A dramatic Superpole Race in Laguna Seca for round nine of the 2019 Superbike World Championship saw Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) secure his second win of the weekend, his ninth of the season.
Chaz Davies (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) challenged Rea into turn two on the first lap, but the drama was further behind, as Alvaro Bautista (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) made contact with Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) and crashed.
There was possible good fortune for the Spaniard, though, as a heavy crash for JD Beach (Attack Performance Estenson Yamaha) and Alessandro Delbianco (Althea Mie Racing Team) brought out the red flags. Both Beach and Delbianco were okay, but Bautista was taken to the medical centre after he brought back the #19 Ducati, and then failed to make the restart.
At the resumption of the race, Rea took the holeshot and immediately cleared off, despite being the only rider not on the SCX tyre, designed especially for the ten-lap sprint races. The reigning World Champion was once again untouchable, and collected another thirteen points, extending his points lead to sixty-one – almost a full weekend’s worth of points and a complete flip of the gap between Rea and Bautista ahead of race two in Jerez. It was Rea’s eightieth World Superbike victory, and the 250th for a British rider in the series.
Chaz Davies was similarly unchallenged to take another second place, his third of the season. Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK) took the final podium spot for his third top three of the season.
Toprak Razgatlioglu was closing on Sykes in the closing laps of the race, but ran out of time, finishing fourth in the end ahead of Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) who rounded out the top five. Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK) took sixth place ahead of Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing – Yamaha), Jordi Torres (Team Pedercini Racing), Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) who took the final point in ninth and Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK) who completed the top ten.
Sandro Cortese (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) was eleventh ahead of Markus Reiterberger (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK), Michael Ruben Rinaldi (BARNI Racing Team), Eugene Laverty (Team Goeleven), Ryuichi Kiyonari (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) and Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) who was the final classified rider in sixteenth after running on at turn two.
The only non-finishers were the non-starters of Delbianco, Beach and Bautista.
The Californian sun welcomed the Superbike World Championship for race one of round nine of the 2019 season, which saw Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) take his eighth win of the season and extend his championship advantage.
From his first Laguna Seca pole position, Rea made the holeshot from Alvaro Bautista (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) who came from third on the grid to follow the Northern Irishman into turn two, the first braking point of the track.
Bautista’s pace on the opening lap was not spectacular, though, and the Spaniard’s ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati teammate, Chaz Davies, moved through in the penultimate corner. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) was able to pass Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK) at turn six for fourth place and, in the early part of the race, was able to go with the leaders.
It was not long, though, before Rea, Davies and Bautista were able to get away at the front. There was fighting brewing between them, though. Davies had chosen the SCX rear tyre, designed for the ten-lap Superpole race, and knew he needed to get to the front to make the most of that choice. He made a move on Rea at the Andretti Hairpin, but was unable to make it stick. At this point, Bautista’s pace was starting to pick up and the #19 was beginning to pressurise his teammate.
Bautista’s challenge for the win was over before long, though, as he crashed out at turn six with twenty-one laps to go. The Spaniard was able to get back on, but didn’t have the pace to reach the points. To pour the salt into the wounds of the 2006 125cc World Champion, he was later lapped by Rea and Davies.
After Bautista’s crash, Davies’ time was running out to make a move before his tyre went away. That move never came, and eventually Rea eased away to what became an eighth win of 2019, which he took by 5.693 seconds. Rea’s twenty-five-point extension took his championship advantage to forty-nine points which, with four-and-two-thirds rounds to go, including Magny-Cours, makes the championship look significantly less attainable for Bautista. The turnaround in fortunes between the championship’s top two since Imola has been stark, and completely unexpected which has been reflected in the surprise of almost everyone involved with the championship from the fans to the riders themselves.
