Superbike World Champion Jonathan Rea
Four-time back-to-back Superbike World Champion Jonathan Rea extended his lead in the 2019 series to 91 points with two more wins and a second place at Portimao in Portugal this weekend.
The Kawasaki rider was in fine form as he stormed to victory by almost four seconds in Saturday’s opening race, before taking another win in Sunday morning’s shorter Superpole race. The Carole Nash backed star only just missed out on a clean sweep in Sunday’s 20-lapper by 0.111 seconds, when Ducati rider Alvaro Bautista returned to the top of the podium.
“I felt strong with the bike,” said Rea. “I was pushing in race two and where Alvaro was gaining time on the front straight and the top straight, coming out of turn five I almost felt that he was increasing the gap. But when we went into turn 14 I had already eaten up that advantage he had in the first sector. It was enough motivation to keep pushing. He was making a few mistakes and it was enough for me to keep the pressure on. You never know what can happen and I could see the gap to Toprak (Razgatlioglu) was increasing in those last six laps. Yesterday (Saturday) I ate too much tyre in the beginning but today, on lap 19, I could (still) set a 1’43.2. I enjoyed that final race; we had a fight. I am proud of myself because I had fight in me.”
Having struggled with injury in recent rounds, and being unable to replicate his sensational start of the season, Bautista found himself back among the front runners in Portugal. The Spaniard’s charge was slowed in race one when he tangled with team-mate Chaz Davies on the opening lap, but he recovered to finish fourth by the end of the race and followed that with a strong second in the Superpole race. On Sunday afternoon he was able to come through from sixth at the end of the first lap to catch and pass Rea.
He said: “It has been a very tough weekend for me, especially physically because my shoulder is still not at 100%. I felt worse this morning after yesterday’s race so I tried to start well in the Superpole Race. Unfortunately, I lost a lot of positions and used up most of my energy, but I finished second which meant that I could start from the front row in race two. In the afternoon I again made a bad start, lifting the front of the bike up and losing some positions but I was still in the leading group so was not too worried. Mid-race I felt my pace was stronger so I decided to go for the lead and push hard until the end. I could manage the advantage but in the last two laps I felt every drop of energy leave me, luckily it was the last lap because I didn’t have anything left. It was my first time here in Portimão and I’m happy to get a win again after more than two months.”
Rea’s factory Kawasaki team-mate, and fellow Carole Nash ambassador, Leon Haslam had a solid weekend with three fifth placed finishes. He added: “It was a good fight in the final race and I felt I should have got Alex Lowes, as I had more grip than him at the end. That said, from half distance I sort of lost the front grip on the right side, a little bit but I felt comfortable behind Johnny and Toprak. After about nine laps I lost my advantage with the front so I dropped off the pace quite a lot which put me in a battle with Alex. I was managing the front but I got in a bit of a scuffle with Van der Mark, which lost me the tow. I managed to bridge that gap quite quickly but I was suffering just to get the thing to stop. I tried to pass several times into turn one. We made a lot of steps for that race with the bike balance but I am a little bit disappointed because I felt again we had the pace to go with the podium guys, especially in the first half, but just a few little niggles and mistakes just knocked me out of it. My pace in the Superpole race should have got me a better result.”
Young Turk Razgatlioglu continued to impress with his podium in race two: “This morning we tried a new and different electronics set-up, which gave me a good feeling,” he explained “In the short race it was important to get a good starting position for the final long race, so fourth position was not bad. In the final race I followed Johnny and Bautista and after ten laps the tyre had a big drop. I know all the riders had the same but I am happy because again I got on the podium.”
Razgatlioglu looks set to move to the factory Yamaha team next year, after Britain’s Alex Lowes was told his services would not be required in 2020. Lowes took seventh and fourth in the main races, with third in the Superpole, to maintain third, behind Rea and Bautista, in the championship standings. Davies took second in the Saturday race but suffered technical issues on Sunday and failed to score any more points.
Three race weekends of the championship remain, the next being at France’s Magny Cours circuit, on the weekend of 27-29 September.