It was Tom Sykes who qualified on pole position, his seventh consecutive Misano pole position, for the Rimini Riviera round of the 2018 Superbike World Championship. However, it was Jonathan Rea who, believe it or not, looked fastest on the race pace. Sykes had to make a start to try to hold Rea in the early stages of the race to try to keep the Northern Irishman in reach, but the reigning champion got a great jump from the middle of the front row, and got to turn one first.
From there, Rea edged out his lead and, whilst there was a reasonable amount of battling behind, none of it was any trouble for Rea, who did not see another rider’s front tyre for the whole race. It was vintage Jonathan Rea, and a perfect illustration of a few things, notably what can happen when bike and rider are working perfectly in unison, that the combination of Rea and ZX10-RR is the best one on the grid, and also that Jonathan Rea is the best rider of the current crop. Of course, many times in the last three years, these things have been displayed by Rea and Kawasaki, but this one was particularly worrying for everyone else thanks to Rea’s admission that, in reality, he was nowhere near the limit.
Closer to his limit was Chaz Davies. He only qualified seventh and, throughout the weekend, had been struggling with pace on the fresh tyres. However, he made a brilliant start, almost passing Eugene Laverty for third into turn two, but going round the outside in the middle of the Variante del Parco was never going to work for the Ducati rider, so it was fourth place after lap one for Chaz. However, after five or six laps, when Tom Sykes started to struggle, he was passed by Laverty and once this happened, Davies was right on the rear wheel of the number 66. It didn’t take much longer for Davies to pass Sykes, taking third place away from the Kawasaki rider in turn eight with a beautiful, sideways-on move. He then struggled to catch Laverty, but with a drop in pace and ultimately a mistake from the Northern Irishman at the final corner, Davies was through. From there, it was a fairly comfortable five or so laps for the Welshman, and second place it was in the end at the second home round for Ducati. A win would be the goal for Chaz and Ducati, but with the searing pace of Rea, even when he isn’t pushing, the struggles of Ducati and with both of them coming from row three. After the 1st race it is hard to imagine that the Fratelli d’Italia will be aired on the 2nd race’s podium.
Despite a broken sensor, which caused the drop in pace and the mistake which let Davies through, Eugene Laverty managed to bring the Aprilia home for a second consecutive podium finish. It was another brilliant ride from Laverty, and at a circuit which he was concerned about ahead of the weekend due to the number of heavy braking zones and the difficulty in getting the RSV4 stopped. However, his fears were clearly unnecessary, as his pace was good enough for second. Thus, he will be disappointed with third, but a podium seemed a long way away a few weeks ago and all of a sudden he has two in two races. Coming from row three will be a tough task for Eugene in Race two, especially considering who is on pole, but his pace means you cannot rule him out of yet another podium fight.
The rider on pole position in race 2 is Michael van der Mark, who made a brilliant recovery from a difficult Friday and a difficult SP2 session, in which he qualified P11 only, to finish fourth. He nearly had a podium, but he just needed a little bit more time to catch Laverty. But, anyway, Magic Michael, from pole position in Race Two, has a great opportunity to take a podium, or maybe even a victory.
Tom Sykes could only manage fifth place from pole position in Race One. After five laps his pace dropped and, although he could keep pace with Davies for a couple of laps after the Welshman passed him, he was unable to stay there for long, and once Van der Mark was in range, Sykes had nothing left to fight with. It seems the situation inside Kawasaki is having a very negative effect on Sykes.
Sixth place went to Xavi Fores who has had a good weekend in Misano. The Spaniard, riding for the Italian Barni Racing Team, was sporting a special Tricolore livery and with it he beat the factory Panigale of Marco Melandri, who was seventh, and a disappointing seventh at that. However, Melandri did put a stunning move on Lorenzo Savadori between turns twelve and thirteen for that seventh place, although it was a shame that the move was for P7, and not, say, the lead. That left Savadori in eighth place, having shot his tyre by the end, and just ahead of Leon Camier in ninth place. Leandro Mercado rounded out the top ten.
Toprak Razgatlioglu was eleventh place – impressive considering his discomfort – ahead of Nicolo Canepa the Yamaha wildcard; Roman Ramos, Jake Gagne who raced much better than he qualified, Alessandro Andreozzi, PJ Jacobsen, Michael Ruben Rinaldi who had many problems during Race One and ended up pitting and re-joining the race three laps down; and finally Jordi Torres who was four laps down after a crash and a trip to the pits.
Loris Baz, Yonny Hernandez and Alex Lowes (with two crashes) were the only retirements.