Davies’ second place was his first rostrum since the Imola Superpole race and the result of what appears to be a breakthrough with the Panigale V4R for the Welshman over the course of this weekend. In the two remaining races Davies will be aiming for his first win of the season. His preference towards the SCX tyre might suggest his best chance will be the Superpole race. With Bautista at such a mathematical disadvantage in the championship, it will be interesting to see the extent to which Ducati now ask Davies to play the team game for the rest of the season, and whether Davies will be in the position to help out his teammate if that is what is asked of him.
Toprak Razgatlioglu continued his run of podium positions, taking at least one in every round since Imola. It was a lonely race for the Turk, finishing two seconds ahead of Sykes in fourth, who was unable to respond to Toprak’s lap one move, and seven seconds behind Davies. Toprak’s poor qualifying position of seventh place didn’t impact his race as much as initially thought, since he didn’t have the pace of the leaders regardless of where he started.
Sykes’ fourth place might not have been a podium, but BMW will have been happy to beat the factory Yamaha of Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK) in such a tight track. Equally, fifth will have been below the expectations of both Lowes and Yamaha coming into this weekend, where they were on the podium one year ago.
Sixth place went to Jordi Torres (Team Pedercini Racing) who had a fantastic race on the privateer Kawasaki, running in fifth place for much of the race before his SCX tyre gave best and had a few goes at flicking the Spaniard. Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK) was able to take his broken wrist to another top ten with seventh place ahead of Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing – Yamaha), Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) and Michael Ruben Rinaldi (BARNI Racing Team) who completed the top ten.
Eugene Laverty (Team Goeleven) finished his first race since Assen in eleventh place, still suffering with two broken wrists. Particularly the right wrist was a problem for Laverty, a problem which is helped, relatively, by Laguna’s layout which contains only four right-handers. Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) was twelfth ahead of Alessandro Delbianco (Althea Mie Racing Team), Sandro Cortese (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK), who looks somewhat lost at the moment with the YZF-R1, and Markus Reiterberger (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK) who took the final point on his return to the World Championship after missing Donington with the flu.
Ryuichi Kiyonari (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) was the final rider to finish on the lead lap in sixteenth, whilst Alvaro Bautista finished seventeenth after his crash.
Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) went down about half-a-lap before Bautista at the Corkscrew, whilst wildcard JD Beach (Attack Performance Estenson Yamaha) retired from his first WorldSBK race with twelve laps to go.
The good weather from the morning remained in the afternoon in Donington for the second full-length race of the weekend, in which Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) took his first triple of the season.
Starting from pole position, courtesy of his Superpole Sprint Race win, Rea made the holeshot from Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) and Alvaro Bautista (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati), although the Spaniard was soon demoted to fourth by Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK). Chaz Davies (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) completed the top five on lap one, whilst the three Yamaha riders – Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK), Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK) and Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing – Yamaha) – were fighting behind.
Lowes and Baz were able to get past van der Mark, and started to close down Davies, who was dropping off Bautista in fourth.
Meanwhile, out front, Rea and Razgatlioglu were edging away from Haslam behind. That is, they were until Toprak hit the front. When the Turk took the lead from Rea, Haslam was able to close in, as was Bautista who was able to make it an eight-wheeled battle for the lead with twenty laps to go.
Rea reclaimed the lead with just over seventeen laps to go when Razgatlioglu ran wide in the Melbourne Hairpin. Fortunately for the #54, he only dropped to second, as Haslam also ran slightly wide. The mistake from Razgatlioglu didn’t split the group, though, and neither did the fighting between Toprak and Haslam who swapped positions in the Foggy Esses and the Melbourne Hairpin.
Two laps after his mistake in the penultimate corner, Razgatlioglu re-took the lead from Rea in the same spot.
With thirteen laps to go, Rea was in second and his teammate, Haslam, in third, Bautista’s desire to get past the #91 Kawasaki was growing.
One lap later, the gap from second to third was negated once more, as Razgatlioglu ran wide on the entry to the Foggy Esses which cost him both time and the lead which Rea took once more.
