LAUSITZRING, Brandenburg, Germany—Anyone hoping for a change in the competition after the World Superbike series’ long summer break would certainly have suffered from “déjà vu all over again” — as Yogi Berra is reputed to have said.
The competition up front was the same four bikes and riders, the Kawasaki and Ducati teams still clearly on a level well above the rest of the field, which includes factory efforts from Yamaha, Aprilia, MV Agusta, and a factory-supported but satellite BMW effort. On this weekend, Ducati’s Chaz Davies came out strong and continued that way, winning both races at what seemed like a comfortable pace that no other rider could match. It was his ninth double victory in the series.
After the second win, Davies couldn’t stop smiling, saying, “I loved every minute of it! A great way to come back after the summer break.”
Even on Sunday, when his Saturday win had him starting from the third row, it only took him a few laps to get up with the leaders, and before half-distance he slipped past championship leader Jonathon Rea’s Kawasaki and eased away to a 2.2-second win. He’d been up by more than three seconds before easing off a bit in the final few laps.
Rea collected second both days, and while clearly not delighted to be only on the second step of the podium, was still relatively satisfied with his weekend, as he extended his series lead over team-mate Tom Sykes to 70 points, almost three race wins. He said, “I really thought I’d be chasing the win today, but in the end I had nothing for Chaz. He was really, really, strong, so congratulations to him.”
With only four weekends and eight races left, Rea’s speed and metronomic consistency surely indicate he’s well on track for his third successive WSBK title, which has never been done before.
Second in the title chase, third and fourth on this weekend, Rea’s team-mate Tom Sykes couldn’t have been happy with his fourth on his 32nd birthday. As happened before, he has trouble getting through the pack in the second race thanks to the inverted starting order, and by the time he was clear it was too late to mount a charge.
Results were also mixed for the Pata Yamaha team. Brit Alex Lowes did well to collect a sixth and a fifth, but team-mate Michael Van der Mark suffered from a flat tire in race 1 and wasn’t able to get with the leaders on Sunday, finishing a disappointing 11th.
The Aprilias still seem to be struggling with rear tire wear, Eugene Laverty and Lorenzo Savadori both apparently suffering from problems after about half-distance. Laverty crashed, while Savadori, fighting for third and fourth early on, eventually drifted back to seventh.
Once again, Leon Camier on the under-funded MV Agusta proved he’s one of the best riders out there, taking the sole MV entry to fifth and sixth; he was fifth again in race two until nipped on the last lap by his great friend Lowes.
The series now has another long-ish break, reconvening in Portugal in a month’s time.
It was another strange one for the 600 cc class, with South African Sheridan Morais grabbing his first series win for Yamaha in a bizarre red-flagged finish caused by a crash on the second-last lap.
Federico Caricasulo crashed and took out his team-mate Lucas Mahias, with Caricasulo taken to the medical room. Mahias managed to get restarted and back to the pits before the race was officially called, and as the results went back to the lap before the red flag, he ended up third in the race.
Kenan Sofuoglu collected second as he chases his sixth WSS title, which would be his third on the trot after championships for Kawasaki in 2015 and 2016. At this point, he’s only one point behind Mahias, and 19 ahead of Morais.
Other contenders in the series didn’t fare so well; Jules Cluzel of France taking his Honda to a relatively lacklustre (for him – he was with the lead group but never looked threatening for the lead) fourth, while American P.J. Jacobsen retired his MV Agusta late in the race with mechanical problems.
World Superbike standings after 18 of 26 races (nine of 13 events)
- Jonathan Rea, U.K., Kawasaki Racing Team, 381 points
- Tom Sykes, U.K., Kawasaki Racing Team, 311
- Chaz Davies, U.K., Aruba.it Racing Ducati, 276
- Marco Melandri, Italy, Aruba.it Racing Ducati, 218
- Alex Lowes, U.K., Pata Yamaha, 169
- Xavi Fores, Spain, Barni Ducati, 146
- Michael van der Mark, Netherlands, Pata Yamaha, 135
- Leon Camier, U.K., MV Agusta, 120
- Jordi Torres, Spain, Althea BMW, 109
- Eugene Laverty, U.K., Milwaukee Aprilia, 95
Next event Portimao, Portugal, September 16-17.