Welshman Chaz Davies scored his first double win of the 2017 season at Ducati’s home round this weekend, but defending champion Jonathan Rea stretched his advantage at the top of the standings to 74 points after taking a pair of seconds around the demanding Imola circuit.
The historic Italian venue, located 30 minutes from Ducati’s Borgo Panigale factory, has been happy hunting ground for both Davies and the local manufacturer in recent years. Davies had done the double on the big V-twin in 2016 and immediately set his stall out by setting the fastest time in Saturday’s superpole session to start the afternoon race from pole position.
There was no opportunity for the feud that had blown up between the two championship contenders last time out in Assen to flare up as Davies took a consummate victory in Saturday afternoon’s race.
The former supersport world champion had led from the start and had opened up a near seven second gap over Rea when the red flags came out as a result of a fiery crash that ended Eugene Laverty’s race on the 13th lap. The Irishman had been involved in a battle with Alex Lowes when he clipped the back end of the Englishman’s Yamaha R1. The impact dislodged the front mudguard on Laverty’s Aprilia and in turn caused his front brake lines to break. Recognising he could not stop, Laverty jumped off his out of control machine at around 130mph, landing in the gravel trap while the Aprilia speared into the safety barriers and exploded into flames.
With the race stopped and two thirds of the required distance completed, Davies was awarded the win from Rea, with his Ducati team-mate Marco Melandri in third.
Indeed red flags were to be a common occurrence over the weekend, with the world supersport and superstock 1000 support races both being stopped as a result of accidents. Sunday’s superbike race also required a restart, a result of backmarker Ayrton Badovini’s Kawasaki blew up and dropped oil on the circuit.
At the restart it was Tom Sykes who made the early running, having started from the second row of the grid after finishing fourth on Saturday, with former British superbike champion Leon Camier running a strong second until he crashed out on the third lap.
Davies hunted down Sykes, taking a lead he would never lose on lap six, while Rea moved past his Kawasaki team-mate and into second on lap 11.
Davies’ double win moves him ahead of Sykes and into second in the championship but Rea’s 40 point haul means that he has a 74 point advantage at the top of the standings. In a display of supreme consistency , Rea has won seven times in the 10 races of the 2017 season, and finished second to Davies in the other three. Speaking after the race, Davies said: “What a weekend! For the first time this year, I feel we’ve been the benchmark from the beginning. We were able to find our rhythm on Friday, and it sort of snowballed from there. The team has done an awesome job, the bike worked superbly in both races, in different conditions, but today it was quite interesting. We got mixed up at the first start, but after the re-start we got a good launch and I was able to make some good moves that put us in a good position. Sykes’ pace was strong, so I had to put my head down to hunt him and, once I caught him, I was able to set my own pace and that was good enough. Thanks to all the Italian fans for showing up this weekend, their push was something special.”
Rea was upbeat after the weekend, adding: “It was difficult at times today especially because I made a mistake going into the Variante Bassa chicane at one point. I lost all the track positions that I gained in the first few corners and that changed my race completely. I feel that if I did not lose those I would have had something extra to – maybe not win the race – but for sure to go with Chaz. I got stuck behind some traffic after that but when I went through I was able to keep a consistent rhythm. I was too far back from Chaz but today we halved the winning margin compared to yesterday. I raced with the new soft prototype front tyre and in these temperatures I think it was maybe too soft an option for our bike. But I am generally content to have increased our championship lead, take 40 points and get on the podium twice at what is probably not our strongest track right now. It has been a really positive weekend.”
The Superbike World Championship now moves to Donington Park in two weeks time for the UK round, where British superbike championship leader Leon Haslam joins the world championship regulars in a one-off wild card appearance.