The lap after, Bautista was past Haslam at the Melbourne Hairpin. It was a clean move, despite coming from quite a way back. It was an important move for the Spaniard to make, as the leading two Kawasakis were escaping and Loris Baz was dragging Alex Lowes up to the front group.
Lowes passed Baz with eight laps to go, but continued to drag the Frenchman up to Haslam, and Sykes was closing too.
With two laps to go, the battle was on for the win, but a moment for Razgatlioglu in the Foggy Esses gave the Turk too much work to do on the final lap, which meant Rea took his third win of the weekend, his sixth of the season and his first triple. Additionally, Rea’s championship advantage grew to twenty-four points over Bautista with tracks Rea believes to be in his favour on the WorldSBK horizon.
Razgatlioglu’s third second place to Jonathan Rea in the last three Sunday races will not have gone down particularly well. However, the Turk has only one less podium since Imola than Bautista who was unbeaten before the Italian round, which is impressive from the second-year Puccetti rider.
Alvaro Bautista ended his recent run of misfortune in WorldSBK second races to take his first podium of the weekend with third place. Having lost the championship lead this weekend, there will now need to be a change in mindset for the Spaniard at Laguna Secam and for the second half of the season.
Alex Lowes was fourth. It was his best race of the weekend, and could have been better but he took too long to pass Haslam, leaving him without the time to attack Bautista for the final podium spot. Haslam’s fifth place looked unlikely with a few laps to go with two Yamahas and a BMW closing him down, but he hung on from Baz who was sixth and Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK) who recovered from eleventh on the grid (due to his declassification from race one) to finish seventh. However, there will have been some disappointment from Sykes, who could have fought with Rea and Razgatlioglu had he started from the front row.
Michael van der Mark’s target for the Donington weekend was top tens following his crash in Misano in which he broke a wrist. Top tens is what he achieved, beating Chaz Davies (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) to eighth in race two. Davies himself finished ninth after dropping off following the opening laps when he was fighting inside the top five. Marco Melandri’s gamble on the SCX tyre (designed for the ten lap Superpole race) got him to tenth place with the GRT Yamaha WorldSBK YZF-R1 early on, and the Italian remained there to round out the top ten for the second time on Sunday.
Peter Hickman’s BMW Motorrad WorldSBK S1000RR held together in the second race and he finished eleventh, ahead of Michael Ruben Rinaldi (BARNI Racing Team), Sandro Cortese (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK), Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) and Alessandro Delbianco (Althea Mie Racing Team) completed the points, whilst Ryuichi Kiyonari (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) was the final classified rider in sixteenth.
Jordi Torres (Team Pedercini Racing) was the only non-finisher, as he retired with bike problems early on.
There was no rest for the Superbike World Championship after the eighth round of the 2019 season in Donington, as one week later the paddock is in California for round nine of the season at Laguna Seca.
Despite Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) displacing Alvaro Bautista (AUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) from the top of the standings in Donington last week, the biggest news coming into Laguna is that GRT Yamaha WorldSBK’s Marco Melandri is retiring at the end of the season after more than twenty years of World Championship racing. The thirty-six-year-old Italian amassed twenty-two Grand Prix victories across the 125cc, 250cc and MotoGP classes between his debut in 1997 and 2010 before he moved to the Superbike World Championship with what was the factory Yamaha team alongside Eugene Laverty. Although he moved away from Superbikes in 2015 and 2016 at the request of Aprilia with whom he competed the 2014 WSBK series, Melandri was able to achieve twenty-two wins in WorldSBK for Yamaha, BMW, Aprilia and most recently Ducati. The Italian has not endeared himself, necessarily, to all of hisrivals (most recently Chaz Davies in Jerez) but has made a lasting impression on World Championship motorcycle racing and it will be interesting to see how he fairs in the final four months of his racing career.
Despite his success on the world stage, Melandri has found the top step at Laguna Seca only once, on the Aprilia in 2014.
