Rea continued his exceptional form at Losail, Qatar, taking Pole almost half a second faster than next nearest competitor Alex Lowes, with Tom Sykes third on the grid, as he went head to head with Davies for the number two position. It was a sign of things to come for Rea, if not for Sykes.
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) produced a masterclass in the Qatari desert on Friday night at the Losail International Circuit, getting away brilliantly from pole to dominate the penultimate race of season and eventually cross the finish line a clear 4.944s distance ahead of second placed Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati). The Race 1 podium at the Acerbis Qatar Round was completed by Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati).
Having set a new outright circuit record lap in Tissot Superpole 2 earlier in the evening, Rea pushed his Kawasaki ZX-10RR to the limits over the course of the 17-lap contest around the 5.380km Qatari track. He was untouchable at the front as he cruised away for his 15th win of a remarkable season.
Jonathan Rea – P1
“It is nice to score one more win than Troy but I never thought about the stats at all. I just wanted to win a race here. I never thought about the potential points record or anything. Now that looks – with the way we rode today – like it is possible. I thought coming here to win, where Chaz was so strong last year, would be really difficult. But it seems like we have found a little bit extra this end of season, to be honest. Of course we have improved the bike, especially in the chassis area. I feel I have a lot more confidence than last year, I feel that I am riding better than ever and physically I feel in much better shape. I have just been training myself a lot smarter. So it is a combination of many things. The total package of the bike is really good and balanced.”
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 2017 championship. His teammate Melandri crossed the finish line a further five seconds behind him.
Chaz Davies – P2
“I’m happy because we achieved our main task, which was to gain some points in the fight for second position in the championship, but honestly it was a tough race. I think we did the best with what we had, it was a case of managing a few issues. We struggled with grip both in corner entry and exit, and we missed a bit of agility. But, we took second place and we’re happy to get 20 points in the bag and a lot of useful data ahead of tomorrow to improve with the electronics and especially engine brake. We need to stay focused and hopefully we’ll make another couple of steps forward for Race 2.”
Marco Melandri – P3
“I’m quite pleased with this result, because I don’t think we could have done more today. After Superpole I didn’t know what to expect, but the team has done a great job and we managed to make a good step forward with the setup for the race, where I still wasn’t at my 100 percent but at least I was able to ride close to the limit. In the beginning, I struggled as I had very little grip on the rear. The bike wobbled a lot and I couldn’t push as hard as I wanted to. I tried to compensate with the front, and managed to gain some positions, but towards the end the tire was really worn out and I decided not to take many risks. This podium boosts our morale. We’ll try to improve further and finish on a high note tomorrow.”
Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) produced an excellent ride to fourth, missing out on the podium by under two seconds, whilst his colleague Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) was just behind him – completing the top five.
Eugene Laverty – P4
“That was a proper race! That was something we’ve needed for a while, we were going forward even at the end which was such a great feeling and I equalled my best result of P4 at Portimao with an even stronger race.The weekend started pretty rough, the bike didn’t feel good in Free Practice and I wasn’t happy with the feeling. The guys worked really hard though and I’m happy with the changes they made. Every weekend should be like this and the progress is made in the garage, so it’s been a very positive step for us and we’ve seen the results of that. The main changes we made were to the rear of the bike, trying to get it to dig in on the really smooth surface here. The rear was fading a little at the end but for sure there is more improvement to find there. Lorenzo was riding really strong and we were matched throughout the race. When I came up on Sykes I could see his rear was going off so I made a strong move which stuck. Lorenzo was fast too but I was able to come out on top and I’m happy to start from polein Race 2 where I think we can have another strong result.”
Lorenzo Savadori – P5
“The Superpole was a good result for us. I think it was possible to make the first row, but I struggled with the rear which has been a problem since Free Practice and I lost time. There are areas to improve on our qualifying pace but the second row was positive. The race was my equal best result of the year after P5 at Assen, and it was a good fight with Eugene and Tom Sykes for P4. Sykes had some problem with the rear so I could close quite fast, and then I was trying to pass Eugene for P4. We had a good battle but he passed me again on the straight and I had to finish P5. It was a good result and I’m happy with more points for the team. For sure we can do more and I hope tomorrow we will have a better result. I had an issue at the race start where I lost some places so the guys will try to fix that, and I am looking forward to starting P2 and having a good race.”
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team), Jordi Torres (Althea BMW Racing Team), Sylvain Guintoli (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing), Leon Camier (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) and Roman Ramos (Team Kawasaki Go Eleven) rounded out the top ten.
Tom Sykes – P6
“I set off behind Jonathan in the first laps and trying to go into the corners the bike was all over the place; the front and rear chattering. I could not turn. This afternoon in hotter conditions the bike was doing 1’58s, all yesterday 1’58s and 1’57s and then today I did a 1’59.5 and that was about my limit. I could not brake, could not tip in, could not get through the corner the way I wanted to. I just missed a lot but we did not change anything. I cannot do anything about it but it is disappointing. I will just try to get a good result tomorrow and what will be, will be.”
