WorldSSP victory belongs to Cluzel as West scores sixth position.
Kawasaki Racing Team’s Jonathan Rea has equalled Carl Fogarty with 59 Motul Superbike World Championship (WorldSBK) race wins following a dominant weekend at Imola, Italy, to extend his championship lead.
Rea took his first win at Imola in three years with a dominant performance in Saturday’s opening encounter, controlling the race from the start and not giving anyone on track any opportunities.
His teammate Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) completed the second consecutive KRT one-two of the season, with Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing Ducati) returning to the podium in third.
The Kawasaki riders shot out from the lights, quickly opening up the break from their foes. The gap would increase to 3-4 seconds between the British pair at the halfway point, with both riders leading the race from that point forwards.
The first two laps were a nightmare for Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), looking for his fifth-consecutive win here. Following his crash in Superpole 2, the Welshman struggled at the lights, falling back from third to seventh.
After climbing back to fourth, Davies went straight through the Variante Bassa chicane, losing several positions along the way and any chance of victory. He later redeemed himself with two passes at turn 21, but by then the podium was out of sight, thanks Melandri in front of his home fans for third, with Davies fourth.
Behind the two teams that have dominated proceedings throughout the weekend, Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team) repeated his 2017 race one finish with fifth place, finding the pace to hold off Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) in sixth.
Rea won race two on Sunday, equalling Fogarty for the most wins in the championship in the process. Victory number 59 came after a stunning battle with Davies, who fought off several attacks from the reigning champion before having to settle for second place.
The battle had been anticipated all weekend, but it was Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) who made the early move, flying out from the blocks and taking the lead ahead of Davies. The Welshman kept close behind however, finally making his move at Variante Bassa at the end of lap three.
By then, Rea had made it up to third, and a few bends later, at Tosa, passed Rinaldi and set up the fight. For nine laps, it was cat-and-mouse game, with barely a tenth of a second separating the two. Rea stalked Davies, creeping up and planning his pass.
He fired the first shot at Tamburello on lap 10, going wide and allowing Davies back through by the straight. Shot two came at Tosa two laps later, and it couldn’t have been closer. Rea found the pace he needed around Tosa, but Davies took the inside line. The pair touched, Rea went wide, and the Ducati stayed in front.
It was third time lucky for Rea, however, one lap later, at the entry to Variante Alta. From there on, the fired-up reigning champion put on an incredible display, giving Davies no chance to even answer back, and increasing the lead to four seconds by the chequered flag.
Behind the flying duo was Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), completing an all-British duo for the first time this season. Sykes had a beautiful battle with Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team) throughout the race, finally managing to make it past the Spaniard, who finished fourth, with three laps to go.
Before that, Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) and Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team), who had been contending for that final podium place, came together on lap 10 around Rivazza. The pair collided and ended up on the gravel, neither man able to return.
Jordi Torres (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) scored his best result of the season with a scintillating fifth place finish, after starting on row four. One place behind him on the grid and finally at the flag, Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) came in sixth, equalling his best Imola result. Rinaldi eventually took seventh.
Australian Jason O’Halloran was called in from FP3 on Friday to replace Leon Camier at Red Bull Honda, however after qualifying ahead of teammate Jake Gagne in 18th, he crashed in the early stages of race one and fractured his lower right leg.
In World Supersport, it took Jules Cluzel (NRT Honda) a year and a half to find his way back to the top before Assen. For win number two, it has taken just 21 days, as the French rider won his second-consecutive race ahead of Italian pair Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha) and Raffaele De Rosa (MV Agusta Reparto Corse).
Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing), who was third on the grid, decided at the last moment to not take part in what was supposed to be his final race. The WorldSSP legend climbed on his Kawasaki ZX-6R one last time, led the field one lap around the track and headed into the pits. A final bow, on his terms, from an inimitable champion.
World champion Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha) was protecting his lead in the early stages from Cluzel and Caricasulo and defended brilliantly until lap six, when a slip at Rivazza left him tumbling down the order to 20th – recovering to eighth. Anthony West (EAB West Racing) made a triumphant return from injury with sixth place.
The World Supersport 300 race saw Ana Carrasco (DS Junior Team Kawasaki) win the second race of her career, dominating the field ahead of Borja Sanchez (ETG Racing Kawasaki) and Kevin Sabatucci (ProGP Yamaha). Australia’s Tom Edwards (Nutec Benjan Kawasaki) crashed out at turn 14 on the opening lap.