Jonathan Rea, on the other hand, has four wins at the Weather Tech Raceway since it arrived on the WorldSBK calendar in 2013. The tight, twisty nature of Laguna should suit the Kawasaki of 2019 quite well in its battle with the Ducati Panigale V4R, and Rea’s championship fight with Bautista. Additionally, the hard braking zones of the Andretti Hairpin, the Corkscrew and the final corner should suit Rea’s hard braking style quite well, and could put him in line to extend his championship lead even further from the twenty-four points it currently sits at.
For Bautista, the challenge could be just as difficult as Donignton, with Laguna holding one quite important trait, with respect to the Ducati, which is similar to the British track, that is that there is little time spent at full throttle, and less time spent with the bike upright. Almost all of Laguna Seca is spent on the side of the tyre, and much of it is spent with half-throttle. Bautista has shown often this year that his Panigale is capable of being extremely fast in the high-speed corners, however in the low-speed the Ducati is better matched with the Kawasaki, which could work against Bautista, who has not visited Laguna since MotoGP were last there in 2013. Perhaps it should be noted, though, that Bautista’s result on that 2013 trip to Laguna was one in which he missed the podium to Valentino Rossi by less than half-a-tenth.
One of the surprises of Laguna Seca one year ago was Eugene Laverty, who finished third in race two for his first podium of 2018 on the Aprilia, and the RSV4’s final podium in the Superbike World Championship. Now at Team Goeleven, Laverty arrives in California still nursing two broken wrists after his Imola practice crash in May. Having tried to come back in Donington, but sat out after Friday afternoon, Laverty will try once more this weekend to be back on the grid before the summer break.
Outside of the two championship contenders, Rea and Bautista, there should be plenty of competition for the podium. Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) was able to achieve two podiums in Donington, taking his total for the season to six. Haslam’s main issue with the 2019 WorldSBK-spec ZX-10RR is still getting the bike stopped in the heavy braking zones and the three aforementioned big stops (Andretti Hairpin, Corkscrew, final corner) will likely prove problematic for the reigning BSB champion. However, the more flowing sections of the track should suit his style.
The same could be said for Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK) who narrowly missed the podium in race two last week in Donington to Bautista and was third in Laguna race one last year. Lowes’ Pata Yamaha WorldSBK teammate, Michael van der Mark, will still be contending with his own broken wrist. The Dutchman was able to finish inside the top ten in all three races in Britain, and will be aiming for more of the same this time out.
Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) will probably be wondering at the moment what he has to do to beat Jonathan Rea, having been beaten in race-long battles by the Northern Irishman twice in the last two rounds. His own hard-braking style, more aggressive than Rea’s, could be effective this weekend, although Californian temperatures could lead to tyre degradation problems later in the race for the aggressive Turk. If he can manage the tyre, he should be there in the podium fight.
The British Superbike Championship heads to Snetterton this weekend for the sixth round of the 2019 season, with Scott Redding (Be Wiser Ducati) leading both the overall and podium points standings.
Snetterton should be a good track for the Ducati, with the long pit straight, as well as the Bentley Straight out the back, playing to the main strength of the Panigale V4R: the motor. It would be incorrect, though, to say that the V4R is only good at going in a straight line, though. As evidenced by Alvaro Bautista in the World Championship, and the bike’s success in the hands of Redding, Josh Brookes (Be Wiser Ducati) and Tommy Bridewell (Oxford Racing) on the twisty British tracks, including Redding’s race two win at the tightest of them all, Knockhill, last time out.
Indeed, it is hard to see anything other than Ducati sweeping this weekend, with Brookes having shown strong in Snetterton in the past, including last year when he finished fourth and third on the Yamaha and contended for the win with Leon Haslam’s Kawasaki in both races. Additionally, Tommy Bridewell has been strong at almost every race track so far this season, consistency proving his key to success in 2019.
