Another crash proves costly for previous points-leader Bautista.
A wet race one proved to be dramatic in the British round of the 2019 Motul Superbike World Championship, as Donington Park hosted yet another thrilling encounter.
A frantic start saw Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) take the lead early on and never look back as he romped to a 76th career win to take the championship lead.
Meanwhile, former leader Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing Ducati) crashed out in dramatic fashion. It was a blistering opening lap from Rea, who leaped off the line and took the lead, opening up a lead of over a second on the first lap.
Pole-sitter Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) held second place, ahead of Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), with the Ten Kate Racing Yamaha of Loris Baz in fourth. Bautista was fifth in the early stages, but losing time to Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team).
As the race settled, Rea was setting a scorching pace, lapping two seconds a lap quicker than anybody else, as behind him, Baz got his way into the podium positions and ahead of Leon Haslam at the Melbourne Loop on lap two. One of the bigger losers off the start was Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing), who was down in ninth.
It was a bright start for Argentine rider Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura), who was up to eighth from 14th, one place behind replacement rider, Peter Hickman (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team).
On lap four, Bautista began to respond to Lowes, as the Spaniard pulled clear and steadied the tide. Further down the order, Alessandro Delbianco (Mie Althea Racing Team) was showing his wet weather skills once again, as he was coming through the order.
However, two laps later it was a colossal moment for the Italian at turn two with both legs off one side of his Honda, taking to the soaking wet grass at high-speed, yet somehow remaining upright.
Back at the front, Rea continued to pull away from the rest, although Sykes was beginning to match his former teammate’s lap times. After eight laps, Rea had a seven second lead, setting a supreme pace but needing to remain focussed. Sykes was second, Haslam was back in third and ahead of Baz.
Then, a succession of accidents as Jordi Torres crashed on wet grass on the exit of turn six, then Pata Yamaha’s Sandro Cortese crashed at the same corner on the same lap, with the entry of the corner being the only difference.
However, then there was huge drama, as Bautista crashed out in spectacular style at the same point of the track, suffering his first back-to-back crashes of the season. The championship pendulum had now swung to Rea, but with more than 10 laps left, he still had to remain upright.
As riders ahead fell, other riders took advantage, with Leandro Mercado now elevated into sixth place, Hickman seventh and Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team) in eighth. Behind them, Delbianco was on the move, up inside the top ten and wanting more, as he chased after those ahead of him.
Rea took a third career victory at Donington Park, his 76th in total. Sykes was back on the podium for a second round running and on a third manufacturer at home, as Haslam was third at his home venue. Once again proving his worth in the wet weather, Baz was fourth ahead of Lowes, who had a relatively quiet race.
A stunning ride for Mercado saw him take his joint-best result of his career and his best result of the 2019 season. Hickman took a career-best seventh as a replacement rider, whilst behind him was van der Mark, Delbianco and Chaz Davies on the second of the Ducatis.
The championship lead now changes for the first time in 2019, with Rea leading Bautista by nine points, with the Northern Irishman being 61 points behind at one point. This remarkable comeback promises to give thrilling battles on Sunday.
In what was a dramatic Superpole session for the World Supersport Championship, rain came halfway through the session which caused the grid to look a little bit different to how it has looked throughout most of the session. Federico Caricasulo (BARDAHL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team) banked an early lap and took the pole position.
The Yamaha rider pushed ahead for a best time of 1m31.092s and, more than seven tenths back, Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) took a third-consecutive front row, while Raffaele De Rosa (MV AGUSTA Reparto Corse) completed the front row.
As the rain continued to drench the Donington Park circuit, the World Supersport 300 riders took to the track and put in strong lap times, combatting the weather in the best way possible.
It was a history-making two Superpole sessions, as Ton Kawakami (BCD Yamaha MS Racing) took his first pole position, becoming the first Brazilian rider to take a WorldSSP300 pole position and the first pole for a Brazilian rider in the entire WorldSBK paddock.
With Group A taking to the circuit first, Kawakami took advantage of the bad weather, starting ahead of Andy Verdoïa (BCD Yamaha MS Racing) and Galang Hendra Pratama (Semakin Di Depan Biblion Motoxracing). Australia’s Tom Edwards (Kawasaki ParkinGO Team) was 17th and Tom Bramich (Carl Cox-RT Motorsports by SKM- Kawasaki) 20th.