Jonathan Rea has made it 10 in a row in Argentina, where he claimed both race wins over the weekend at the Circuito San Juan Villicum. The Kawasaki champion was forced to dig deep to take the Argentine double ahead of Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team), but now holds another record to his name for the most consecutive wins in a world superbike season, beating Colin Edwards and Neil Hodgson’s previous streak of nine victories.
Race two’s opening laps at the Circuito San Juan Villicum were amongst the most chaotic of the entire 2018 season. Fores was quick off the mark from pole, but his partners on the race two front row suffered much worse fates: Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) immediately fell to the fringes of the top ten, while Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) crashed out unopposed in lap three whilst riding in second place.
Rea’s race start was far from perfect. A strong start pushed him up into the top five at the lights, but a succession of mistakes through the end of lap one and the first half of lap two saw him lose positions to Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) and Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), nearly falling one further under pressure from Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati).
The Argentinian fans would not have to wait long for the comeback. Rea saw himself past Davies after the Welshman went in too hot at turn one, then made good use of the back straight slipstream to edge smoothly past Lowes. A mistake from Razgatlioglu also left the Turkish rookie in the Northern Irishman’s wake. Meanwhile, a bruising battle for fourth saw Davies, Melandri and Lowes exchange places turn after turn.
At the four-lap mark, Fores had already opened a huge three-second gap taking advantage of Rea’s troubled start. This didn’t last: at a rate of nearly a second per lap, Rea caught up with the Spaniard and fought his way through to the front inside lap eight. Fores immediately pounced back at the back straight, but the Kawasaki’s pace was too much on the day and the weekend and, after moving back into the front half a lap later, Rea blasted into the lead and head-first into his tenth consecutive win, unchallenged from that point forwards.
A cool second for Fores means that he is now the official independent rider’s champion, thanks to his fifth podium of the year. Marco Melandri managed to return to the rostrum after a fantastic race-long duel with Davies, who finished fourth and again increases his gap with Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) to 24 points, after the Dutchman ended race two in ninth.
Tom Sykes managed to climb back to fifth following a strong second half to his race, with Lowes in sixth and Razgatlioglu back in seventh, after fading in the late stages. An anticlimactic ending to the rookie’s Argentinian round, but he still manages to claim the best points haul of his WorldSBK career over a race weekend.
Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) finished race two in eighth, whilst Jake Gagne (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) made it into the top ten for only the third time this season. Local hero Leandro Mercado managed to finish in twelfth, after crashing in race one.
Jonathan Rea – P1
“It is really special to come to a new track, where everyone starts from zero, and be able to take the same kind of results. To be fast in the hot conditions and keep our tyre that was the key to the race. It was probably the hardest race win from the third row of the grid. If I went off line to pass, I could not be creative with my line choices. Everybody was pretty much on the same line so the passes had to be set up a few corners in advance. Once I settled into my rhythm I was able to clock off the lap times and pick off riders one by one. When I got clear track to Fores I tracked him down quite fast, but then there was the matter of passing him. Today has been difficult because I caught some kind of virus last night. I was ill all night from one o’clock until five this morning. It was good to have the race at 4pm because most of the day I have been sleeping in the cabin, regaining energy!”
Xavi Fores – P2
“I missed the podium so today I was focyused on getting it again after Magny Cours. I started so strongly and was able to keep the pace, and I was pushing so hard but Jonny overtook me and then I kept my rhythm until the end. Really happy for this second place and also for the Independent Championship, and I want to say thanks to my team for the job this season. I’m looking forward to Qatar and I want to finish the season on the podium again.”
Marco Melandri – P3
“We rode a good race today as well but I’m a bit disappointed because I was coming back strong and when I was fourth I made a mistake at turn 6, going wide and coming back in ninth position. Then we made several passes to climb back again and, with five laps to go, I saw Forés and tried to push even harder to catch him, but he rode well and I couldn’t close the gap. Third place was the best we could do today, and I’m looking forward to get better results in Qatar. The team and I have been working well, so I’m confident ahead of the last round.”
