipated all weekend, but it was Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) who made the early move, flying out from the blocks and taking the lead ahead of Davies. The Welshman kept close behind however, finally making his move at Variante Bassa at the end of lap 3. By then, Rea had made it up to third, and a few bends later, at Tosa, passed Rinaldi and set up the fight.
For nine laps, it was cat-and-mouse game, with barely a tenth of a second separating the two. For several laps, Rea stalked Davies, creeping up and planning his pass. He fired the first shot at Tamburello on lap 10, going wide and allowing Davies back through by the straight. Shot two came at Tosa two laps later, and it couldn’t have been closer. Rea found the pace he needed around Tosa, but Davies took the inside line. The pair touched, Rea went wide, and the Ducati stayed in front.
It was third time lucky for Rea, however, one lap later, at the entry to Variante Alta. From there on, the fired-up reigning champion put on an incredible display, giving Davies no chance to even answer back, and increasing the lead to four seconds by the checkered flag.
Behind the flying duo was Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), completing an all-British duo for the first time this season. Sykes had a beautiful battle with Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team) throughout the race, finally managing to make it past the Spaniard, who finished fourth, with three laps to go.
Before that, Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) and Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team), who had been contending for that final podium place, came together on lap 10 around Rivazza. The pair collided and ended up on the gravel, neither man able to return.
Jordi Torres (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) scored his best result of the season with a scintillating fifth place finish, after starting on Row 4. One place behind him on the grid and finally at the flag, Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) came in sixth, equalling his best Imola result.
Rinaldi also equalled his Race 1 result in seventh. The Italian was unable to keep up his initial pace, but comes out of the Pata Italian Round with his best return over two races in WorldSBK. He beat Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) to the flag, also matching his best WorldSBK result.
In ninth, Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) made his return from injury a successful one. Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura), closed the top ten, with one of his best performances of the season.
What a race! Watch everything that happened at Imola, including highlights, reactions and much more, thanks to the WorldSBK VideoPass. The championship returns in two weeks, live from Donington Park!