Rea wins Qatar WSBK as weather wreaks havoc
Jonathan Rea won the first race of the Pirelli Qatar Round and matched Doug Polen’s record for the most race victories in a single season, ending the season on a high, as his chances of exceeding the recorded was curtailed by bad weather hitting Qatar Saturday, with race two was cancelled.
Rea was untouchable out on the Qatari circuit, getting the holeshot at the lights and never relinquishing the race lead. Tom Sykes completed a KRT one-two, with Alex Lowes getting the better of Eugene Laverty for third position after a race-long battle.
A dream start for the Northern Irishman pushed him into first place before even arriving to turn 1, while Laverty and Lowes jostled behind to see who could follow the Kawasaki bikes. The Aprilia’s incredible top speed on the kilometre-long straight was Laverty’s best weapon all throughout the race, using the slipstream to move into third after lap one.
With Rea managing a comfortable two-second gap over his teammate and both riders a step above the rest in terms of consistency, all eyes were set on the Yamaha and Aprilia battle behind. Lowes moved ahead in lap 6 but was again beaten on the front straight three laps later.
Jonathan Rea saying, “There is a lot of hard work done to arrive in this position. It is really difficult; to build the package, the team atmosphere and a feeling with the bike. This weekend I have not quite felt myself on the bike and I said to my guys yesterday evening that this game is so much about confidence. We have been lucky this year in that I have had such a great feeling with the bike and that we have had that little bit extra. That gives you confidence and you are able to ride in a certain way. That is how it is done; that confidence the bike gives me, working with the team. Every time we are struggling, or my confidence is down, my crew chief Pere Riba finds a way to re-invent that, and turn things around. I am really grateful for that. People can find a good team and a good bike, and a good team can find a good rider, but trying to put all the elements together is really difficult. But I certainly have that with the Kawasaki Racing Team.”
Tom Sykes added, “I think overall we made a good race. Yesterday in the long run there was myself and another rider who destroyed the front tyre, so today I think it all went to plan. This morning in FP4 we used a set of tyres from yesterday, the pace was there, improving all the time. Then the qualifying tyre went into the bike for Superpole and instantly when that tyre goes in I go to my more natural riding style, and everything becomes easier. That was nice to win Superpole. In the first, probably eight, laps I felt like we could have pushed on a little bit harder in some of the fast right corners but I just kind of knocked it back a fraction – which I think proved a good idea. I saw the gap closing behind me a fraction at one stage so I pushed to finish second.”
It all came down to an epic last lap battle where they rubbed shoulders all the way through, including a brave final pass from the Englishman at turn 12. Laverty tried to return the favour on the final turn but nearly lost the front end, handing Lowes the final podium position. There is a silver lining for the Aprilia rider however: he starts from P1 on tomorrow’s grid.
Xavi Fores followed the front quartet with a confident race all the way to the final lap, but late issues pushed him down to thirteenth to the benefit of Marco Melandri. The Italian takes fifth position and will start his last race for the Borgo Panigale squad from the front row of the grid.
The last two laps at Losail saw one of the wildest battles of the season, as Chaz Davies, Michael van der Mark and Loris Baz raced side-by-side for that final front row spot. The Frenchman was triumphant in this war, taking sixth position with the Yamaha in seventh, while Davies nearly lost eighth position on the final straight to Jake Gagne, ninth. Toprak Razgatlioglu closed the top ten, with Lorenzo Savadori in a disappointing eleventh after starting from the second row.
WorldSBK Race 1 Result
- J REA GBR Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK 1’56.255
- T SYKES GBR Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK +1.424
- A LOWES GBR Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team +3.705
- E LAVERTY IRL Milwaukee Aprilia +4.723
- M MELANDRI ITA Aruba.it Racing – Ducati +10.579
- L BAZ FRA GULF ALTHEA BMW Racing Team +13.173
- M VAN DER MARK NED Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team +14.557
- C DAVIES GBR Aruba.it Racing – Ducati +17.216
- J GAGNE USA Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team +17.277
- T RAZGATLIOGLU TUR Kawasaki Puccetti Racing +18.179
- L SAVADORI ITA Milwaukee Aprilia +24.924
- L MERCADO ARG Orelac Racing VerdNatura Kawasaki +30.183
- X FORES ESP Barni Racing Team Ducati +34.931
- R RAMOS ESP Team GoEleven Kawasaki +46.851
- G RUIU ITA Team Pedercini Racing Kawasaki +58.890
Final WorldSBK Championship Point Score
- Jonathan Rea 545 Kawasaki
- Chaz Davies 356 Ducati
- Michael Van Der Mark 333 Yamaha
- Tom Sykes 314 Kawasaki
- Marco Melandri 297 Ducati
- Alex Lowes 248 Yamaha
- Xavi Fores 230 Ducati
- Eugene Laverty 158 Aprilia
- Toprak Razgatlioglu 151 Kawasaki
- Lorenzo Savadori 138 Aprilia
- Loris Baz 137 BMW
- Leon Camier 108 Honda
- Jordi Torres 98 MV Agusta
- Michael Ruben Rinaldi 77 Ducati
- Leandro Mercado 70 Kawasaki
WorldSBK Race 2: Track conditions stop final race of the season
Following a severe rain and sand storm on Saturday morning in Qatar, WorldSBK race two was cancelled at Losail International Circuit. With the storm hitting the Losail track in the morning, conditions deteriorated and a difficult decision was taken to cancel the final race of the day.
