'Still all to play for' as Jonathan Rea loses World Superbike title lead
Jonathan Rea was deposed at the top of the World Superbike Championship yesterday on home turf at Donington Park but the reigning champion says the title fight is only just beginning.
The Kawasaki star commenced the weekend with a battling runner-up finish behind new championship pacesetter Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha) on Saturday, before sealing his fifth win of the season in Sunday's Superpole race.
Rea’s victory, the 104th WSBK success of his career, left him 23 points clear of Razgatlioglu going into the final race of the weekend, but disaster struck for the Northern Ireland man when he crashed out of the lead at Coppice on lap 11.
Razgatlioglu grasped the opportunity with both hands and went on to wrap up his second triumph by 2.2 seconds from Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha), with Tom Sykes taking third on the factory BMW ahead of Ducati’s Scott Redding, who endured a disappointing weekend by his standards.
Rea managed to remount but he finished the race outside the points in 20th place and now trails Razgatlioglu by two points after the first four rounds of the championship.
Yesterday, the six-time champion admitted he was left feeling frustrated on a ‘bittersweet’ day.
“A bittersweet day really,” was how Rea summed up Sunday.
“The Superpole race in mixed conditions was really stressful on the grid, because we saw some guys used a wet tyre but the clear choice was the intermediate, or even the slick, to be honest if I had to do the race again.
“I built a nice lead and was able to maintain that 2.5-second gap to the end.
“In race two we changed the bike quite a lot from yesterday because I was struggling quite a lot with grip, and the bike was not turning as well.
“When Toprak came through and I ran wide into the chicane I gained the time I had lost to him quite quickly. I just kept my powder dry then he made a mistake at Coppice and I passed him,” he added.
“I just put my head down because I had the rhythm, the bike set-up and the feeling. But, going into Coppice I got caught out wide on the bumps a little bit, the front unloaded and when I tipped it in I lost the front.
“I am frustrated with myself but I am feeling a lot more positive than I did yesterday because I felt I did not have the tools to fight then.
“We just have to maximise every opportunity now.”
Rea pulled clear in the Superpole race after team-mate Alex Lowes slid off at the Old Hairpin on the second lap, leaving Sykes to claim a rostrum ahead of his BMW team-mate Michael van der Mark and Honda’s Leon Haslam.
In Saturday’s opening race, Rea had no answer for Razgatlioglu, who won by 2.4 seconds, with Lowes joining his team-mate on the podium in third.
Toome’s Eugene Laverty was 13th on Saturday and 12th and 15th yesterday on the RC Squadra Corse satellite BMW.
The championship breaks for a few weeks now before resuming at Assen in the Netherlands, where Rea boasts a formidable winning record.
Meanwhile, young Northern Ireland rider Cameron Dawson finished as the runner-up in two of the British Junior Supersport races at Donington.
James McManus from Randalstown was fourth in race two, while older brother Eugene finished fifth in the second Pirelli National Junior Superstock race ahead of Banbridge’s Simon Reid. Sam Laffins was fifth in race three.
WSBK Race 1
1. T Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha); 2. J Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) +2.419s; 3. A Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team) +12.261s; 4. T Sykes (BMW Motorrad) +14.625s; 5. M van der Mark (BMW Motorrad) +16.447s; 6. Leon H (Team HRC) +17.028s.
WSBK Superpole race
1. J Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team); 2. T Sykes (BMW Motorrad) +2.531s; 3. M van der Mark (BMW Motorrad) +3.409s; 4. L Haslam (Team HRC) +3.955s; 5. G Gerloff (GRT Yamaha) +4.067s; 6. T Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha) +5.011s.
WSBK Race 2
1. T Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha); 2. G Gerloff (GRT Yamaha) +2.243s; 3. T Sykes (BMW Motorrad) +4.522s; 4. S Redding (Aruba.it Racing Ducati) +5.151s; 5. M van der Mark (BMW Motorrad) +13.315s; 6. A Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team) +14.444s.