Carole Nash backed Superbike World Champion Jonathan Rea cut Alvaro Bautista’s 2019 championship lead to just 16 points after taking two wins at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, as the Spaniard had his weakest weekend of the season.
The Spaniard had gone to the Italian circuit with a 41 point lead but was outscored my his rival for the third weekend in a row.
Heavy storms characterised Saturday’s race and Rea rode with his characteristic maturity to take the win in treacherous conditions after early leader Alex Lowes crashed out of the lead. Tom Sykes gave BMW its first podium of the year, a first for the new-for-2019 S1000RR, with Bautista taking a steady third in the difficult conditions, which claimed a number of riders including Rea’s Kawasaki team-mate Leon Haslam.
Rea’s only glitch came in Sunday morning’s short Superpole race, held in dry conditions, when he slid off three laps from home, while holding second. Despite his fall, the quick thinking Northern Irish rider held on to his bike and jumped straight back on, losing just 10 seconds and coming home fifth, with Lowes and Haslam filling the podium behind Bautista.
Bautista and his Ducati Panigale V4R shot off at the front of Sunday’s main race but crashed on the second lap, remounting to eventually finish 14th. That left Rea, Haslam and another Kawasaki star, Toprak Razgatlioglu, battling at the front. In one of the most exciting superbike races for a while, Razgatlioglu and Rea broke away up front and the world champ was made hard for his 75th superbike win, moving into the lead on lap 17 of 21 and fighting off a strong last lap challenge from the young Turk, who will line up alongside Kawasaki’s factory riders at next month’s prestigious Suzuka Eight Hour race. With Haslam completing the podium in third, Kawasaki locked out the podium for only the second time in the championship’s 31 years.
“Winning two races at Misano was good for us, especially the two important races,” said Rea. “Unfortunately in the Superpole Race today I made a big mistake in turn ten, when I lost the front. But I restarted to finish fifth which was all important for the weekend. Race two today was a tough one because the temperature was hot. I was very unsure of the pace. I felt like it was slow but I did not want to push any faster. I saw Alvaro go down very early in the race and the conditions out there were very tough, especially for the front tyre. The rear was just not digging in and going forward, it was just spinning so much – but we won, which was the main thing. It was a super-nice day for Kawasaki because we put three bikes on the race two podium. Team Suzuka! Donington next and we will go to every track with an open mentality.”
Haslam added: “The third place in the sprint race today was just a matter of staying on and bridging the gap to Tom Sykes, and I managed to pass him on the last lap. This afternoon I was struggling from lap one and did not have much front feeling, but I think everybody was in the same position. When Johnny and Toprak came past I felt I could have pushed to go with them but I had already risked too much so I had to run my own race. Alex was then behind me and I did not want to give up the podium, so I fought a little bit at the end. We have made some good steps from the Jerez test but there are little things we are still finding out.”
“I’m happy but at the same time very angry with myself about the results of today’s two races,” Bautista added. “It went well in the morning’s Superpole race because we were on really top form. After a good start I immediately took the lead, and set the pace right down to the chequered flag. In race two it was very hot and the track didn’t have as much grip. On lap two, I didn’t do anything strange at turn four, but just lost the front and crashed. Pity because our potential was obviously to fight for the win. Maybe the error came about because I was too confident after the win in the Superpole race, but in any case we must have a good look at the data because I’ve made two similar mistakes in the last two races, and that’s not good. We have to understand why so as not to repeat the same mistakes and lose more points.”
Behind Bautista and Rea, Dutchman Michael van der Mark retains third in the standings despite missing Misano after crashing in free practice. His Yamaha team-mate, Lowes, retains fourth ahead of Haslam, with fellow Brits Chaz Davies eighth, and Sykes moving up to ninth.
The next round of the championship takes place in Britain, in two weeks’ time, at Leicestershire’s Donington Park circuit.