Photo: Facebook/Chaz Davies
AUTODROMO DINO FERRARI, Imola, Italy – There must be something in Imola’s air – perhaps wafting from the Ducati factory an hour down the road – that makes the place such a fantastic circuit for Chaz Davies and his factory Ducati Panigale.
For the second year in a row, the Welsh racer grabbed the circuit and the weekend by the throat, gave them a shaking, and emerged with pole position, fastest lap, and a double victory. That gave him a much-needed leg up in the championship standings, although Kawasaki’s Jonathon Rea, with a pair of seconds behind Davies, still has a healthy lead as the series inches toward the half-way point.
Davies said, “What a weekend! For the first time this year, I feel we’ve been the benchmark from the beginning. We were able to find our rhythm on Friday, and it sort of snowballed from there. The team has done an awesome job, the bike worked superbly in both races, in different conditions.”
Rea was relaxed about his two second places, admitting he couldn’t match Davies’ pace, and saying, “It was difficult at times today … But I am generally content to have increased our championship lead, take 40 points and get on the podium twice at what is probably not our strongest track right now.”
As usual, the other factory Kawasaki and Ducati riders swapped the final podium spots, with Marco Melandri grabbing third for the Italian make on Saturday, while Sykes put on an excellent performance to grab the last podium step for Kawasaki on Sunday. He looked like the Sykes of old, apparently finally over a nasty intestinal infection that’s weakened him for the past couple of months.
Xavi Forres, on the fastest non-factory bike, had a fantastic weekend on his Panigale, taking fifth on Saturday and holding off factory rider Melandri for a fourth on Sunday. The young Spaniard is having a terrific season, currently top satellite rider and ahead of the Aprilia, Honda, and Yamaha factory bikes.
Also up for note in race 2 was Jordi Torres on the Althea BMW. Torres was so sick he missed qualifying and race 1, but managed to pull himself together for an excellent eighth on Sunday after starting dead last. He gave big thanks to the medical staff at the Clinica Mobile for getting him healthy enough to race.
Once again, Leon Camier on the lone MV Agusta was also spectacular, with a sixth in race 1 and dicing for the podium when he crashed out in race 2. We’ve said it before, but Camier is doing miracles with an underfunded bike that’s nowhere as fast as he’s making it go; the ex-British superbike champion deserves a raise, whatever MV is paying him.
Yamaha had a reasonably encouraging weekend, with Michael Van der Mark and Alex Lowes grabbing seventh and eighth followed by a ninth and sixth. The bikes are obviously not quite there – both riders are well qualified to collect podiums – but they’re getting a bit closer every race weekend.
The Aprilias, on the other hand, still seem to be stalled, running fast at the beginning of races then trailing off as the laps count down. Lead rider Eugene Laverty did well to collect a seventh on Sunday after a horrifying crash in race 1; Alex Lowes passed him, and apparently Lowes’ foot hit Laverty’s front fender, which came off and either jammed the brake or possibly cut the brake line. Whatever, Laverty had no brakes at the next corner and leaped off the bike, which smashed into a retaining wall and exploded into flames. Fortunately, the Irish rider was merely badly shaken and was fine for the repeat round on Sunday.
After the second race, Laverty was cheerful, saying he believed the team had taken a big step forward in “balancing” the bike and he was confident of further improvement at his home race at Donington in the U.K. in two weeks.
The Hondas, still without any direct factory help for the Ten Kate team, continue to languish, barely able to crack the top 10 on a good day. The frustration level is mounting, as even the legendarily-calm, collected, and cheerful Nicky Hayden is starting to make post-race cracks about the bike’s problems. It’s sad to see the 2006 Moto GP champion stuck with what so far seems like a hopeless case. With Honda’s Moto GP efforts starting to pay dividends, it seems well past time for HRC to start paying a little attention to their World Superbike effort.
Turkish rider Kenan Sufuoglu became the first repeat winner in this season’s WSBK 600 cc series, with a tight victory over Frenchman Lucas Mahias and American P.J. Jacobsen – the mix of nationalities was matched by the bikes, with Kawasaki, Yamaha, and MV Agusta sharing the podium.
The race – well races – were carnage, with no fewer than three red flags thrown and the event finally postponed to the end of the day and shortened to only 11 laps. Mercifully no one was injured in the many crashes, and the usual group of suspects at the front managed to escape unscathed.
Of his 40th series win, Sofuoglu said, “My win was not easy, especially as the many red flags gave us a hard time. Finally for the race I had no new rear tires left to use. But I told myself ‘no excuses, no complaints’ just go for the win.”
Mahias maintained his series lead, and South African Sheridan Morais retained second place with a fourth on his Kallio Racing Yamaha. Jacobsen moved his MV into third spot, while five-time champion Sofuoglu moved his Kawasaki into fourth overall.
World Supersport 300
With 36 riders starting the field, winning the WSBK’s feeder series event was never going to be easy. Dutchman Scott Deroue, who won the previous two races, had a fairly miserable weekend, only managing to finish 11th ,after qualifying 21st. He still maintained his series lead, leading Italy’s Alfonso Coppola by 14 points.
Coppola led most of the race, but to his fury got pipped on the last lap by Spaniard Marc Garcia, barely ahead of Ukraine rider Mykyta Kalinin.
Unusually for the series so far, which has featured good parity among the three brands competing, Yamaha R3s collected the first seven spots.
World Superbike standings after 10 of 26 races (five of 13 events)
- Jonathan Rea, U.K., Kawasaki Racing Team, 235 points
- Chaz Davies, U.K., Aruba.it Racing Ducati, 161
- Tom Sykes, U.K., Kawasaki Racing Team, 160
- Marco Melandri, Italy, Aruba.it Racing Ducati, 124
- Alex Lowes, U.K., Pata Yamaha, 94
- Xavi Fores, Spain, Barni Ducati, 84
- Michael van der Mark, Netherlands, Pata Yamaha, 78
- Jordi Torres, Spain, Althea BMW, 65
- Leon Camier, U.K., MV Agusta, 64
- Eugene Laverty, U.K., Milwaukee Aprilia, 55
World Supersport standings after five of 12 races
- Lucas Mahias, France, GRT Yamaha, 85 points
- Sheridan Morais, South Africa, Kallio Racing Yamaha, 58
- P.J. Jacobsen, U.S.A., MV Agusta, 55
- Kenan Sofuoglu, Turkey, Pucetti Kawasaki, 50
- Roberto Rolfo, Italy, Team Vamag MV Agusta, 40
Next event Donington Park, U.K., May 27-28.