The Cathedral of Speed welcomed the World Superbike grid for yet another round at the iconic circuit. But nobody could predict the fireworks that were going to ignite before the race had even got underway.
An uneventful SP1 saw Xavi Fores and Nicky Hayden through to SP2, after swiftly knocking Randy Krummenacher from the top. What really surprised me was the amount of riders lingering around the track waiting for a tow – it was like watching Moto3!
SP2 was where everything really kicked off. With 6 minutes to go, everyone was in the pits waiting to go back out on the new qualifying tyre. Jonathan Rea has not been silent on his doubts about the tyre and how long it’ll last, but he put in a flying lap anyway and broke the lap record to take pole position.
As Rea crossed the line at the checkered flag, Ducati’s Chaz Davies still had one flying lap left to complete. Chaz was in no way improving his time on his final lap, but came to blows with Rea as he cruised on the racing line. Hands were waving and gesticulation was very much present, but it was in parc ferme where it really kicked off. As Davies claimed there was “great sportsmanship from Rea, not,” Rea was adamant that he wasn’t on the racing line at all. After some very choice language was thrown about, race direction made the decision to penalise Rea with a three place grid penalty – snatching his pole position off him and demoting him to 4th on the grid.
Going into race one, Tom Sykes took his first pole of the year (admittedly by default), followed by Chaz Davies and Lorenzo Savadori, who is returning from injury.
It was only at the first corner in the race that we saw Michael van der Mark run off. If there was any race for him to do this at, it shouldn’t have been this one! The crowd erupted into a chorus of boos – as nobody likes to see a local rider suffer at their home round. Just when it looked as if it couldn’t get worse for the local lad, he crashed out on lap three, putting him at the back of the grid for race 2 tomorrow.
Davies took the lead and ran with it for the majority of the race, but Rea’s grid demotion certainly didn’t faze him as he got a strong start and was soon fighting with team mate Sykes for 2nd. They certainly swapped a lot of paint, but eventually Rea had the edge and set his sights on Davies who was slipping away at the front.
Rea caught Davies very early on, but was biding his time and waiting for the correct moment to pass, which came with 4 laps to go. Rea managed to get through but Davies wasn’t going to give up easily and immediately got back in front. The two switched between the positions until Rea finally got in front and managed to slightly break away. Just as it looked as if Davies would be close enough to make a move, Davies suffered a mechanical and on the penultimate lap no less. With Davies out and Sykes far far behind, Rea sailed through the last lap to take an easy win ahead of Sykes and Melandri.
A certainly impressive ride came from Honda’s Stefan Bradl, who finished in 6th. It has been no secret that the Honda’s have been struggling, but they seem to finally be getting things together.
With the predictability becoming more and more tedious as the racing goes on, it is only a matter of time before fans start tuning out. The reverse grid format was a good idea on paper, but by the middle of the race things are panning out exactly the same. As Rea sits 59 points ahead of Sykes in the championship, should we just give him the trophy now?
World Superbike race 1 results
- Jonathan Rea – Kawasaki Racing Team
- Tom Sykes – Kawasaki Racing Team + 4.501s
- Marco Melandri – Aruba.it Ducati Racing + 17. 673s
- Xavi Fores – BARNI Ducati + 22.569s
- Lorenzo Savadori – Milwaukee Aprilia + 30.797s
- Stefan Bradl – Red Bull Honda WSBK Team + 33.530s
- Roman Ramos – Team Kawasaki Go Eleven + 39.176s
- Eugene Laverty – Milwaukee Aprilia + 39.254s
- Leandro Mercado – IODARacing + 39.266s
- Leon Camier – MV Agusta Reparto Corse + 41.493s