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Round 5 has come and gone, and Jonathan Rea ends Bautista's winning streak! With Race 2 unfortunately cancelled due to weather conditions, there's still plenty of time for the gap to short at the top! Here's everything that went down at the Pirelli Italian Round.

The 66 year old 4.9km (3 mile) Imola racetrack in Italy played host to the 5th round of the 2019 WSBK championship last weekend and this historic track which literally runs through the town in this scenic part of Italy has played host to some of the most memorable races in the series over the years and the locals particularly were keen to see how things would play out over the three races on the weekend. Naturally their beloved homegrown Ducati’s were the main interest for them with unbeaten Spaniard Alvaro Bautista ready to take on his rivals once again.

Our own focus of attention Leon Haslam was prepared to join the battle on his Kawasaki racing team ZX10 and was a feeling a lot better after the recent operation on his ankle. One way he’d been keeping fit was by hosting a charity golf day at the Notts golf course in Hollinwell during the week to help raise funds for research in to Ataxia Telangiectasia (A-T) He managed to raise over £10k

 “I actually raced at Imola on a Puccetti bike last year with the ELF colours that my dad, Ron, used to run. The pace was OK for a top five although we had some issues in the races. I am quite confident that the bike will work well at Imola and I can probably adapt a little bit faster, having ridden the circuit last year. It is a circuit of mixed memories for me. I lost the championship chance in 2010 to Max Biaggi there but I also had some quite good battles with Carlos Checa. I have some up and down memories but I will have to wait and see where the other competition is at. But from my side I am really looking forward to it.”

The first practice session was held in windy conditions which meant a lot of lightweight poplar seeds floating about. One thing that wasn’t floating was Jonathon Rea. He was flying, finishing the session almost 3 tenths of a second ahead of the Ducati Duo of Chas Davies and Alvaro Bautista. Leon finished in 4th and the reigning British Superbike Champion set his best time on a 19-lap old tyre.

The first practice session was held in windy conditions which meant a lot of lightweight poplar seeds floating about. One thing that wasn’t floating was Jonathon Rea. He was flying, finishing the session almost 3 tenths of a second ahead of the Ducati Duo of Chas Davies and Alvaro Bautista. Leon finished in 4th and the reigning British Superbike Champion set his best time on a 19-lap old tyre.

It wasn’t a good session for Eugene Laverty who unfortunately broke his wrists after a very nasty high side crash on his Ducati at Aqua Minerale.

His place on the grid was hastily offered to BSB front runner Tommy Bridewell who quickly packed his Oxford products sponsored leathers and HJC lid into his kit bag and headed for the airport.

It wasn’t a good session for Eugene Laverty who unfortunately broke his wrists after a very nasty high side crash on his Ducati at Aqua Minerale.

His place on the grid was hastily offered to BSB front runner Tommy Bridewell who quickly packed his Oxford products sponsored leathers and HJC lid into his kit bag and headed for the airport.

The second session saw the best time set once again by Rea from Davies and Tom Sykes on the BMW

Unfortunately, Leon dropped to 7th as he struggled with set up.

 “This morning I felt quite comfortable. This afternoon we did not have a good session because we tried a different tyre option that was not as good at the end. The lap times were not so great as a result but my feeling this morning was quite positive so we will keep pushing overnight to be ready for tomorrow. The track is good, from what I remember of it, and there are a few areas I need to work on with my riding style. Generally, I love this circuit because it is fun to ride. Hopefully, it will be good racing too.”

Superpole was delayed by due to oil being dropped on the track in a support race qualifying session and the red flag came out just a few minutes into the session following a collision involving Leon Camier and Sandro Cortese.

The marshals at Imola are well practised in dealing with quick cleanups and it was only ten minutes later that the riders were out once again.

Obviously, all eyes were on Rea after his performance the day before but it was the man who had followed him on the timesheets all day on Friday Chas Davies who led the way and claimed pole from the reigning champion while the current championship leader Bautista ended up third just a couple of tenths ahead of Leon.

