Photo: Yamaha Racing
AUTÓDROMO INTERNACIONAL DO ALGARVE, Portimao, Portugal September 16-17 – Jonathon Rea and Kawasaki again dominated proceedings in the 10th World Superbike event of the season. Rea grabbed the double victory, extending his lead to a massive 120 points – nearly five race wins – over teammate Tom Sykes.
Sykes wasn’t able to fight this weekend, as he suffered a massive crash in practice, suffering fractures to two fingers and his wrist – and regarding himself lucky, considering the violence of the crash. He was pronounced unfit to race by the medical staff and was a Barcelona hospital by Sunday having the breaks operated on, and hopes to be fit to race in France in two weeks.
The third top rider in the championship, Ducati’s Chaz Davies, was once again so close but not close enough to accomplish much. After a poor starting position because of a crash in Superpole qualifying, he was held up in the field trying to catch Rea on Saturday, and by the time he was through the Irishman was long gone. In fact, Rea was long gone after the first lap, putting in an astounding lap that put him nearly two seconds ahead of his pursuers! He just kept piling on the pressure, eventually taking a relatively relaxed win by more than six seconds, having led by more than eight at one point.
Davies in turn finished four seconds ahead of his team-mate Marco Melandri, who had a serious fight on his hands to hold off Leon Camier’s MV Agusta. It would have been MV’s first WSBK podium, and it was obvious how hard the lanky Brit was trying to gather in Melandri, but he ran out of laps.
Rea said, “I could not quite believe my opening lap! When our bike had full grip it seemed to be on rails but when the grip dropped a little bit I had to … change how I was braking and tipping into the corners … It was a difficult race to keep my concentration, because with a gap like that it is very easy for something to go wrong when you switch off a little bit.”
Davies wasn’t happy, but shrugged off the result. “To be honest, this was the best that we could do today. Rea has been on another level here so far … unfortunately I didn’t feel particularly comfortable from half-way point onwards. We had a few warnings and, even if I wasn’t riding too hard, I felt that we were still on the limit.”
Sunday’s race, with the top finishers bumped back to the third row, saw the usual early-lap mayhem as Rea, Davies, and Melandri tried to slice through the six riders ahead of them. As usual, Rea came out on top of that tussle – the Kawasaki just seems to work with a wider window of usability, particularly when barging through traffic. By the time Davies got through the Kawasaki man was again gone, although he never showed the total dominance of the previous day.
One reason Davies got held up for quite some time was a great performance by Eugene Laverty on the factory Milwaukee Aprilia. The bike has been terrible on tires all year, but the team finally seems to be getting a handle on things, and Laverty was taking full advantage of it, although he was eventually demoted to fourth by Yamaha’s Michael van der Mark and Melandri. Davies was again running second well ahead of the others when the front end suddenly let go and he crashed.
The Welshman took responsibility for the accident, saying “It’s disappointing to finish the race like that because we’ve missed an easy podium … but towards the end I relaxed a little and closed the throttle a bit earlier than usual going into Turn 2, which ended up loading the front too much, and I went down.”
Van der Mark was delighted with his result, Yamaha’s first podium finish since returning to the WSBK series last year. It was also great time for a confidence boost, as next weekend he’s replacing the injured Valentino Rossi in the factory Yamaha Moto GP race at Aragon in Spain. No pressure, there, then …
The number of fallers helped elevate some riders to excellent finishing positions. Aussie “super-sub” Anthony West brought his Pedercini Kawasaki to eighth in his return to WSBK from the 600 cc WSS series, while Honda test rider Takumi Takahashi stepped into the Ten Kate Honda ride vacated by Nicky Hayden’s recent death to finish a terrific 10th in his first WSBK weekend.
The win went to five-time WSS champ Kenan Sofuoglu on his Pedercini Kawasaki, but after he eventually got into the lead he was pushed hard the whole way, first by Jules Cluzel (Honda) and then Lucas Mahias (Yamaha). The Turkish ace held firm, however, and despite a late charge Mahias had to settle for second, with Cluzel in third.
South African Sheridan Morais was with the leading group early on, but eventually drifted back, having a good scrap with early leader P.J. Jacobsen of New York on his factory MV Agusta. They finished that way, the results leaving Sofuoglu with a four-point lead over Mahias, with Morais 27 back and Cluzel the last rider with a bare mathematical chance at the title another 10 back.
World Supersport 300
Perhaps the most popular win of the weekend – and as usual, certainly the best race to watch – went to Ana Carrasco, the young Spaniard becoming the first woman to win in the World Superbike cauldron. It was a crafty and well-deserved win, as she used her Kawasaki Nija 300 to out-draft three Yamaha R3s to take victory by only 0.05 sec.
The win was also an incredible result for the Pucetti team – they won all three support races – and for Kawasaki, who swept the board on the weekend.
World Superbike standings after 20 of 26 races (10 of 13 events)
- Jonathan Rea, U.K., Kawasaki Racing Team, 431 points
- Tom Sykes, U.K., Kawasaki Racing Team, 311
- Chaz Davies, U.K., Aruba.it Racing Ducati, 296
- Marco Melandri, Italy, Aruba.it Racing Ducati, 250
- Alex Lowes, U.K., Pata Yamaha, 169
- Michael van der Mark, Netherlands, Pata Yamaha, 166
- Xavi Fores, Spain, Barni Ducati, 156
- Leon Camier, U.K., MV Agusta, 133
- Jordi Torres, Spain, Althea BMW, 130
- Eugene Laverty, U.K., Milwaukee Aprilia, 117
Next event Magny-Cours, France, September 30-October 1.