It was a welcome return to the top step of the podium for Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), who put in an exhibition during Race 1 of the Pirelli Italian Round. Off the line, it was a bright start for Rea, but he couldn’t get the better of Chaz Davies (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) down into Tamburello. However, on the run to Acque Minerale, Davies suffered a problem and was forced to retire, handing Rea the lead whilst Davies’ teammate Bautista had second.
At the end of the opening lap, Rea and Bautista had the leading positions, whilst Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) occupied third and Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team) was riding well from eighth on the grid to be in fourth. Completing the top five, Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team) whilst Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK Team) slipped to sixth. One of the biggest movers and shakers on the opening lap was Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing), who was up four positions into seventh!
As the race settled down, Rea built a comfortable lead and was extending his advantage over Bautista by around 0.7s per lap. Bautista in turn was escaping the attention of Sykes but the main battle through the race was for fourth, with van der Mark leading Lowes, whilst Razgatlioglu was now in sixth, ahead of Haslam.
Michael Ruben Rinaldi (BARNI Racing Team) was a rider making great progress too, all the way up into the top ten by the mid-point of the race from 17th on the grid. The Italian was putting in a fantastic performance for his and Ducati’s home fans. Fellow Italian and Independent rider Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) was also on the charge through the field.
British rider Alex Lowes began to slip back, having been ill all weekend. Soon, a tradition ‘Marco Melandri block-pass’ at the final corner by the Italian pushed Lowes back into eighth. However, he would soon be promoted as a disaster for Tom Sykes occurred, with the BMW S 1000 RR suffering more mechanical gremlins, robbing the 2013 WorldSBK champ of a certain podium.
Sykes’ demise promoted a huge battle between van der Mark and Razgatlioglu for the final podium position. The Turkish star made his move in the closing stages and got ahead of van der Mark. Then, a grandstand finish between the two, swapping paint and trading blows on the penultimate lap, colliding twice and bringing Leon Haslam back into the mix. Imola was once more providing thrilling action.
Meanwhile, in a league of his own, Jonathan Rea blitzed the opposition in a vintage fashion, taking his first win of the season to end the run of victories by Alvaro Bautista. The Spaniard maintains a healthy championship lead with a second-place finish and then, in the battle for third, Toprak held on for his third WorldSBK podium! Michael van der Mark and Leon Haslam completed the top five!
Inside the top six from a poor Tissot Superpole, Marco Melandri was ahead of Alex Lowes, with Michael Ruben Rinaldi eighth after his antics earlier on in the day. Lorenzo Zanetti (Motocorsa Racing) was an impressive ninth as his wildcard weekend unfolded. Completing the top ten, the sole-surviving BMW of Markus Reiterberger (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team).
Outside of the top ten was Jordi Torres (Team Pedercini Racing) who had a disappointing ride, whilst a phenomenal performance for super-sub Tommy Bridewell (Team Goeleven) saw the British rider come home in 12th. Hector Barbera (Orelac Racing VerdNatura), Ryuichi Kiyonari (Moriwaki Althea Honda Team) and Alessandro Delbianco (Althea Mie Racing Team) completed the points. Sandro Cortese (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) had a fast crash at Acque Minerale in the closing stages.
It is Jonathan Rea’s eighth win at Imola and his 72nd career victory in WorldSBK, ending his longest winless run since 2013. It is the 128th win for Kawasaki in WorldSBK too.
P1 – Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK)
“I am so happy that I finally got my first win this season, especially here in Imola where the fans are always incredible, the atmosphere is good, and I love the circuit. My team gave me a great bike, and since Assen I’ve been hard training, trying to visualize winning this race here, so I am glad I did it because I put a lot of pressure on myself. Now we can relax a little bit and enjoy this moment, but wake up tomorrow with the same target. Thanks to my team for never losing hope and continuing to push the bike. I am really satisfied with that victory ”.
P2 – Alvaro Bautista (ARUBA.IT Racing – DUCATI)
“It was amazing to race here in front of all the Ducati fans. They made this moment special! It was not easy for me since it was my first time racing here. We all had a strong pace, and we even set a new lap time record which means that the level is high. I had been struggling here more than in other race track, but still, I am pleased. Today Jonathan was really strong, his pace was incredible, but I am happy I finished second on the podium in front of all our fans”.
P3 – Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing)
“I am so happy to be back on the podium! My goal is to battle for it more often this season. Last year we didn’t make a good result here in Imola, so I am really pleased that we were able to make such a big step forward and even get to the podium”.