The decisions signalled an early end to the 2018 season, and Jonathan Rea ends the season with 545 points and 17 victories, while Chaz Davies takes second position in the championship, 23 points ahead of Michael van der Mark.
Race direction issued the following statement, “Following the World Supersport race, the safety commission (FIM, Dorna WSBK Organization and SBK riders) met. Due to an increase of standing water, as well taking into account the difference between power and tyres of WorldSBK and WorldSSP bikes, this led us to decide racing would not be safe in these conditions.”
Jonathan Rea, also stated, “It was a difficult situation today. From one side it is frustrating not be able to finish the season when you are geared up to race but on the other side conditions are really difficult out there, especially at Turn 15. It did not seem like it was draining at all and every time they tried to clean the track, water was coming up from the gravel bed. It was frustrating for the fans also, because they are not getting a Superbike race tonight. But safety is paramount. We can look back at our season and be really proud of our efforts. Because this race was cancelled today we also finished our season with a race win from yesterday.”
WorldSSP: Mahias takes the win in Losail; Cortese becomes World Champ
Lucas Mahias has won the final race of the FIM Supersport World Championship season in extraordinary circumstances, overtaking title contenders Sandro Cortese and Jules Cluzel three laps from the chequered flag. The Kallio Racing rider finished second and becomes the 2018 World Supersport Champion, after his main rival crashed out dramatically in the final lap.
Tension was at an all-time high on Saturday evening, with the race itself up in the air until the reconnaissance lap. Puddles scattered around the Losail International Circuit after the afternoon’s storms kept the riders on their toes on what was an otherwise dry track, but the consensus was for the final race to go ahead.
The lights went out and a wild opening lap began. Polesitter Lucas Mahias went horribly wide at turn 1, falling to fourth, while Corentin Perolari slotted himself between the two title contenders, Cluzel taking the lead. Cortese moved past the GM94 rider on the main straight and bridged the gap with Cluzel up to the final sector, sticking an unbelievable move through 12.
But Cluzel returned the favour through the main straight, and Perolari found his way past Cortese again. The German was determined not to fall at the final hurdle: he moved past the 20-year-old Frenchman on the main straight in lap 4 and set out to put pressure on the NRT rider; Cluzel went wide at turn 13, Cortese moved swiftly back into the lead.
A ceasefire seemed to be agreed for the next few laps, but with Mahias edging closer to the pair Cluzel came back all guns blazing in lap 9, sticking in a pass at turn 4. The slipstream through the start of lap 10 moved Cortese momentarily ahead but his French rival was back in front through 2.
Then came the moment that, with hindsight, would decide the championship. Smelling blood and with the two frontrunners fighting at every corner, Mahias seized his opportunity and passed both at the same time through turn 6 and into the race lead. Cluzel left Cortese back in third, but beating his rival was no longer enough: he needed the race win to overcome the five-point gap separating them.
Knowing that he now held the advantage, even in a losing situation, the German kept his cool and remained with Cluzel, fighting his way through while trying to force mistakes out of his desperate rival. And the mistake did come: Cluzel tried to put in a last lap pass over Cortese through turn 7, with the championship all but slipping through his fingers; he lost the front end, crashing out and officially handing the title to Cortese, whose incredible consistency was finally the winning factor over Cluzel’s five race wins.
Mahias crossed the line in first, taking his third win of the season and the runner-up spot in the standings. Cortese’s second place is enough to clinch the championship by 23 points in his rookie season.
Federico Caricasulo finished third after a fantastic climb through from seventh on the grid, with Thomas Gradinger in fourth position. Randy Krummenacher was fifth, with Perolari finally down in sixth. Héctor Barberà finished his season on a high with seventh position, ahead of Raffaele De Rosa in eighth, Hans Soomer in ninth, and Peter Sebestyen closing the top ten.
WorldSSP Race Results
- L MAHIAS FRA GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team 2’02.940
- S CORTESE GER Kallio Racing Yamaha +2.000
- F CARICASULO ITA GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team +12 3.137
- T GRADINGER AUT NRT Yamaha +3.161
- R KRUMMENACHER SUI BARDAHL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team Yamaha +6.236
- C PEROLARI FRA GMT94 Yamaha +6.608
- H BARBERA ESP Kawasaki Puccetti Racing +6.709
- R DE ROSA ITA MV Agusta Reparto Corse by Vamag +7.705
- H SOOMER EST Racedays Honda +13.060
- P SEBESTYEN HUN CIA Landlord Insurance Honda +23.199
Final WorldSSP Championship Points
- Sandro Cortese 208 Yamaha
- Lucas Mahias 185 Yamaha
- Jules Cluzel 183 Yamaha
- Randy Krummenacher 159 Yamaha
- Federico Caricasulo 143 Yamaha
- Raffaele De Rosa 133 MV Agusta
- Thomas Gradinger 86 Yamaha
- Kyle Smith 72 Honda
- Luke Stapleford 56 Yamaha
- Anthony West 51 Kawasaki
- Ayrton Badovini 49 MV Agusta
- Loris Cresson 40 Yamaha
- Hikari Okubo 39 Kawasaki
- Niki Tuuli 38 Honda
- Corentin Perolari 36 Yamaha