Photography by Gold & Goose
Jonathan Rea was a man on a mission in World Superbike race one at Imola today. Rea sprinted out to a fast start and gradually pulled away to a commanding win over Ducati’s Chaz Davies and series leader Tom Sykes in third, making it a British sweep of the podium. The victory, Rea’s second straight following a win at Assen race two, moved him from fourth to second in the standings. He now sits just 10 points behind Sykes in the standings.
For runner-up Davies it marked his first podium since joining Ducati. Third place Sykes said he struggled with traffic in the early going, but his third kept him on top of the standings.
Rea got a perfect start, in fact so strong that it almost appeared he might have jumped, but officials indicated a clean start. Marco Melandri moved into second, but was passed by Sylvain Guintoli until they hit the chicane where he ran wide. By the official end of the first lap it was Rea, who was pushing so hard, ahead of Davies, Melandri, Sykes and Guintoli.
It was Melandri making a chicane error on the second lap, dropping to fifth. Davies was charging and closing in on Rea with Sykes picking up the pace and moving into third.
You had the sense that Rea figured he needed a very fast start to have a chance to win and he physically appeared to be really pushing his Pata Honda to the limits, yet Sykes was still the fastest man on the track in third at this point of the race. Getting up to Davies in second would be one thing for Sykes, passing would be quite another.
On lap seven Niccolo Canepa ran off the track all the way through the gravel and just to the wall before getting his EVO Althea Racing Ducati turned back in the right direction.
On lap eight Italians Davide Giugliano and Melandri traded sixth several times, with Melandri having the power advantage on the Aprilia and Giugliano better in the twisties on his factory Ducati. At about the same time the battle over second got super intense with Sykes taking it for a moment before messing up a chicane. That allowed Guintoli to move up, past Davies and Sykes to take over the position for the first time. Loris Baz moved up to join the now five-rider battle for second.
All of that intense dicing gave Rea a bit of breathing room. He added a second to his lead, which was up to almost four seconds mid-race.
On lap 12 Giugliano tipped over and crashed from his position in that battle for second. He walked away from the fallen machine, out of the race. That made the battle for second a four-rider affair with Guintoli leading Davies and the Kawasaki duo of Sykes and Baz. Sixth-place Melandri was trying to bridge the gap up to that group.
On lap 15 of 19 Davies moved into second with a strong outbraking maneuver on Guintoli. He found himself five-and-a-half seconds behind the flawless riding leader Rea.
In the closing laps Davies chopped almost a full second from his lap times and was the fastest rider on the track, pulling out all the stops to try to catch Rea, but to no avail. Rea was just too solid in this round.
Rea backed off his Honda CBR1000RR just a tad on the final lap, but still had 4.511 seconds on Davies at the checkered flag. In the final two laps Sykes found his second wind and sprinted away in that battle for third, finishing alone, about two seconds behind Davies. Baz made a last-lap pass on Guintoli to take fourth. Melandri nursed what appeared to be spent tires to sixth. Then came Eugene Laverty, Alex Lowes, Toni Elias and Leon Haslam rounding out the top 10.
Leon Camier put his BMW atop the EVO class in 11th, just ahead of David Salom, who is leading the EVO bike in the standings.
The EBR’s of Aaron Yates and Geoff May both retired.
Rea made the win look stress-free, but he said it was far from it.
“It’s sure not easy, this is a world championship and all the riders around me are really strong,” Rea said. “I’m just lucky my team gave me a great bike today to battle for this win. In the cooler conditions we just struggled a little bit with our soft tire at the end. I don’t think it was quite hot enough for it. I’m really, really happy to win here and back up my win at Assen, it makes it even sweeter. We can’t get too carried away. We still have race two to go, but hopefully we can finish that strong too.”
World Superbike Race 1 results from Imola – May 11, 2014
1. Jonathan Rea GBR PATA Honda World Superbike CBR1000RR
2. Chaz Davies GBR Ducati Superbike Team 1199 Panigale R +4.511s
3. Tom Sykes GBR Kawasaki Racing Team ZX-10R +6.492s
4. Loris Baz FRA Kawasaki Racing Team ZX-10R +8.434s
5. Sylvain Guintoli FRA Aprilia Racing Team RSV4 +9.134s
6. Marco Melandri ITA Aprilia Racing Team RSV4 +14.925s
7. Eugene Laverty IRL Voltcom Crescent Suzuki GSX-R1000 +19.973s
8. Alex Lowes GBR Voltcom Crescent Suzuki GSX-R1000 +21.582s
9. Toni Elias ESP Red Devils Roma Aprilia RSV4 +28.781s
10. Leon Haslam GBR PATA Honda World Superbike CBR1000RR +31.245s
11. Leon Camier GBR BMW Motorrad Italia SBK S1000RR +40.996s (E)
12. David Salom ESP Kawasaki Racing Team ZX-10R +55.372s (E)
13. Luca Scassa ITA Team Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R +55.899s (E)
14. Jeremy Guarnoni FRA MRS Kawasaki ZX-10R +1'04.402s (E)
15. Alessandro Andreozzi ITA Team Pedercini Kawasaki ZX-10R +1'23.074s (E)
16. Fabien Foret FRA MAHI Racing Team India Kawasaki ZX-10R +1'23.324s (E)
17. Sheridan Morais RSA IRON BRAIN Grillini Kawasaki ZX-10R +1'36.763s (E)
18. Claudio Corti ITA MV Agusta RC-Yakhnich M. F4RR +1'36.942s
19. Peter Sebestyen HUN BMW Team Toth S1000RR +1'43.545s (E)
20. Imre Toth HUN BMW Team Toth S1000RR +1'43.819s
Davide Giugliano ITA Ducati Superbike Team 1199 Panigale R DNF
Michel Fabrizio ITA IRON BRAIN Grillini Kawasaki ZX-10R DNF (E)
Aaron Yates USA Team Hero EBR 1190RX DNF
Niccolo Canepa ITA Althea Racing Ducati 1199 Panigale R DNF (E)
Ivan Goi ITA BARNI Racing Team Ducati 1199 Panigale R DNF (E)
Geoff May USA Team Hero EBR 1190RX DNF
Christian Iddon GBR Team Bimota Alstare BB3 STH (E) *
Ayrton Badovini ITA Team Bimota Alstare BB3 STH (E) *
* Ineligible to score points for homologation, removed from results.
(E) = Evo class.