The Motul FIM Superbike World Championship witnessed a new battle between the defending champion and Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), another chapter in the vast collection of showdowns between the pair. This time, it was the Northern Irishman’s time to shine in the blazing Californian heat – his third triumph at Laguna Seca.
With both men starting on opposite sides of the front row, Race 1 quickly became a two-man affair, after Rea passed Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) before Turn 1. A first attack inside that first lap from the defending champion at turn 11 was quickly shrugged off by Davies on the exit, but the warning shot had been fired. Behind, Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) began to pile the pressure on Sykes in third, with Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) crashing out after an excellent start from the lights.
Seven laps passed with no further attacks on the Welshman – and as things turned out, no more were needed. Davies suffered a mistake through the corkscrew, and was then unable to keep up the pace in the closing ten laps.
It’s tough to match the three time champion at the best of times – with a free track ahead, the task is nigh-on impossible. Rea drowned out any possibility of a comeback, keeping a consistent 1-2 second gap all the way through the latter two thirds of the race. With Davies ending the race in second, the two are now separated by 70 points in the standings, with eleven races remaining on the calendar.
P1 – Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK)
“It was a really nice race, I got a really good start and Chaz was setting a really good rhythm and it was hard to overtake him. But this happened at the corkscrew, and that helped me a lot. From there I could eeek out my pace and I was just trying to keep everything under control, but this one is for my mechanics after they stayed up to re-build my bike.”
P2 – Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati)
“It was a good race. From where I sat, I did all I could. I gave up the lead while pushing, but honestly I don’t think the final result would have changed. I was trying to keep Rea honest but we just didn’t quite have the pace in the last ten laps. I was losing a tenth here and there, so I tried not to make mistakes and see what he had. He made a couple of errors at the Corkscrew, but not big enough for me to erase the gap. Overall I’m very happy, we got pole position and fastest lap but just missed the big trophy. We got good data and learned a bit today, so hopefully we’ll come back a little bit stronger tomorrow.”
Behind the pair, Alex Lowes found his way quickly past Sykes into third, with the KRT rider falling slowly down the standings. The Lincolnshire rider has shown tremendous pace throughout the last three rounds, and following his maiden WorldSBK win with another podium – his first at Laguna Seca – spells excellent news for the Yamaha man going into tomorrow.
“I am really, really happy! The race itself wasn’t fantastic, the second part was quite boring as I needed to carefully manage my position, but I was really strong at the start and that allowed me to get the podium. To get a podium at Laguna on the Yamaha is beyond what I expected so I think we can be happy with the job we have done as a team. We will try to improve the setting of the bike a bit for tomorrow and see if we can have another go, and I just want to say a big thanks to the guys at Yamaha, Crescent and everyone involved in the whole project because to get a podium here, at what was our worst track last year, is testament to everyone’s efforts.”
Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) repeated his best performance this season with an excellent fourth, making it four different machines in the top four positions, and highlighting how far the RSV4-RF has progressed in recent races. The Irishman will also have the bonus at starting from pole tomorrow, at a track where a front row can be a near guarantee of success.
Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) bounced back from a disappointing qualifying session with fifth in Race 1, an admirable climb from the fourth row. He passed fellow Panigale R rider Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team) in the final laps. The Spaniard, top independent rider in California, will nonetheless be pleased with his progressive return to form.
Much less comfortable during the race than through the earlier Superpole session, Tom Sykes ended his race successfully defending seventh place from Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team), who had to be content with eighth, in front of Jordi Torres (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) in ninth.
Scoring his best result in WorldSBK, Jake Gagne (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) finished his home race in tenth place to the delight of all the American fans at Laguna Seca.
Jake Gagne – Red Bull Honda – P10
“It was a pretty positive day, my first top ten in WorldSBK so I’m happy about that. My first couple of laps were good, it seems the warmer track temperature actually helped me compared to the other guys, so I could make quite a few good passes. Starting so far back on the grid meant I had a lot of work to do, but I could work my way up to tenth place and bring the bike home in that position after I had a little technical issue on the bike. We’ll try a couple of things in Warm Up tomorrow as I think we can improve things even further and I’m confident we can do another good job tomorrow.”
WSBK 2018 – Laguna Seca Race One Results
Jonathan Rea Kawasaki GBR 35’15.071
Chaz Davies Ducati GBR 00’02.978
Alex Lowes Yamaha GBR 00’12.212
Eugene Laverty Aprilia GBR 00’14.309
Marco Melandri Ducati ITA 00’16.712
Xavi Fores Ducati ESP 00’18.929
Tom Sykes Kawasaki GBR 00’25.638
Michael van der Mark Yamaha NLD 00’26.211
Jordi Torres MV Agusta ESP 00’31.579
Jake Gagne Honda USA 00’38.084
Yonny Hernandez Kawasaki COL 00’44.971
Román Ramos Kawasaki ESP 00’45.412
Karel Hanika Yamaha CZE 00’50.768
Lorenzo Savadori Aprilia ITA 01’06.063
Loris Baz BMW FRA +1 lap
World Championship Standings after Race 1, Round 8
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