MOTORLAND ARAGON, Spain–The reign of Rea is over in Spain, temporarily at least. Irishman Jonathan Rea’s string of five uninterrupted 2017 victories for Kawasaki was finally broken by Ducati’s Chaz Davies in the second of the two races in the third World Superbike meeting of the year.
Davies could very well have taken the double if not for a fall on the second-last lap of the first race, when he was dicing with Rea, who went on to collect his fifth win on the trot.
The Welsh factory Ducati rider said, “Yesterday was a disaster, the whole weekend was a disaster until the last lap of the second race. The only moment of joy is bringing home the win!”
Rea was happy to have been gifted the win on Saturday and said he was content with second on Sunday: “We can’t complain too much because on one side of the circuit we were really strong. Congratulations to Chaz, because to come back from a big crash yesterday and win today was really impressive.”
While it may sound boring to have two riders – Rea and Davies – and two manufacturers – Kawasaki and Ducati – take the bulk of the attention and results to date, there’s actually a lot to be said for the racing so far this season. Ducati’s new signing of veteran Marco Melandri has tossed another helmet into the ring to join Rea, Davies, and Rea’s team-mate Tom Sykes at the sharp end, while the Yamaha duo of Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark are very close indeed to also being right in the mix. Both riders showed impressive speed and were able to stay with the top group for much of the second race in Spain.
You could also say that the Aprilia team is getting closer, with Eugene Laverty and Leandro Mercado doing well to collect top 10 finishes, getting a bit nearer the front each time out.
Rea’s dominant performance so far (with a 50-point lead, equivalent to two race wins) definitely puts him in a good spot to aim for a third consecutive title. However, there are still 20 races left and Rea’s had to fight hard for his wins so far. The two Ducati riders are right there, and his team-mate Tom Sykes is also close. Sykes had a bad weekend in Spain, being quite ill with a bad cold and also suffering from something like food poisoning, but he still collected a third and a fourth. It also won’t be a surprise to see either of the Yamaha riders on the podium before too many races go by.
Still, there’s no question that the duel between Rea and Davies, picking up where 2016 left off, looks like being the highlight of the year as far as race wins go. The two were at it hammer-and-tongs in Aragon, a track at which the Ducati goes well; in both races the two constantly swapped positions – even paint, once or twice – but the passes were clean and both riders said they’d enjoyed the contests.
A little farther back, Jordi Torres of Spain on the Althea BMW is also doing very well, collecting a sixth and a seventh. With no direct factory involvement and running the lone BMW in the field, the team’s performance so far has been exemplary.
The same could be said for Xavier Fores and the Barni Ducati squad, although they are certainly getting some help from the factory. Fores was a brave sixth in race 2, after bailing off his flaming Ducati in race 1. He suffered burns to his neck and right shoulder and there was some doubt of his starting, but to his credit he toughed it out.
The Honda team of Nicky Hayden and Stefan Bradl suffered another crummy weekend, with the new CBR1000 taking longer than hoped to get developed up to speed. Both riders complained of difficulty with the electronics and with being able to pass, although the two salvaged top 10 spots in race 1. In the second race Bradl could only manage 12th, while Hayden retired with an unspecified technical problem.
Leon Camier continues to work miracles with the sole MV Agusta in the field. The tall, lanky Brit said before the weekend started he’d be delighted with a top 10 finish, and an 11th in race 1 followed by 10th in race 2 filled the team’s hopes nicely.
This series is turning out to be the star of the WSBK show this year, with a different winner at each of the three races so far. Close racing has created a tight championship battle with several unfamiliar names up front to add spice to the mix.
The Aragon win went to Frenchman Lucas Mahias (his first victory in the series), who just edged out South African Sheridan Morais at the line, both riders on Yamahas. American P.J. Jacobsen was third on the factory MV Agusta, but nearly caught Morais – the top three were covered by a 10th of a second at the flag.
Five-time Supersport champion Kenan Sofuoglu had a nasty return to action after missing the first two races to heal an injured hand. He was running in the group up front when Federico Caricasulo, who won in Thailand, high-sided right in front of the Turkish ace. Sofuoglu had nowhere to go and smashed directly into the Italian’s crashed bike. Both riders took hard hits, but both eventually walked away to get checked out at the medical centre.
This new class, intended as a feeder for the bigger bikes much as Moto 3 is in the Grand Prix paddock, debuted in Aragon and would have to be considered a success. As many as a dozen riders ran in the lead group, a clever and well-judged win eventually going to Dutch rider Scott Deroue on a Kawasaki Ninja 300. The top four were covered by less than a second at the flag, so it looks like the mix of Kawasakis, Hondas, and Yamahas (all three brands in the top four) is going to work out well.
World Superbike standings after six of 26 races (three of 13 events)
- Jonathan Rea, U.K., Kawasaki Racing Team, 145 points
- Chaz Davies, U.K., Aruba.it Ducati, 95
- Tom Sykes, U.K., Kawasaki Racing Team, 91
- Marco Melandri, Italy, Aruba.it Ducati, 81
- Alex Lowes, U.K., Pata Yamaha, 65
- Michael van der Mark, Netherlands, Pata Yamaha, 49
- Jordi Torres, Spain, Althea BMW, 48
- Xavier Fores, Spain, Barni Ducati, 44
- Leon Camier, U.K., MV Agusta, 38
- Eugene Laverty, U.K., Milwaukee Aprilia, 30
World Supersport standings after three of 12 races
- Lucas Mahias, France, GRT Yamaha, 45 points
- Roberto Rolfo, Italy, Team Vamag MV Agusta, 40
- Sheridan Morais, South Africa, Kallio Racing Yamaha, 34
- Kyle Ryde, U.K., Pucetti Racing Kawasaki, 32
- Niki Tuuli, Finland, Kallio RacingYamaha, 27
Next event Assen Circuit, Netherlands, April 29-30.