Whilst Scott Redding’s prospective success before the season was thought to be down to how he would perform in circuits like Snetterton, which is more open than other British tracks. The success of the #45 so far this season would suggest that his comfortability in tracks with close barriers and blind corners is not a problem, but nonetheless a strong weekend here would set him up well for perhaps the most particular of the British circuits, Thruxton, which is next up on the schedule after Snetterton.
Last year it was Kawasaki, in the hands of Leon Haslam, who took both victories in Snetterton. The Quattro Plant JG Speedfit Kawasaki team who Haslam rode for last year has not seen the same success in 2019 so far, with Ben Currie injured since Oulton Park and Glenn Irwin yet to find his feet on the ZX-10RR in BSB form.
Danny Buchan, meanwhile, has been competitive on the FS-3 Racing Kawasaki, and took his first BSB win last time out in Knockhill. Competing with the Ducati riders in the straights at Snetterton, though, will not be easy, especially for a rider of the vertical size of Buchan.
Yamaha have not won since Tarran Mackenzie (McAMS Yamaha) took victory in Silverstone race two, the second race of the season. In fact, Buchan is the only non-Ducati rider to win since Mackenzie’s Silverstone win. Mackenzie is still right in the championship hunt, though, sitting eleven podium points behind Redding, and fifty-two points in front of Christian Iddon (Tyco BMW Motorrad) who is seventh in the overall championship and suffering with a broken leg from his race two crash in Knockhill.
That battle for the final Showdown spots is going to start to warm up soon, with Xavi Fores (Honda Racing) holding the sixth and final spot, twenty points in front of Iddon and Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing) who is back in BSB action this weekend after a trip out on the world stage last weekend in Donington at the factory BMW squad. Andrew Irwin (Honda Racing) is in the fight, too, twenty-six points behind teammate Fores.
The Superpole race for round eight of the 2019 Superpole World Championship saw Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) take his second win of the weekend and extend his championship lead.
It was Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK) who made the holeshot from pole position and held the early lead although under pressure from Rea. The reigning World Champion had a go at leading, passing Sykes into the Foggy Esses on lap three, but he ran wide and Sykes squared him off to reclaim the top spot.
Behind the two leaders, Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) had passed Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) for third place, and started to close back in on the back of Rea in second. Haslam was able to go with the Turk to make it a four-way fight for the lead. Meanwhile, Alvaro Bautista (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) was in fifth place and dropping off, under some pressure from Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing – Yamaha).
With six laps to go, Rea re-passed Sykes in the Foggy Esses and forced the BMW rider out wide to keep the position. In trying to escape from the #66, Rea made some mistakes allowing the 2013 World Champion to close back in on the reigning champion.
Razgatlioglu had also managed to keep in touch with the leading pair, whilst Haslam made some mistakes on lap six which dropped him back towards Bautista who, in turn, had started to move back forwards.
As the riders began lap eight, the red flag came out as a result of an engine blow up for Markus Reiterberger’s BMW Motorrad WorldSBK, Peter Hickman. Oil went down as a result, and four riders crashed on it: Ryuichi Kiyonari (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team), Alessandro Delbianco (Althea Mie Racing Team), Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) and Sandro Cortese (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK).
Hickman, too, was of course out, as was Sykes when the #66 crashed on the oil after the red flag was shown. There was notably a lack of oil flags, so Sykes especially was unfortunate to lose a second place he had the pace to achieve – and in many ways he did achieve.
With seven laps having been completed, the result was called, making Rea the winner. It was his second win of the weekend and his sixth of the season. Unfortunately for Rea, Sykes’ retirement meant that Bautista was promoted to fourth, so instead of sixteen points the four-times champion’s points lead extended to fifteen.
Toprak Razgatlioglu inherited second place from Sykes, taking his fourth podium of the season, whilst Leon Haslam made it an all-Kawasaki top three for the second time in two rounds.
Alvaro Bautista will have been thankful for the regulation which cost Sykes second place as it promoted him to fourth place, gaining him a point which could be crucial come Qatar. Loris Baz was the top Yamaha in fifth place for Ten Kate Racing, which was an impressive result in the team’s third round of the season in the World Championship.
Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team) was sixth, ahead of Chaz Davies (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) in seventh and Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team) in eighth. Jordi Torres (Team Pedercini Racing) was ninth, whilst Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) survived Hickman’s oil to round out the top ten. Similarly, Michael Ruben Rinaldi (BARNI Racing Team) got through the oil safely enough for eleventh – the final classified position.
The battle for the win was a simple one, and one which lasted the length of the run to turn one, as Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) made the holeshot and was from then on uncatchable. It was a dominant performance from the reigning World Champion who took his seventy-sixth WSBK win and – thanks also to a crash from Alvaro Bautista (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) – the championship lead for the first time in 2019 as he leads Bautista by nine points going into Sunday’s two races.
Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK) had been suffering with the flu through the weekend, but slotted into second place at turn one when Rea took the lead. Behind Sykes was Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) who initially looked to try to pass the BMW rider, but eventually fell back into his own ‘cold war’ with Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing – Yamaha). None of these three riders changed position between turn one and the flag, with Sykes taking his second podium with BMW, and Haslam his fifth of the season. Baz, on the other hand, took the top ‘independent’ position with fourth place, as well as the honour of top Yamaha rider.
The next YZF-R1 pilot was seven seconds behind Baz, as Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK) completed a lonely second part of the race after he inherited fifth from Bautista when the Spaniard – with whom Lowes had been battling and trading times since almost the start of the race – crashed out.
Sixth place went to Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) who took his best finish of the season and was the top ‘independent’ Kawasaki. The Argentinian had a battle in the mid-race with Peter Hickman who is in this weekend for the ill Markus Reiterberger at BMW Motorrad WorldSBK, but when Mercado was able to string some laps together he was able to break Hickman by thirteen seconds at the flag. Hickman in seventh place was the last rider within sixty seconds of Rea (with some favourable rounding), representing how spread out the race was and the dominance of Rea in the wet conditions.
Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK) took eighth place only ten days after the surgery on his broken wrist, whilst Alessandro Delbianco (Althea Mie Racing Team) – who went off at Craner Curves twice in two laps – took ninth and Chaz Davies (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) was the top Ducati in tenth.
Ryuichi Kiyonari (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) was eleventh after he picked up speed from mid-race onwards to come from the back. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (BARNI Racing Team) struggled, like Davies, with the V4R in wet conditions and spent most of the race fighting with Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) for last, although was able to break away and also pass Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) for twelfth. Razgatlioglu had a tough race and took thirteenth, whilst Melandri was lapped by Rea on the Northern Irishman’s final tour and finished fourteenth and last of the finishers.
Normally, with only fourteen finishers the number of retirements is big. However, the field was only seventeen-strong to begin with, so only three retired: Sandro Cortese (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK), Jordi Torres (Team Pedercini Racing) and the aforementioned Bautista who relinquished his points lead for the first time this year.
This weekend the Superbike World Championship heads to Donington for round eight of the 2019 season.
Despite his speed advantage in many races throughout 2019 so far, Alvaro Bautista (ARUBA.IT Racing -Ducati) has only a sixteen-point lead coming into Donington. In part, this is thanks to his crashes in Jerez and Misano, both in the Sunday full-length races. Additionally, it is down to Jonathan Rea’s victories for Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK in the previous rounds, the Northern Irishman taking a 50% win-rate from the past eight races.
Donington provides an opportunity for the Spaniard to fight back against the four-times World Champion, though. The British track is one Bautista knows from his Grand Prix days. The #19 accrued four podiums at Donington between 2004 and 2009 when Donington staged its most recent Grand Prix, including a win in 2006 on his way to the 250cc World Championship. Rea, on the other hand, has taken two wins at Donington in WorldSBK, the most recent coming in 2017 race two.