Jordi Torres – P7
“Another ‘so so’ day for us. In the Superpole we had problems with a tyre that seemed to cause a lot of vibration. As a result, I couldn’t complete a clean, fast lap and was forced to start eleventh. I felt quite good with the bike in the initial stages of the race but unfortunately, I messed up a gear change after a few laps, finding false neutral and losing several positions as a result. I was able to catch up by passing a few riders but couldn’t do more than seventh position. We’ll see if we can do more tomorrow.”
In a drama-filled race there was cruel luck for Xavi Fores (BARNI Racing Team) who pulled off track with a technical issue when challenging for a strong podium finish with seven laps to go. Shortly afterwards Raffaele de Rosa (Althea BMW Racing Team) went down at turn 9 when riding in the top ten and then Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) crashed at the last corner of the lap when also in podium contention.
Lowes picked up the Yamaha YZF R1 to go in search of valuable championship points but would crash again in the final stages.
Earlier in the race Michael van der Mark crashed at speed at turn 9 meaning it was a difficult day all round for the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team.
WorldSBK standings following Losail Race 1
Jonathan Rea 531 Kawasaki
Chaz Davies 383 Ducati
Tom Sykes 373 Kawasaki
Marco Melandri 317 Ducati
Alex Lowes 226 Yamaha
Michael Van Der Mark 210 Yamaha
Xavi Forés 185 Ducatia
Leon Camier 161 Mv Agusta
Jordi Torres 158 Bmw
Eugene Laverty 148 Aprilia
Mahias on pole for Losail WorldSSP showdown
Saturday’s final WorldSSP race of the 2017 season at Qatar will see championship contender Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) get away from pole thanks to a superb Tissot Superpole 2 performance. His compatriot Jules Cluzel (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda) and Finnish rider Niki Tuuli (Kallio Racing) also qualified on the front row, under the floodlights at the Losail International Circuit.
Lucas Mahias – Pole
“I feel really good after today! I have been feeling quite stressed since Jerez, as this is the first time I have been in this position in the championship. I have probably been overthinking things, so the best solution for me was just to go out and push a lot. Obviously, during the race, I will ride with my head but I really enjoyed today’s practice as I could just go out and ride without any pressure. Finishing in P1, with the pace we have shown, is a good start to the weekend!”
A new lap record of 2’00.738 for the championship leader gives him pole as he bids to secure the World title in style on Saturday. 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 P1.
Defending World Champion Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) remarkably qualified in fourth place as he continued his comeback, after suffering fractures to his pelvis at the French round of the championship just over a month ago.
Kenan Sofuoglu – P4
“I feel good and I am getting more and more confident. Every session I find more feeling with the bike and better lines. Qualification went well, although we did not get on the front row. This was the main goal. I think coming from my bed to be in fourth position is not bad. Except for Lucas’ one fast lap everybody is pretty close, about two to three tenths from each other, so that gap is definitely not a problem for the race. I will try my best tomorrow to win the race. I have come here to try and win and not to ride for fourth, fifth, or sixth position. I think we have to find something also on the bike because we have had a lot of sliding on the front. We will try to find a way but generally we are happy to be here. There was a big question mark over whether I would be racing in Qatar or not, so I am happy to be here at Losail.”
Anthony West – P12
“I think now I have found too much grip from the rear and that means we are pushing the front. I am using a different front tyre, one that I have never used before. I am finally pushing it to the limit but now I realise that it does not have the same grip as the rear. In the turns it feels like the front is just constantly sliding all the way through and that means the bike is not finishing the turn. My corner speed is good but I cannot open the throttle on the exit. I am beginning to realise that I am waiting for the front to grip. It has taken me yesterday and today’s sessions to realise this. I think that is because I am just not that experienced with this bike, and the front tyre is new to me. We will try the tyre I raced with in Jerez to see if that works better. For the race it should be OK, it is just to do that one fast lap I was trying to push.”
Sofuoglu is riding through the pain barrier during this final weekend of the season and is receiving medical checkups after each session as he bids to prevent Mahias from taking his crown. Mahias goes into the final race of the season with a 20-point advantage at the top of the standings.
PJ Jacobsen (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) and Sheridan Morais (Kallio Racing) should be amongst the front runners in the race, getting away just behind Sofuoglu on row two.
Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team), Luke Stapleford (Profile Racing) and Kyle Smith (GEMAR Team Lorini) are all on row three despite a crash in SP2 for Smith.
Michael Canducci (Puccetti Racing Junior Team FMI), Christian Gamarino (BARDAHL EVAN BROS. Honda Racing) and Anthony West (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) all qualified on row four.
Two of WorldSSP’s best known riders had come through the earlier Tissot Superpole 1 with Jacobsen leading that session courtesy of a 2’01.757 lap, with South African Morais following the American through to SP2 0.038s behind him.
Aussies Lachlan Epis and Giuseppe Scarcella took 24th and 25th respectively on the grid for the final race of the season.
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