Jonathan Rea (KRT) won the opening race of the WorldSBK Laguna Seca race weekend, by almost three seconds, to record his 61st career victory. Tom Sykes (KRT) was a front row starter but slid backwards from a podium position in the early laps to finish seventh.
After qualifying third fastest in Superpole on Saturday morning, Jonathan Rea spent the early laps right behind eventual race one second place rider Chaz Davies, before pouncing to lead on lap seven. Davies had run wide at the entrance to the famous Corkscrew chicane, Rea instantly took his opportunity on the inside line.
Rea built his lead from then on to ease out to an eventual clear advantage of 2.978 seconds after 25 intense laps, on a tricky track surface that rose to over 50°C under the hottest conditions of the weekend so far.
Rea extended his championship lead over Davies to 70 points with his latest win, with one more race to come at Laguna on Sunday the 24th of June.
Front tyre grip issues for Tom Sykes saw him go from third on lap one to seventh on lap 18, defending his final finishing position in the last few laps to score valuable championship points.
Kawasaki is now 40 points ahead in the Manufacturers’ Championship, with 15 of the scheduled 26 races now complete.
An unlucky finish to a promising race for Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) saw him suffer a fast highside crash in The Corkscrew chicane. He suffered a fracture on the outside of the base of his left big toe, and will not be able to compete in race two on Sunday.
The highest placed Kawasaki rider behind the KRT duo today was Yonny Hernandez (Team Pedercini Racing Kawasaki), in 11th place, with Roman Ramos (Team GoEleven Kawasaki) in 12th position. Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura Kawasaki) was a faller and was unable to finish the race.
Race two at Laguna is scheduled for a 14.00 start, local time in California.
Jonathan Rea, stated: “In the early laps I felt good behind Chaz, although his pace was really fast. I knew as soon as he made that mistake I wanted to go through, set my rhythm, and tenth-by-tenth slowly build up a lead. It was not easy, much more difficult than I expected. The front grip was dropping quite a lot at the end so I just had to ride accordingly. We have not had that issue all weekend but the temperature change today, that extra ten degrees on the track, was massive. We learned some things from the race today to be a little bit stronger tomorrow.”
Tom Sykes, stated: “We had a decent start but even on the first laps I knew I was in trouble. I was having a lot of understeer from the front of the bike and I lost the front in many corners. Then about from lap four, that was it really. That was the end of the game. It was over the limit from then on and there was no way I could maintain the lap time any more. Definitely, we had an issue with the front tyre. Our lap time was so far from what we did in practice. We lost a lot of time. Our pace should have been enough for the podium today and I feel we could have had a good battle, considering where we were in all the practices and the build-up to the race.”
2018 KRT Rider Statistics
Jonathan Rea: World Champion 2015, 2016 & 2017
2018: Races 15, Wins 7, Podiums 12, Superpoles 2
Career Race Wins: 61 (46 for Kawasaki)
Career Podiums: 124 (82 for Kawasaki)
Career Poles: 16 (12 for Kawasaki)
Tom Sykes: World Champion 2013
2018: Races: 15, Wins 1, Podiums 6, Superpoles 3
Career Race Wins: 34 (34 for Kawasaki)
Career Podiums: 106 (105 for Kawasaki)
Career Poles: 45 (45 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: 117 – third overall
Total Kawasaki Podiums: 367 – third overall
Total Kawasaki Poles: 78 – second overall