WSBK: Razgatlioglu Doubles Up in Magny-Cours Superpole Race

After the unexpected rain of Saturday, dry conditions on Sunday morning were welcomed by the teams as they looked to find some sort of setup for the remaining two races of the weekend at Magny-Cours, round eleven of the 2019 Superbike World Championship.

The Superpole race on Sunday morning once again saw Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) starting from the pole position he earned on Saturday morning, while race one winner Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) had to start once more from his qualifying position of sixteenth.

It was a strong start from Rea but it was Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK) who made the holeshot to take the lead, one he held for the opening lap.

Michael van der Mark at Magny-Cours WSBK2019. Image courtesy of Yamaha Racing

Already by the end of the first lap there was a breakaway group of three, with van der Mark, Rea and Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) breaking away from Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK) in fourth.

On lap two, on the entry to the Imola chicane, Rea took the lead from van der Mark, whilst Razgatlioglu had been making strong progress – fifth from sixteenth by the end of the second lap, and on lap three he passed Sykes for fourth and Haslam for third.

At the front, Rea wasn’t escaping from van der Mark, and Razgatlioglu was closing in third. Additionally, the ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati riders, Alvaro Bautista in eighth and Chaz Davies in fourth, were displaying strong pace.

Onto lap five and Razgatlioglu passed van der Mark for second, setting his sights on Rea as Davies closed in on the leading trio from behind.

By the end of lap six Rea and Razgatlioglu were distinctly a pairing at the front, detached from van der Mark in third whose attentions were being further taken by Davies.

Lap seven saw Rea lose the lead to Razgatlioglu, and he held it to the beginning of the final lap. Rea passed for the lead into the hairpin in turn five, but ran wide and Razgatlioglu was able to square him off. Rea was not close enough to make another attempt, meaning Razgatlioglu once again came from sixteenth to win – perhaps more impressively on this occasion considering he had only ten laps to do the job.

Second place for Rea saw a further extension of his championship advantage, which now stands at 103 points ahead of the final race of the weekend in which he will have an outside chance of wrapping up his fifth World Championship.

It was third place for Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK), a positive result for the Dutchman after the disappointment of race one. Of course, the results of the Superpole race determine the front three rows of the second full length race of the weekend, meaning all of the top three will start from the front row.

Chaz Davies was ultimately unable to get close enough to attack van der Mark for the podium and finished fourth ahead of teammate Alvaro Bautista who took fifth ahead of Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK), both Bautista and Lowes repeating their results of Saturday’s race.

Chaz Davis at Magny-Cours WSBK 2019. Image courtesy of Matteo Cavadini/Ducati

Seventh place went to Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing – Yamaha), who was able to take advantage of Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK) and his struggles towards the end of the race to finish seventh while Sykes took eighth. Ninth place went to Leon Haslam who dropped off significantly after the opening laps where he was in the leading group – in the end the #91 was over ten seconds off the win. The top ten was rounded out by Michael Ruben Rinaldi (BARNI Racing) who was clearly much more comfortable in the fully dry conditions than in the half-half of Saturday.

Sandro Cortese took eleventh place ahead of GRT Yamaha WorldSBK teammate Marco Melandri in twelfth and Eugene Laverty (Team Goeleven) in thirteenth; while Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) was fourteenth and Jordi Torres (Team Pedercini Racing) took the final point in fifteenth.

Leon Camier (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) was sixteenth, unable to repeat his impressive result of Saturday, ahead of Markus Reiterberger (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK) in seventeenth, Sylvain Barrier (Brixx Performance) in eighteenth, Alessandro Delbianco (Althea Mie Racing Team) in nineteenth and Ryuichi Kiyonari (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) who was the final classified rider in twentieth, the Japanese remounting after a crash.

WSBK: Bautista, Razgatlioglu Collide as Rea Seals Fifth World Title

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.

Alvaro Bautista and Toprak Razgatlioglu at 2019 WSBK Magny-Cours. Image courtesy of Ducati

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.

Michael van der Mark, Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes at Magny-Cours WSBK 2019. Image courtesy of Yamaha Racing

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.

