Race one of the third round of the 2019 Superbike World Championship saw a continuation of some of the trends we have seen throughout the season so far, with Alvaro Bautista (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) taking the win, but behind him was a battle, the likes of which we haven’t seen in WorldSBK for a long time.
Bautista made the holeshot, and he didn’t look back. Despite being challenged by Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK) in the middle of the first lap, the Spaniard was able to hold the S1000RR off until he was able to use the Panigale V4R’s superior power to squeeze out an advantage. Once he had space behind him, no one stood a chance of breaking Bautista’s 100% winning record at the start of his World Superbike career, as the 2006 125cc World Champion stormed to his seventh victory on the spin.
Behind, though, there was soon a large battle emerging, with the likes of Sykes and fellow front row starter Sandro Cortese (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) being joined in the podium fight by the two Pata Yamaha WorldSBK riders, Alex Lowes and Michael van der Mark, as well as Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), who was recovering from his worst ever grid position with the factory Kawasaki squad, Chaz Davies (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) and Eugene Laverty (Team GoEleven).
The battle was fierce from lights to flag, with several riders, notably Lowes, Rea and Davies, taking stints at the front of the group, but no one was able to break away.
However, it took only a few laps for Tom Sykes, who had challenged for the lead on the opening tour, to get shuffled to the back of the group, and become detached off the back, such was his straight line speed deficit on the brand new BMW. Sandro Cortese suffered a similar fate. Whilst both riders were able to stay pretty much in touch with the group, they could not do anything about making progress once they had been expelled from it.
There was one moment where it seemed Rea would be able to break the pack. The Northern Irishman passed Chaz Davies in turn four and sent the Welshman a little wide. A gap grew slightly from there, but when Alex Lowes passed Davies on the next lap in turn seven he was able to close down Rea and pass him on the entry to the reverse corkscrew, which sent Rea slightly deep and allowed Davies, van der Mark and Laverty behind to all close back in.
From there, the group became an eight-wheeler, as van der Mark dropped off the back. He eventually dropped behind Sykes too, so it seems the Dutchman ran out of rear tyre.
That left Rea with Davies, Lowes and Laverty in the fight for the podium. The speed of the Panigale V4Rs of Davies and Laverty put them at a theoretical advantage if it came down to a last lap scrap, which seemed very likely.
When it came down to it, Lowes had dropped off the back of the two Ducatis in front, who were also slightly detached from Rea in second. It looked like it would be essentially Davies versus Laverty for the final podium position, and in the fight to become the first rider other than Bautista to get on the WorldSBK podium with the Panigale V4R.
In the end, the battle was ended prematurely. Laverty ran into turn fourteen slightly too fast, clipped Davies, shed what looked to be a knee slider and hit the deck. It was an unfortunate end to what had been a fantastic race from Laverty, who had been competitive all weekend.
The crash gifted Davies third. He was too far away from Rea to do anything about the reigning World Champion who continued his 100% second place record for 2019, and kept up the perfect damage limitation job his season has morphed into so far this year.
There was not too much to be excited about for Rea. Whilst he no doubt enjoyed the battle. But dropping another five points to Bautista at a track where he might have hoped to be more competitive and perhaps able to challenge the Spaniard, will have been something of a disappointment. However, it was a brilliant comeback from a difficult qualifying for the Northern Irishman, who will have to do it all again tomorrow in the ten-lap Superpole race.
The podium was an important one for Davies, as it showed he has made some good progress with the V4R. Of course, having the horsepower advantage the new Ducati gives him was helpful in achieving this result, but at the same time it is not correct to say that Rea was able to steam away from Davies in the corners. The Welshman has a way to go with the Ducati before he can say he has extracted the maximum from the bike, but clearly he is working in a good direction towards that.
Fourth place in the end went to Alex Lowes, who had a solid race but for a couple of mistakes, for example running off track at turn sixteen mid-race. The Englishman will be hoping for a stronger podium challenge at the end of the race tomorrow, but considering his speed in the first part of the race, the Superpole race could present a good opportunity for the 2013 BSB champion.
Tom Sykes came home in P5, once again in need of some more horses from his BMW. It was clear, though, that the new S1000RR is a sweet-handling machine.
After dropping back at the end, Michael van der Mark finished sixth, just under one second clear of GRT Yamaha’s Sandro Cortese.
Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) recovered from a back-row start to finish eighth, and second Kawasaki ahead of Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team (WorldSBK) who is having a dreadful weekend to this point and will be hoping for a turnaround tomorrow. The reigning BSB champion started from row four, like his teammate Rea, but went backwards and was all but last at the end of the first lap, which ruined his race.
Jordi Torres (Team Pedercini Racing) rounded out the top ten on his privately-run Kawasaki.
Leon Camier (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) was eleventh, ahead of Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) who arrived in Aragon hoping to solve his straight-line head-shaking problem, but seems to have encountered more significant issues on the YZF-R1. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (BARNI Racing Team) took thirteenth, ahead of Ryuichi Kiyonari (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) and Eugene Laverty who got back on after his last lap crash to take the final point.
Markus Reiterberger (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK) was the first retirement, and his race was over on the grid, on lap one, as he collided with Jonathan Rea off the line. Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) and Alessandro Delbianco (Althea Mie Racing Team) both also retired on lap one.
Featured Image courtesy of Ducati