Race 1

ace day is payday and when the lights went out it was Davies who led into the first corner ahead of Rea who quickly slipped past at the second corner to take the lead. His teammate Leon didn’t get away quite as well after having what looked like a brake issue at the first turn and he dropped three places in the early running.

He and everyone else made up a place a few hundred metres later as the Ducati of Chas Davies failed him much to the huge disappointment of the likeable Welshman, his team and his fans.

Rea wasted no time in opening up a commanding lead and was over a second ahead of Bautista at the end of the first lap while Sykes and the BMW team showed that they are making progress as he crossed the line in third ahead of fellow Brit Alex Lowes on the Yamaha.

The top three quickly opened up comfortable gaps between themselves and a healthy gap ahead of a great four-way battle for fourth between the Yamaha pairing of Lowes and Van Der Mark, and the Kawasaki mounted rivals Toprak Razgatlioglu and Leon. These two are destined to become teammates at the forthcoming Suzuka 8 hour.

This battle became one for the final podium place with ten laps to go as the BMW of Sykes had an attack of the gremlins which forced him into early retirement. Lowes also had a problem and dropped off the pace leaving the other three to have a very close fight all the way t the line. Leon lost the tow to his rivals when he went straight on at one of the chicanes as he tried to have a serious look at taking the place off of Van Der Mark.

He quickly caught them back up as the two ahead traded paint like kindergarteners on a play date in a determined attempt to take the pot.

Out in front with a gap of almost 8 seconds over Alvaro Bautista it was the man from Northern Island who finally handed defeat to his championship rival as he took the 25 points and broke the Spaniard's unbeaten record. There was, of course, a slight irony in the victory being in Ducati’s back yard.

Toprak Razgatlioglu managed to get it all together and lead Van der Mark over the line by a few tenths as Leon claimed a very close fifth.

“We have been struggling to stop the bike. The pace was quite good and when I ran off track I bridged the gap of two seconds to the riders in front, I did it in two laps. When I was behind them it was impossible to pass. For me, the race was very difficult because I felt I had a faster pace but I could not do anything with it when I was behind them.”

The relief of having finally taken a win in 2019 was clear for all to see as Rea pulled in to the parc ferme celebrating his victory.

Bautista was gracious in defeat on the unfamiliar track but second place in this company is far from a poor performance. This was Razgatlioglu’ s first visit to the podium this year on the Puccetti machine that Leon had raced here last year. Naturally, his Italian team were delighted with the result.

Local forecaster Michele Pesce predicted rain for the next day and for once the forecast was spot on as the clouds gathered overnight to drench the circuit.

Round 5 Race 1 Results

Position Rider Number Team Laps Gap
1. J. Rea (GB) 1 Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK 19 -
2. A. Bautista (Spa) 19 ARUBA.IT Racing - Ducati 19 +7.832
3. T. Razgatlioglu (Tur) 54 Turkish Puccetti Racing 19 +19.291
4. M. Van Der Mark (Ned) 60 Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team 19 +19.968
5. L. Haslam (GB) 91 Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK 19 +20.111
6. M. Melandri (Ita) 33 GRT Yamaha WorldSBK 19 +31.846
7. A. Lowes (GB) 22 Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team 19 +32.024
8. M. Rinaldi (Ita) 21 BARNI Racing Team 19 +34.107
9. L. Zanetti (Ita) 87 Motocorsa Racing 19 +34.814
10. M. Reiterberger 28 BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team 19 +40.196

 

Superpole Race

Fortunately, the circuit was left with little more than a few damp patches as the riders lined up for the Sunday morning 10 lap Superpole race in the same order as the day before. Once again Chaz Davies led the way from Jonathon Rea into the first corner while just behind them Leon clearly had a lot more confidence in his front end as he took a serious look at Alvaro Bautista in to the first corner.

Despite a determined challenge from Rea at the turn, three Davies led until they then got to the chicane at the end of the first lap when he went very wide allowing the Kawasaki and his teammate to slip past.