Sandro Cortese – GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – 2019 WorldSBK – R11 Magny-Cours. Image courtesy of Yamaha Racing

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

WSBK: Razgatlioglu Defeats Rea in Thrilling Last Lap Duel for First Superbike Win

The eight-hundredth race in the history of the Superbike World Championship took place in Magny-Cours at the eleventh round of the 2019 season, as Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) took his maiden victory in the Superbike class.

The Turkish rider started well, recovering from a poor starting position of sixteenth – obtained in Saturday morning’s wet Superpole session – to end the first lap in seventh place.

Chaz Davies (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) was another rider who made a strong start to the race, coming from eleventh on the grid to lead on lap three before a mistake dropped him back to fourth. It was in trying to recover from this mistake that Davies crashed, nearly taking out Razgatlioglu in the process. It was a strange incident, at the penultimate corner, where Davies never seemed interested in making a move but rather seemed forced into diving to the inside to try to avoid the Turk. A similar incident later in the race for Davies’ factory Ducati teammate, Alvaro Bautista (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati), pointed towards perhaps a characteristic of the bike pushing its riders into these errors. Either way, it wa s abig shame for Davies who looked capable of fighting for the podium and perhaps the win.

The incident between Davies and Toprak split the pack a bit. Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorlsSBK) was out front from Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) and Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK) while Razgatlioglu was fourth.

On lap five Sykes began to suffer more with the handling of the BMW, coming under pressure from Rea who in turn was under pressure from van der Mark.

Michael van der Mark – Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – 2019 WorldSBK – R11 Magny-Cours. Image courtesy of Yamaha Racing

Of the three, it was van der Mark who seemed the most comfortable with the setting of his bike, while in comparison Sykes seemed to be suffering in the braking and Rea had some problem with the front of his bike, running on several times into turn eleven.

As the two in front began to struggle more with the pace, van der Mark began to take advantage, taking second from Rea on lap six and one lap later relieving Sykes of the lead.

One lap after Sykes had lost the lead he was down to fifth, as Rea, Razgatlioglu and Loris Baz (Ten Kate – Yamaha) all passed the #66 on lap seven.

Over the next laps, the two Kawasaki riders, Rea and Razgatlioglu, started to pull away from Baz – who eventually dropped back in the end and fought with Sykes. The stablemates, however, were unable to make much impression on van der Mark who was consistent out front, making few mistakes aboard his Yamaha.

Once Rea found his rhythm, however, the gap started to come down to the leader. The pressure was growing on van der Mark, and finally Rea forced the error in the Adelaide Hairpin. Van der Mark lost the front on the entry having found himself in slightly too deep, and when it folded there was no way for him to save it. Rea inherited the lead as a result, and found himself with an advantage of over one second with just over two laps to go.

It seemed a tall ask for Razgatlioglu to reel in Rea in the time he had left, even going onto the final lap the gap was close to one second. But the #54 was able to make a strong first half of the last lap , and going into turn eleven, where Rea had been having so many problems throughout the race, Razgatlioglu was able to dive on the inside of the World Championship leader and squeeze through. It was a tough move, but fair, one which Rea would have been delighted with had the roles been reversed. Not only did Razgatlioglu manage to get passed, but he also got a strong enough exit to ensure that Rea had no way to respond in the remaining four corners.

It was a well-deserved and arguably overdue victory for Razgatlioglu, who has looked likely all season to take a win. The emotions were mixed in parc ferme, as team owner Manuel Puccetti both celebrated his first triumph in the premier class of production derived motorcycle racing, but also pondered the future in the knowledge that the rider who brought him this victory would be leaving next season.

Second place for Jonathan Rea could quite easily have been much less, his lack of comfort with the bike making things complicated for the reigning World Champion. On top of that, the race was hectic, and especially in the beginning there were many overtakes, and a lot of them were on the limit. It was a fantastic race, one fitting of the eight-hundredth in the history of the series, but no doubt one which Rea will be as glad to survive as he was to step once more on the podium. The Northern Irishman’s points lead now stands at precisely one-hundred points, meaning the title possibilities remain open for tomorrow should results go his way.

