Jonathan Rea (KRT) demonstrated all his race craft and experience to win his second race of the season from a front row grid position in a restarted WorldSBK race, finally heading off a battling group of Ducati riders. Front row qualifier Tom Sykes (KRT) could not translate his strong pace into passing opportunities and slipped from fourth to seventh, before recovering a place on the final lap to finish sixth.
Despite a relative lack of top end power, because of limits on the maximum revs allowed under the new 2018 technical regulations, Rea found that constant improvements to his set-up through the practice sessions, and a wise tyre choice for the cool track conditions, allowed him to break the sometimes strong challenge of others and win by 1.450 seconds.
The planned 18-lap race was stopped after a few laps, after a three rider collision, making the eventual 17-lap restart a nervous time for all. Rea led for 13 of the 17 laps, but most crucially at the end. He upped his pace with a clear track ahead and takes a 14 point championship lead into race two, on Sunday 15th April.
Sykes was also well in contention in the early laps of Saturday’s race but the combination of not quite enough corner exit acceleration to overtake, and other riders holding him up in the corners, saw him drop back from the leading group. He still pushed all the way to the flag for a top six finish and ten more valuable championship points.
Sykes will now look to find a set-up and a strategy to overcome his first day issues and get into contention for a podium finish on Sunday at the 5.077km circuit in Spain, when significantly warmer weather conditions than today are expected to arrive.
Jonathan Rea, stated: “These track conditions suited us perfectly today. The tyres worked well in these weather conditions. I managed to find a good rhythm and I was confident, especially at the end of the race, when I knew we would be strong. I saw this race as our chance from the start. I thought that all the cards were on our side, so I just tried to be clean. I made a couple of little mistakes, and when Xavi Fores came past me it more about trying to understand where he was strong, and then improve. Mid corner, I feel like our bike is a little bit stronger. So all that first section of the track, where it is more flowing, I felt really strong. I am enjoying riding the bike.”
Tom Sykes, stated: “A strange race and I am obviously disappointed but I am struggling in some places. When I get in a group I have so much potential in a lot of areas of the track, but I find myself running into the back of other riders. It looks like we are taking a lot of good things from our chassis. We have worked hard and we are taking the best from our bike set-up. But we are giving away too much in acceleration. So many times our corner entry and speed is very good but we cannot get out of the turns as well. Even in the slipstream, on this very, very long straight downhill, I can only start to keep the same speed in the last 50 to 100 metres. It takes all that time to build up our speed. With a few laps to go I got a little bit of clear track and made a 1’51.6 lap time. On the lap before I was on the back of another rider and I was one second slower. Jonathan has done a good job. I think the secret for me now is to try to keep towards the front because the moment you have three bikes in front and couple behind, when I try to line up the guy in front I get passed by the guy behind. We need to really try to understand that now and not let it affect us.”
2018 KRT Rider Statistics
Jonathan Rea: World Champion 2015, 2016 & 2017
2018: Races 5, Wins 2, Podiums 3, Superpoles 1
Career Race Wins: 56 (41 for Kawasaki)
Career Podiums: 115 (73 for Kawasaki)
Career Poles: 15 (11 for Kawasaki)
Tom Sykes: World Champion 2013
2018: Races: 5, Wins 0, Podiums 1, Superpoles 1
Career Race Wins: 33 (33 for Kawasaki)
Career Podiums: 101 (100 for Kawasaki)
Career Poles: 43 (43 for Kawasaki)
5 x Riders’ Championships (Scott Russell 1993, Sykes 2013, Rea 2015, 2016 & 2017), 1 x EVO Riders’ Championship (David Salom 2014)
3 x Manufacturers’ Championships (Ninja ZX-10R 2015 & 2016, Ninja ZX-10RR 2017)
3 x Teams’ Championships (KRT/Provec Racing 2015, 2016 & 2017)
Kawasaki FIM Superbike World Championship Statistics
Total Kawasaki Race Wins: 111 – third overall
Total Kawasaki Podiums: 352 – third overall
Total Kawasaki Poles: 75 – second overall