Jonathan Rea’s indomitable march towards a record third consecutive world superbike championship continued at the Portimao circuit in Portugal this weekend with the perfect set of pole position, two wins and a pair of fastest laps. The Carole Nash backed rider can now secure his third title at Magny Cours in France in two weeks time after his title rivals dropped points in Portugal.
While it was hard to see anyone heading Rea at Portimao, his task was made easier when Kawasaki team-mate Tom Sykes was ruled out through injury after a fiery crash during Saturday’s practice session. That gave Ducati’s Chaz Davies a chance to take over second place in the championship and despite finishing second in Saturday’s race, the Welshman threw his opportunity away, literally, after making an unforced error and crashing out of the same position in Sunday’s race.
The results see Rea lead Sykes by 120 points with six races left and 150 points up for grabs, meaning a solitary race win in France will see him retain his crown. Speaking afterwards, he said: “I am really happy to win and aside from one little issue it was plain sailing race. I made some tough passes in the first laps to get my track position and as soon as I hit the front I made my rhythm and went away. We had a completely different bike set-up today. I had a lot of feedback from the bike and I was able to ride in my own rhythm but with seven or eight laps to go I had a drop in power in second gear. But as the laps were ticking down I could see that the gap was staying constant, and then I saw Chaz went out and I had some breathing space. We have had our bad luck this year in Donington. The championship lead is massive now and we can go to Magny Cours thinking about trying to win it in France. If we have a solid enough weekend in Magny Cours we can get it done…”
It was a superb weekend for Kawasaki with the Japanese brand taking a clean sweep in Portimao, winning both Superbike races, as well as the Supersport, Superstock and Supersport 300 races. That 300 race marked a historic first world championship road race win for a female competitor, when Spain’s Ana Carrasco won with a perfectly timed pass out of the final corner. The 20-year-old from Murcia slipstreamed past Italian Alfonso Coppola to win by less than a tenth of a second in a thrilling 11 lap race.
Kawasaki was also the brand to beat at Oulton Park for the penultimate round of the British Superbike championship. Australian Benjamin Currie won both supersport races on his ZX-6R as ZX-10RR mounted Danny Buchan extended his lead in the superstock 1000 series with a win in Sunday’s races.
Meanwhile Leon Haslam staked his claim for a first British superbike title on another Kawasaki, narrowly missing out on a double win but taking the championship lead on a day when none of the other title contenders were able to make a mark.
Haslam won Sunday’s wet first race after runaway leader Dan Linfoot’s Honda broke down in the closing stages of the race. The Yorkshireman had a comfortable 10 second lead when his bike’s motor blew up, dropping oil on the track and causing officials to stop the race early. Former MotoGP rider John Hopkins came second, with Josh Brookes third. Like Haslam, Brookes is one of the six ‘Title Fighters’ who are eligible to win the championship, and none of their rivals enjoyed much success at Oulton Park. Defending champion Shane Byrne had visibility problems in race one and finished ninth, before taking a subdued ninth in the dry second race, while Jake Dixon qualified on pole but took a fourth and a sixth after a difficult race day. The RAF backed racer had to start from the back of the grid in the first race after crashing heavily in morning warm up and only just having his bike rebuilt in time for the race. Dixon also showed strongly in race two, leading briefly before slipping back with tyre problems. That allowed Linfoot to make amends for his earlier mechanical problems, taking the win by 0.054seconds from Haslam, with impressive rookie Bradley Ray giving Suzuki its first podium with the new GSX-R1000.
The results see Carole Nash-backed Haslam lead the championship by 22 points from Brookes, with Byrne a further point back in third. However with two rounds and five races still to take place, there are likely to be plenty more dramas to unfold in the coming month.