CIRCUITO DE JEREZ, Andalusia, Spain – Despite having sewn up his third successive World Superbike title at the last race in France, Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea simply won’t ease off.
He grabbed the double win at the Spanish round October 21-22, albeit with a bit of luck in the first race. Ducati’s Marco Melandri was running away to grab his first race of the season when an unspecified “technical problem” caused his bike to fail only four laps from the finish.
The rest of the top finishers were the usual crowd – Welshman Chaz Davies on the second factory Ducati, followed by Tom Sykes on the second factory Kawasaki, and then the ever-improving Yamahas with Brit Alex Lowes and Dutchman Michael van der Mark aboard.
Sixth behind them was Sylvain Guintoli, hopping onto the Pucetti Kawasaki to replace the injured Randy Krummenacher. It was a great result for the England-based French ace (2014 World Superbike champ for Aprilia), who’s been in the British superbike series and is keen for another go at the world level.
On Sunday, Rea was in a class of his own. Starting from ninth (due to WSBK’s oddball second race inversion) he was in the lead by the end of the first lap, and although van der Mark got past him briefly, he was never headed after the second time around. The win gave Kawasaki the Manufacturer’s Championship for the year, a very big deal for the factory, perhaps even more so than Rea taking the rider’s championship.
Rea said, “Kawasaki won the Manufacturers’ Championship today and it is not just the bike, the rider, the management, the crew chief, it is every single person inside the team and at the factory race department in Japan. Everyone has made this result and I am super-proud to be a part of it … [today’s] win came from my crew chief Pere Riba because he asked me to trust him with some front geometry changes and a front tire change. It was awesome.”
Melandri tried hard to make up for his first-race disappointment, and was clearly the fastest rider on track after Rea, but made a number of mistakes while passing his way forward and had to make the same pass several times, costing him a considerable amount of time. He eventually finished second, 1.2 sec ahead of his team-mate Davies. That, with Tom Sykes collecting a fifth just behind Yamaha’s Lowes, leaves Davies and Sykes tied for second in the championship, with one event (two races) left to go.
The rest of the top 10 was rounded out by van der Mark (Yamaha), Spaniard Xavi Fores on the satellite Barni Ducati, Guintoli with another excellent ride for Pucetti Kawasaki, Argentine Leandro Mercado on a satellite Aprilia, and Spaniard Jordi Torres (BMW).
This one looked more like a typical Moto 3 brawl than the usual relatively calm WSS event. The race win eventually went to young Italian Federico Caricasulo, with championship contenders Lucas Morias and Sheridan Morais fifth and sixth. Realistically, only Morias has a shot at the title; while Pucetti Kawasaki’s Kenan Sofuoglu is only 20 points back, he’s still AWOL with mending fractures in his hip and is unlikely to make it to the last round.
Even if he does make it back, Morias only needs to score a few points to lock up the title.
In the meantime “super-sub” Aussie “Ant” West was pressed into service on yet another fill-in ride, this time taking Sofuoglu’s place on the Pucetti ZX-6R. He describes his life as a champion filler-in as “crazy”, but is in high demand. It’s a wonder he’s been unable to land a permanent ride, as he consistently is challenging for top positions no matter what series he’s in or bike he’s on.
In this case, he had a ding-dong battle with series regular P.J. Jacobsen and the American’s MV, with several hair-raising passes back and forth toward the end of the race. At the flag, he managed to grab the third podium spot, a great result for him, and also for the team as he denied Morias some valuable points in the event Sofuoglu is able to return for the final race.
World Superbike standings after 24 of 26 races (12 of 13 events)
1. Jonathan Rea, U.K., Kawasaki Racing Team, 506 points (new world champion)
2. TIE, Tom Sykes, U.K., Kawasaki Racing Team / Chaz Davies, U.K., Aruba.it Racing Ducati, 363
4. Marco Melandri, Italy, Aruba.it Racing Ducati, 301
5. Alex Lowes, U.K., Pata Yamaha, 226
6. Michael van der Mark, Netherlands, Pata Yamaha, 210
7. Xavi Fores, Spain, Barni Ducati, 185
8. Leon Camier, U.K., MV Agusta, 154
9. Jordi Torres, Spain, Althea BMW, 149
10. Eugene Laverty, U.K., Milwaukee Aprilia, 135
Next and final event Losail Circuit, Qatar, November 3-4