Although rain is expected for the second race on Sunday, there were good conditions for race one in Imola, for the fifth round of the 2019 Superbike World Championship.
Chaz Davies (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) took pole position in the twenty-five-minute Superpole session with an out-right lap record, and he took the holeshot in race one, too. His lead did not last long, though, as Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) moved to the front at the entry to the Variante Villeneuve.
In fact, Davies’ race as a whole was over before the first lap, as a mechanical saw him drop out on the run down from Piratella to Acqua Minerale. The Welshman was able to get his Ducati back to the pits but what looked like a certain podium and a possibility to win was taken away before he had even gotten going.
That let Rea off the hook. Mostly, the Northern Irishman had held a pace advantage over the whole field for the whole weekend, but if anyone was going to go with the reigning World Champion it was going to be Davies. With his only potential challenger out, Rea had a comfortable run from lap two to the flag.
??Well deserved victory for @jonathanrea !
— WorldSBK (@WorldSBK) May 11, 2019
His first race win of 2019 was perhaps not how he imagined it, but Rea’s performance was more dominant than any of those he produced in his World Championship years, probably mostly out of his want to prove a point. His point is considered proven, as he took a dominant win by 7.832 seconds, although he slowed over the line on the final lap, and at one point his lead was as large as nine seconds.
The retirement of Davies meant that Alvaro Bautista (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) had a straightforward run to second place. It was his first defeat in WorldSBK, but it came in a track he didn’t know, and where he was struggling with the stability of his bike. It will take some big changes to remain in the top two in sunday’s two races.
Third place was the most hard-fought position. Whilst Rea and Bautista were apart from each other as well as the rest of the field, the battle for third was strong. Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK) held third early on after Davies retired, before a mechanical problem befell his S1000RR. That left Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK), Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK), Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) and Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) to fight over the last podium position.
Lowes eventually dropped out of the fight. He did not retire, so it is possible that the illness he has been carrying this weekend led to his drop in pace in the second half of the race. However, between Lowes’ factory Yamaha teammate, van der Mark; Haslam and Razgatlioglu, there was some quite spectacular fighting.
In particular, towards the end van der Mark and Razgatlioglu were throwing some big moves at each other, and one from van der Mark stood out: a big dive in Rivazza 1, similar to the one he tried on Marco Melandri last year which cleaned both riders out of the race.
This time it stayed clean, though, and the battling between the Turk and the Dutchman allowed Haslam, who ran on twice in the Variante Alta, to keep in touch.
On the final lap, Razgatlioglu pulled away, and left van der Mark to fend off Haslam for fourth, a task which the #60 was up to.
It was Razgatlioglu’s first podium of the season and, after his call up for the Suzuka 8 Hours, one which came with good timing for the #54 after a difficult first part of the season. It will be interesting to see how the all-action Turk can handle the races tomorrow, scheduled to take place in the rain.
Having come so close to the current model R1’s first podium in Imola there will be some disappointment at fourth place for both van der Mark and Yamaha, but after what has been a tough weekend a fourth place in the opening race of the weekend is at least something to build on for Sunday.
Haslam will have been disappointed to come off worst in the three-way battle for third and end up fifth, especially to be beaten by a satellite Kawasaki, and especially when the pilot of that satellite Kawasaki is heavily rumoured to replace him in the factory team in 2020.
Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) was able to pass Alex Lowes late on for sixth place, whilst Lowes came home in seventh, a couple of tenths shy of his Yamaha stablemate.
Michael Ruben Rinaldi (BARNI Racing Team) had an awful day. He crashed in the morning which meant his team had to rebuild his bike. In Superpole, the Italian had an oil leak on his back tyre, which meant that, when he changed from the left side of the tyre to the right side in the middle of the Variante Villeneuve, the Ducati flicked him and caught fire in the gravel trap. Another rebuild job faced the BARNI Racing Team but it was one they were able to achieve and, despite starting from the back and suffering pain in his neck, Rinaldi was able to fight his way to eighth.
Lorenzo Zanetti (Motocorsa Racing), wildcarding this weekend, took his CIV-spec Ducati to ninth place, ahead of Markus Reiterberger (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK) who completed the top ten.
Jordi Torres (Team Pedercini Racing) finished eleventh, ahead of Eugene Laverty’s replacement at Team GoEleven, BSB joint-championship leader Tommy Bridewell who impressed with twelfth place and four World Championship points despite not riding in FP3 due to a technical problem.
Hector Barbera (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) finished thirteenth, ahead of Ryuichi Kiyonari (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) was fourteenth and Alessandro Delbianco (Althea Mie Racing Team) was the final finisher and took the final point in fifteenth.
Rinaldi’s oil leak seemed to start in the second part of the Variante Villeneuve in Superpole. When the session was restarted, Sandro Cortese (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) hit this oil that hadn’t been cleaned up and went down. The German was fine but Leon Camier (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) also went down and was hurt. The Englishman had to go to hospital and missed the race, but it is possible that he can return for Sunday.
After Tom Sykes and Chaz Davies went out, it was only Cortese who retired, with a crash in Acqua Minerale five laps from the flag.
Featured image courtesy of Ducati