Tom Sykes was able to rebound in the second half of the race after fading in the back end of the opening ten laps. Loris Baz began to drop off once he lost the carrot of the two Kawasakis ahead of him. That dropped the Frenchman back to his ex-teammate who was able to take advantage and claim his first podium in a full-distance race since the second race in Donington.

Loris Baz – Ten Kate Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – 2019 WorldSBK – R11 Magny-Cours. Image courtesy of Yamaha racing

It was a shame that Sykes’ success had to come at the cost of a podium for Loris Baz in his home race. The Frenchman had a strong opportunity to be on the podium in his home race, and although he missed it the fact he was there proves the progress the Ten Kate team are making with the R1.

Rounding out the top five was Alvaro Bautista on the Spaniard’s first trip to Magny-Cours. It was a tough race for Bautista, who spent much of the twenty-one laps alone and was close to crashing in an almost identical incident to his teammate, Davies, when trying to pass Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK). The world title slipped further still from the #19’s hands in this race, but his souring relationship with Ducati management means that his focus is likely already heavily towards 2020 when he goes to HRC.

Lowes ended up sixth, almost six seconds back of Bautista. Behind the Yamaha rider was Leon Camier (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) who had a good ride on his return to racing having been out since Imola in May, the #2 coming home in seventh, a couple of seconds ahead of Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha) WorldSBK). Eugene Laverty (Team GoEleven) was ninth, ahead of Sandro Cortese (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) who completed the top ten.

Jordi Torres (Team Pedercini Racing) was eleventh ahead of Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) in twelfth and Michael van der Mark who remounted after his crash to finish thirteenth. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (BARNI Racing) was fourteenth after starting from the second row, whilst Alessandro Delbianco (Althea Mie Racing Team) took the final point in fifteenth.

It was a difficult race for Markus Reiterberger (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK) who, whilst his teammate was finishing on the podium, came home in sixteenth ahead of Sylvain Barrier (Brixx Performance) and Ryuichi Kiyonari (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) who was the final classified finisher in eighteenth.

There were only two retirements, the first being Chaz Davies, and the second being Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) who had a nasty high side on the exit of the final chicane but appeared to be mostly unhurt.

WorldSBK: 80th WSBK Win for Rea in Red Flagged Laguna Superpole Race

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 Davis at Laguna Seca WSBK 2019. Image courtesy of Ducati

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.

WorldSBK: Rea Takes Eighth 2019 Win at Laguna as Bautista Crashes Again

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.

Alvaro Bautista and Chaz Davies in Race One at Laguna Seca WSBK 2019. Image courtesy of Ducati

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.

Featured image courtesy of Ducati

WorldSBK: Rea Beats Razgatlioglu to Donington Race 3 Win

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.

Alvaro Bautista and Chaz Davis at Donington 2019 WSBK. Image courtesy of Ducati

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 – Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – 2019 WorldSBK – R8 Donington. Image courtesy of Yamaha Racing

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.

WorldSBK: By the Lake Before the Summer Break

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.

Marco Melandri – GRT Yamaha Supported WorldSBK – 2019 WorldSBK – R7 Misano. Image courtesy of Yamaha Racing

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.

Alex Lowes – Pata Yamaha WorldSBK – 2019 WorldSBK – R8 Donington. Image courtesy of Yamaha Racing

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.

Featured image courtesy of Yamaha Racing

WorldSBK: Rea Takes Red-Flagged Donington Sprint Race Win

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.

Marco Melandri. at Donington Park 2019 WSBK. Image courtesy of Yamaha

 

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.

WorldSBK: Rea Dominates Donington Race 1 and Takes Points Lead, Bautista Crashes

Despite a good forecast for the weekend, the first race of the eighth round of the 2019 Superbike World Championship was met with rain.

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.

Alvaro Bautista at 2019 WSBK Donington Park race one. Image courtesy of Ducati

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 at the 2019 WSBK Race one at Donington Park. Image courtesy of Yamaha Racing

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.

WorldSBK: Title Battle Moves to Britain

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.

Álvaro Bautista at Donington WSBK 2019. Image courtesy of Ducati

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.

Michael van der Mark from WSBK Misano 2019. Image courtesy of Yamaha Racing

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.

Featured image courtesy of Ducati