Jonathan Rea was unable to surpass Carl Fogarty as world superbike’s all time leading race winner, but added two more podium finishes to extend his 2018 championship lead on a weekend when Yamaha’s Michael van der Mark sped to two race wins.
The Carole Nash backed Ulsterman admitted that he was ‘a little disappointed’ that he was unable to challenge Van der Mark for the win, but with main title rivals Chaz Davies and Tom Sykes both having below par weekends, Rea left the Leicestershire circuit with an extended championship lead, moving to 64 points clear of second placed Davies, with Van der Mark’s 50 point haul moving him up to third in the championship.
With the top men from Saturday’s race handicapped into a third row start, it was the Aprilia of Lorenzo Savadori who led the opening lap, along with pole sitter Alex Lowes. Lowes’ PATA Yamaha team-mate Van der Mark made a sharp start to join the in the battle for the lead, and by lap eight Rea made it a three-way fight for the win with the Yamahas.
The three enjoyed a terrific mid race battle, but when Van der Mark took the lead on lap 18 of 23, he was able to stretch an advantage he would never lose.
“That was incredible – an amazing race,” said an elated Van der Mark. “They always say that after the first victory, it gets easier but I really never expected to win today. We made some minor changes on the bike, I was still losing out in some areas to the other guys, but overall my R1 felt really good and I could push to the maximum. I had to start from ninth and stay calm in the first few laps that were a bit chaotic. I made my way to the front and followed Alex for a long time. Jonny passed me and I kept calm and used my head, at the end, I managed to pass him and pull away! It was incredible to take my first victory but I am genuinely lost for words about the double this weekend. The Yamaha is working so well and we had a really good test at Brno, so I am really looking to riding there. For sure, this weekend has given us a big boost and we now know that we can go there with a target to win!”
Behind the Dutchman, Lowes faded as young Turkish rider Toprak Razgatlioglu gained ground. The 21-year-old put in the best performance of his career to catch and overhaul Rea for second but, with Davies fifth and Sykes sixth, it remained a positive race for the Northern Irish rider.
“It was a difficult race because in the beginning it was very aggressive from all riders,” said Jonathan. “Guys who are not usually near the front were super-aggressive. When I got a track position I could be really smooth and do my own thing. Michael passed me, made a good attack and was able to stretch that gap a little bit. I wasted a lot of tyre and energy trying to get back to him. I also ran into some arm pump under braking at the end so it was hard to start thinking about attacking Michael. I could see Toprak was coming from my pit board but there was nothing I could do about him at that point, as he had better pace at the end. The target here at Donington was to exit the weekend with more than 50 points of advantage in the championship and we exceeded that, so for me it was a positive weekend.”
Razgatlioglu’s team-mate for the weekend, British favourite Leon Haslam, had made an impressive start and was battling for the lead when he crashed out at the Melbourne hairpin on lap two. Of the other Brits, Honda’s Leon Camier gave a gritty performance to finish eighth on his comeback from injury, while replacement rider Luke Mossey scored two points for 14th on his Kawasaki. Bradley Ray scored a point on his Suzuki, running to the lower specification used in British championship racing, for 15th.