The second full-length race of the eleventh round of the 2019 Superbike World Championship saw different conditions face the riders compared to the morning in Magny-Cours, with overcast skies and strong winds.
Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing), winner of the first two races of the weekend, started from pole position alongside Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) and Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK).
It was a decent start from the Turk from his first pole position but it was Rea who made the holeshot ahead of him.
A mistake from Razgatlioglu in turn five saw him run on and drop back to fourth behind van der Mark and a strong-starting Alvaro Bautista (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) who moved up to third.
In an attempt to come back through on Bautista in turn eleven, Razgatlioglu lost the front and left the Spaniard nowhere to go. The pair of them went down, leaving van der Mark leading from Rea out front whilst Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK) was third.
With seventeen laps to go, Lowes started to close in on the leading pair, although Rea seemed to have a pace advantage on van der Mark.
Rea decided to go to the front with sixteen to go, possibly sensing Lowes closing from behind and wanting to avoid adding another variable in the fight for the win.
Rea, though, was unable to drop van der Mark initially, and Lowes continued his push towards the lead, just eight tenths back on the end of lap seven.
Van der Mark returned to the front at turn five on lap eight, bringing Lowes closer still, and by the end of the lap it was affirmatively a trio at the front.
On lap twelve, Rea hit the front again, squaring van der Mark off at the hairpin. It was clear that Rea thought that this would be his chance to get away.
However, he was denied once more by van der Mark one lap later at the hairpin, to which Rea was able to respond on the entry to the Nurburgring chicane.
Rea led as they entered the final nine lap, but both Yamaha riders were still there and a mistake from Rea in turn one allowed van der Mark through on the inside in turn three again. Rea responded once more into the Nurburgring chicane and with each reactive move from Rea to maintain his lead it became more clear that Rea felt he could get away with a few clear laps.
As the race drew into the final five laps, Rea began to stretch out his advantage and it reached to over half a second. Visibly van der Mark was on the limit to try to match Rea’s pace, the championship leader seemingly relatively comfortable in comparison.
With three laps to go the lead approached one second, and in the end it was a relatively straightforward ending to the race for Rea who took victory to claim his fifth straight Superbike World Championship, perhaps the most unlikely one against the strongest opposition he has faced so far in the shape of Alvaro Bautista. It was an unlikely happening coming into the weekend, but the circumstances were right and Rea did not let the opportunity pass.
A second podium of the day was as much as van der Mark could do. The Dutchman was quite spectacular in this race as he tried to stay with Rea, to try to be in a position to attack in the last part of the race, but finally he missed the small amount he needed to really fight with the newly crowned five-times World Champion.
Third place for Alex Lowes was perhaps unexpected but the result of a solid ride from the #22 for his first visit to the podium in a full length race since Thailand.
Fourth place went to Chaz Davies (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) who had strong pace, possibly enough for the podium. The problem for Davies came when he had to take to the grass on the inside of turn eleven to avoid Razgatlioglu and Bautista, which cost him a lot of time and positions. In the end, fourth place was a good recovery from the Welshman, finishing ahead of Loris Baz whp had a nother strong ride on the Ten Kate Racing – Yamaha YZF-R1.
Sixth place was quite distant – almost twenty seconds back to Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) who was ahead of Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK), Leon Camier (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) and Jordi Torres (Team Pedercini Racing) who completed the top ten.
Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) was eleventh, ahead of Eugene Laverty (Team Goeleven), Sylvain Barrier (Brixx Performance), Ryuichi Kiyonari (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) and Markus Reiterberger (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK) who completed the points scorers.
Alessandro Delbianco (Althea Mie Racing Team) was sixteenth, ahead of Michael Ruben Rinaldi (BARNI Racing) who had a trip across the gravel early in the race and dropped a lot of times and positions as a result – the Italian crossing the line last of the seventeen finishers at the end of the twenty-one laps.
Aside from Bautista and Razgatlioglu, only Sandro Cortese (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) failed to finish the second race in Magny-Cours, the final European race of the 2019 season.
Featured image courtesy of Yamaha Racing