However, Donington has undergone changes since Bautista last races there, and will be somewhat unfamiliar to the Spaniard. The British round of the 2018 championship was not a straightforward one for Ducati, who didn’t achieve a single podium in either race, with Chaz Davies (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) scoring the Panigale’s best result of the weekend on Sunday with fifth place, nearly five seconds of the win.
The Ducati, though, has changed for this year, of course. The V4R has, in the hands of Bautista, enjoyed a significant pace advantage over the field at almost every track so far on the calendar and – whilst BSB have only visited the ‘National’ layout at Donington which misses the Melbourne Loop – the WorldSBK Ducati riders will be encouraged by the triple win of Scott Redding on the Be Wiser Ducati when the national championship was in Donington earlier this year.
Bautista’s biggest strength with the Ducati – as a rider – this year has been his ability to carry corner speed. This should be highlighted in the first part of the track – from Redgate to the Foggy Esses – which consists mostly of long, medium-to-high-speed, corners. In comparison, Jonathan Rea has, as in the past with Kawasaki, proven especially strong in braking, which should be highlighted by the final sector, the aforementioned Melbourne Loop, which is comprised of heavy braking and hard acceleration. The crucial part this weekend in the context of the championship is which of Bautista and Rea can get closest to their rival in their prospective ‘weak point’. Rea’s previous prowess in the mid-corner, for which he was famed at Honda, would suggest before the weekend that the reigning champion has the advantage, but Bautista has proven wrong several predictions already this season.
It is likely that the battle for between the championship leaders will not be a private affair at the front of any of the three races this weekend. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) is coming into Donington off the back of his best race in WorldSBK at Misano where he led Rea for much of the encounter, and missed out only on the final lap. Additionally, it must not be forgotten that Donington was the scene of Razgatlioglu’s first WSBK podium in 2018 when he beat Rea to second place.
Of course, Donington last year was also the scene of Michael van der Mark’s double win for the Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team. Van der Mark missed all three races in Misano thanks to a practice crash on Friday which also put him in doubt for this weekend. However, the Dutchman has been passed fit, although BSB’s Tarran Mackenzie is on standby if the Dutchman has to pull out.
Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team) has a fantastic chance to add to his solitary WorldSBK win this weekend, with the Yamaha’s strong recent record at the British track and his own tendency to perform in front of his home crowd.
2018 was a disappointing year for Tom Sykes in general in his final year at Kawasaki. His first year at BMW Motorrad WorldSBK has been positive, though, and with the Briton taking his and the 2019 S1000RR’s first podium together in Misano, he arrives in Donington in good form. Between 2013 race one and 2017 race one, Sykes was unbeaten in Donington, and the combination of his hard braking style in the final sector and the BMW’s strong performance in the mid-corner in the first part of the lap should prove a strong one this weekend and perhaps one that can challenge for the win.
Eugene Laverty is back in action this weekend for Team Goeleven after being out since a practice crash in Imola, although the #50 is by no means at 100%. Leon Camier (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team), on the other hand, is still missing this weekend, and will not be back in Laguna Seca, either – nor will he be replaced in Britain or California. Markus Reiterberger, contrarily, will be replaced this weekend by five-times Isle of Man TT race winner Peter Hickman, as the German rider is out with the flu.
There is no rest for the Moto3 World Championship riders, as one week on from the Dutch TT the 2019 championship heads to the Sachsenring for the German Grand Prix, round nine of the year.
In Assen, Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers) became the first person to repeat wins in thirteen races, as the Italian took his second victory in three GPs. At a circuit which should suit the Honda, although perhaps not with the firm way Arbolino has it set, the Italian has a chance to make it three wins in 2019, which could single him out as a clear championship favourite heading into the second half of the season.
Despite having more wins than any other rider, Arbolino is thirty-one points behind the championship leader, who remains Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) notwithstanding the Spaniard finishing only twelfth in the Netherlands. Canet finished fifth in Sachsenring last year, and crashed the year before after starting from pole position. The #44 has a mixed record in Germany, but could do with it swinging his way this weekend with his points lead down to just seven points.
