unstoppable Jonathan Rea ticked another box in his glittering career
when he won the Race 1 of the Qatar round of the WorldSBK Championship
The three-time World champion Rea, who had wrapped up the 2017 title in France with two and half rounds to spare, had never won at the Losail International Circuit before last night. And he brought an end to that drought in spectacular style under floodlights on his Kawasaki ZX-10RR.
The Northern Irish rider is seeking to better American Colin Edwards’ record points tally of 552 set in 2002. After the Race 1 victory last night, Rea has 531 points, and another 25 points tonight in Race 2 will smash the 15-year-old record.
Rea was in a class of his own at Losail, getting away brilliantly from pole to dominate the penultimate race of season. He completed the 17 laps in 33:41.021 seconds, 4.944secs ahead of second-placed Chaz Davies on Ducati. Davies’ teammate Marco Melandri completed the podium.
The 30-year-old Rea, who also achieved Kawasaki’s maiden victory at Losail, has now chalked up 53 World Superbike victories in his career – 38 with Kawasaki – and is only six wins behind the all-time record held by Carl Fogarty. He has also become the second most successful rider ever, moving ahead of Australian great Troy Bayliss, who won 52 races during a chequered career.
Rea had made his intentions clear earlier as he had set a new Losail lap record in the Superpole. In the race that followed, Rea pushed his Kawasaki ZX-10RR to the limits around the 5.380km track to snatch his 15th win of the season.
Davies did his best to chase Rea down but would eventually finish a lonely second despite his best efforts – still a good result in his bid to secure the runner-up spot in the championship. His teammate Melandri crossed the finish line a further five seconds behind him.
Eugene Laverty finished fourth ahead of his Aprilia teammate Lorenzo Savadori, while Tom Sykes completed the top six on the second of the KRT machines.
Yamaha’s Alex Lowes who was the closest challenger to Rea in the Superpole, coming in second, had a disappointing end to the night. With seven laps to go, Lowes, who was involved in a feisty duel with Davies, crashed at the last corner with a podium spot in his sights. Lowes picked up his Yamaha YZF R1 to go in search of valuable championship points but went down again in the final stages. Lowes’ teammate Michael van der Mark also crashed out of the race, touching the rear of Sykes’ bike at Turn 7.
leader Mahias on pole for WorldSSP showdown
In the Supersport class, Lucas Mahias of GRT Yamaha put on a lightning lap to clinch the pole position for tonight’s season-finale. The Frenchman has a 20-point lead going into the final race of the season and he strengthened his title aspirations by smashing the Losail Supersport lap record last night.
His championship rival and defending champion Kenan Sofuoglu of Kawasaki was fourth fastest, and it will need a huge effort from the Turkish rider to win the title tonight. Sofuoglu was passed fit prior to third practice to race despite suffering three fractures to his pelvis at Magny-Cours in France just over a month ago. France’s Jules Cluzel of Honda and Finnish rider Niki Tuuli of Kallio Racing also qualified on the front row, timing the second and third fastest time in Superpole 2.
Mahias set a new lap record of 2:00.738 secs as the championship leader bids to secure the world title in style tonight. Cluzel qualified 0.546s behind his fellow Frenchman, whilst Tuuli was delighted to grab third on the grid, with a lap which was 0.654s off the pole-setter.
Sofuoglu is riding through the pain barrier during this final weekend of the season and is receiving medical check-ups after each session as he bids to prevent Mahias from taking his crown. Sofuoglo needs a top-two finish and hope Mahias misses the top 10 to win a sixth world title.
Qatar’s Saeed al-Sulati was 18th fastest on his Kawasaki ZX-6R, while his QMMF Racing compatriot Mashel al-Naimi was 22nd. The duo will be hoping for a much better performance tonight in front of the local crowd.
WSBK Race 1 results (top 10)
1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) 33:41.021
2. Chaz Davies (Ducati) +4.944
3 Marco Melandri (Ducati) +10.405
4. Eugene Laverty (Aprilia) +12.052
5. Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia) +12.339
6. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) +15.587
7. Jordi Torres (BMW) +16.789
8. Sylvain Guintoli (Kawasaki) +17.869
9. Leon Camier (MV Agusta) +18.494
10. Roman Ramos (Kawasaki) +22.660
17:00-17:15 WorldSSP - WUP
17:30-17:45 WorldSBK - WUP
19:30 WorldSSP - Race
21:00 WorldSBK - Race 2
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