With a clear track in front of him, there was no stopping Rea from opening up the gap to his pursuers once again.

The gang of four who had battled throughout the race the day before resumed their battle and they were soon swapping place repeatedly as they struggled to gain any advantage over their rivals

Front running man from the day before Tom Sykes was a long way back after being forced to start from the pit lane.

While Rea maintained a small but comfortable cushion it was the fight for a second that caught everyone’s attention as the two Ducati’s started to argue with one another. Chas (and everyone else) has been totally outclassed by Alvaro for most of this season and he was determined to prove that his pole wasn’t some sort of fluke. At least the paint they were swapping matched. With four laps to go Davies made the move and now had Rea firmly in his sights.

Rea had his pit board in his sights and could clearly see the progress from the man on the red machine so he cranked it up and promptly set a new lap record next time around which stood for all of 1.1 seconds as Davies shaved another 3 tenths off of it as he flashed over the line.

The fourth-place battle as going the way of Michael Van Mark as he broke away from the squabbling pack he’d been involved with.

With two laps to go the gap was just under a second and but Rea looked to have everything under control as he managed to complete the penultimate lap a little quicker than the man on the Ducati

Leon found a way past his future team mate and quickly closed the gap to take the fifth-placed fight to Lowes on the Yamaha who’d manged to open up a comfortable gap to the Kawasaki duo.

Leon closed to within a mere 3 tenths of a second at the end of the race to take sixth as very happy Jonathon Rea coasted his way back to the paddock after his 73rd WSBK victory. Chas was clearly happy to have finally beaten his new teammate who had just experienced his worst result of the year so far while the Yamaha of Van Der Mark finished fourth.

“I had exactly the same problem as in race one. I could not pass, could not follow the guys. When I had a gap, I could go really fast. Compared to Jonathan we are losing under braking but on a positive note, in cornering, in the exits, and how I adapted my style in other areas, we made good steps. Jonathan is very good here and I knew it was going to be a tough weekend trying to adapt my style with the things I have struggled with, but it was a lot harder than I expected. We will take a fifth and a sixth.”

Like the previous round at Assen, the much-anticipated final race of the weekend was not to be as mother nature decided to play her part in the proceeding and drench this part of central Italy.

With the safety cars aquaplaning their way around the track, and following an inspection involving some of the riders the organisers had no choice but for the second meeting in a row to call an early halt to proceedings. At least this time it was rain instead of snow.

So, Alvaro Bautista continues to lead the series, only this time by not quite so much. Will the gap be even closer after the next round in Spain on the 8th and 9th of June? There’s lots of Spaniards and Italians who hope not, but a lot of Brits and Kawasaki fans who hope so.

“We have made some steps but we need to make a lot more. There are still a few things my natural style is fighting and there are a few things that take a couple of sessions to understand.

“I do feel on the back foot a little bit, we are understanding each other more where I like the bike compared to where Tom liked it, which has been the main issue, and that’s more in Jonathan direction. We need to get together to work on the same lines, that is a positive thing.”

ROUND 5, Superpole RESULTS

Position Rider Number Team Laps Gap
1. J. Rea (GB) 1 Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK 10 -
2. C.Davies (GB) 7 ARUBA.IT Racing - Ducati 10 +2.141
3. A. Bautista (Spa) 19 ARUBA.IT Racing - Ducati 10 +6.864
4. M. Van Der Mark (Ned) 60 Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team 10 +10.817
5. A. Lowes (GB) 22 Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team 10 +14.212
6. L. Haslam (GB) 91 Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK 10 +14.522
7. T. Razgatlioglu (Tur) 54 Turkish Puccetti Racing 10 +20.484
8. T. Sykes (GB) 66 BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team 10 +20.764
9. J. Torres (Spa) 81 Team Pedercini Racing 10 +20.957
10. M. Reiterberger (Ger) 28 BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team 10 +25.917

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This article was written by Keith Roissetter, Infinity Watford Store Manager, and edited by Jonah Son, Digital Marketing Executive at Infinity Motorcycles.

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