The rider sitting those seven points behind is the rider beaten in last lap fights by Arbolino in both of the #14’s wins: Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing). The #48 is without a win yet this season, although has been consistent in being there at the front. Only interference from other riders in the closing stages of races (Argentina, for example) or mechanical problems have prevented Dalla Porta from remaining in the top ten all season, but this is racing and anything can happen. Dalla Porta and his Leopard Racing team seem to be able to get his Honda working particularly well in a straight line. Whilst this might not be especially important in Sachsenring, the low power of Moto3 means that any minor gain can be an advantage come race time.
John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) is the only ride racing in the Moto3 class who was on the Moto3 podium in Sachsenring last year. Whilst Marcos Ramirez was able to make it a KTM 2-3-4 last year and on more favourable Leopard Racing Honda machinery this year, he could be a threat for the podium at the circuit where he took his first top three back in 2017. Similarly, Jaume Masia (Bester Capital Dubai) was sixth last year and was unfortunate in Assen to retire with bike issues after running a strong race fighting for the podium. Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46) is another rider who will be aiming to put a KTM on the podium, which would be the third time he were to do so in 2019 – a result which would be useful to the Italian rookie having dropped behind compatriot Arbolino in the points after Assen where he didn’t finish.
One week on from the Dutch TT, the Moto2 World Championship is in Sachsenring for the German Grand Prix, round nine of the 2019 season.
Augusto Fernandez (Flexbox HP 40) arrives in Germany straight off the back of his first win in Grand Prix racing. The Spaniard finished fifteenth at Sachsenring last season, his first visit to the German track, which is a unique one on the calendar and therefore difficult to learn. With three podiums to his name so far in 2019, including that debut win last time out, Fernandez will be keen to fight in the top five once again this weekend.
Tom Luthi (Dynavolt Intact GP) has done what Tom Luthi does this year, and that is to be consistent. The Swiss has not finished outside the top six this season, with his worst result coming in Argentina when he clipped the back wheel of Brad Binder’s Red Bull KTM Ajo machine and crashed out of the race. However, if Luthi is to truly fight for the championship he needs to increase the frequency of his wins, as with one to his name so far this year he has two less than his closest rival Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS).
Marquez was on for another podium, and possibly win, in Assen last time out before he was the unfortunate victim of Lorenzo Baldassarri’s crash when the Flexbox HP 40 rider tried to pass him. There was no malice in the move from Baldassarri, who went to apologise to his rival after the race, but it dented both of their respective title challenges with Luthi claiming the lead thanks to his fourth place. Despite his brother’s unparalleled success in Germany – Marc having won nine times in the last nine years at Sachsenring – Alex Marquez has never stepped upon the podium at Sachsenring – the closest he has come so far to doing so was in 2014 when he finished fourth on his way to the Moto3 world title. Marquez’ best finish in Moto2 in Germany is a thirteenth place last year, when he was passed for twelfth by a recovering Francesco Bagnaia in the final corner, whilst he crashed out in 2016 and 2017 (with some physical consequence in the latter) and finished outside the points in 2015.
Lorenzo Baldassarri’s non-finish in Assen was not what the Italian needed as he aimed to get back on track after slipping to fourth in the championship in Barcelona following his unbroken topping of the points between Qatar and Italy. Baldassarri crashed out of last year’s German Grand Prix, and like Marquez he has never finished in the top three in Germany, with his best result coming in 2016 when he finished fifth. A strong finish this weekend will be crucial for the Italian to go into the summer break with a good mindset, which will be important for the second half of the season if he wants to re-engage in the championship fight.
Brad Binder took KTM’s first Moto2 podium of 2019 last time out in Assen, their first since Miguel Oliveira won in Valencia last year. Binder also won in Sachsenring last year, and after a positive weekend in Holland it will be important for the Austrian marque, and Binder, to confirm what seemed to be a significant step forward at round eight.