Chaz Davies – P4
“It’s been a topsy-turvy weekend for us, so, to get fourth today feels a bit like a salvage. We got good points, which is important in the fight for second place in the championship, extending our lead again. That said, we didn’t have the most ideal weekend. A couple of technical issues made us start on the back foot and put ourselves in a position to take a bit too many risks. Today we got through the field and into a reasonable position early on, and then I kept my head down and tried to get on the podium. Towards the end, I felt like I had a little bit more left, but I didn’t want to risk too much after what happened yesterday. We have a better potential than what we’ve shown here and I’m looking forward to make the most of it in Qatar.”
WorldSBK at Circuito San Juan Villicum: Race 2
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK)
Xavi Fores (BARNI Racing Team) +3.273
Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) +4.660
Championship Standings after Race 2, Round 12
Jonathan Rea 520 Kawasaki
Chaz Davies 348 Ducati
Michael Van Der Mark 324 Yamaha
Tom Sykes 294 Kawasaki
Marco Melandri 286 Ducati
Alex Lowes 232 Yamaha
Xavi Fores 227 Ducati
Toprak Razgatlioglu 145 Kawasaki
Eugene Laverty 145 Aprilia
Lorenzo Savadori 133 Aprilia
Loris Baz 127 Bmw
Leon Camier 108 Honda
Jordi Torres 98 MV Agusta
Michael Ruben Rinaldi 77 Ducati
Leandro Mercado 66 Kawasaki
With the flag down after a nerve-wrenching first contest at the Circuito San Juan Villicum, it is now official: the new champion will be crowned at the final race of the season. Jules Cluzel (NRT) did everything he could to keep the battle alive for Qatar, taking his fifth win of the 2018 FIM Supersport World Championship and forcing Sandro Cortese (Kallio Racing) to settle for second, with 2017 champion Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team).
Cluzel grabbed the holeshot at the start, moving ahead of Mahias from fourth on the grid inside lap one. The leading pair soon became an all-French trio, as Corentin Perolari (GMT94 Yamaha) flew up the ranks from seventh on the grid to third. It came at the expense of Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha WorldSSP Team), however – Perolari jetted down the inside line at turn 2, the pair clashed, and Caricasulo found himself on the floor, any remaining title options evaporated in the blink of an eye.
The championship leader suffered a disappointing start, slipping down to fourth behind the leading trio. Far from fearing for his lead in the standings, Cortese chose to play the long game. The German slowly chiseled away at the gap with Perolari, eventually finding a comfortable slipstream down the back straight to go into third. Same strategy to move past Mahias: down the kilometre-plus straight at San Juan, taking good advantage of the slipstream with less than five laps to go.
Then came the much-awaited showdown. Record laps tumbled one after the other, both men left in the championship battle pushing harder than ever before – but Cortese finding that extra inch, cutting tenth after tenth off Cluzel’s lead. The German set his eyes on the final lap and that extraordinary back straight, barely a couple of tenths behind at that point. But he found the extra speed just too late: Cluzel defended his line masterfully, and with the Frenchman marginally stronger in the final sector all race he managed to meet the chequered flag ahead. Cortese’s lead is now down to six points: a repeat of this result in Qatar would grant him the world title – but the pressure is on.
Mahias crossed the line in third for a repeat of the Magny-Cours podium, with Thomas Gradinger (NRT) also repeating his fourth position from France. Perolari got a nose ahead of Randy Krummenacher (BARDAHL Evan Bros WorldSSP Team) in a rip-roaring sprint to the line, defeating the Swiss rider for fifth.
Kyle Smith (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda) was the first non-Yamaha rider in Argentina, leading a professional yet solitary race to seventh, followed over twelve seconds behind by the Kawasaki pair of Hikari Okubo and Héctor Barberà (Kawasaki Pucccett Racing) in eighth and ninth. Loris Cresson (Kallio Racing) returned to the top ten for the first time since Brno, while Raffaele De Rosa (MV Agusta Reparto Corse by Vamag) was forced to retire after a mechanical issue.
“I never saw Sandro, just on TV! It’s a shame – I did my job, I worked really hard for the race, I’m really proud because we didn’t make mistakes this weekend and I will try my best for the last one. I need some points though because it’s not enough – I think you all know how many points I lost this year and even because of Sandro, so maybe I will get revenge in Qatar, but I will try everything for sure.”
WorldSBK WorldSSP at Circuito San Juan Villicum
Jules Cluzel (NRT)
Sandro Cortese (Kallio Racing) +0.240
Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) +3.702
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