At Round 7's end, Infinity's Leon Haslam returns to the podium while Rea takes home the double win while reducing the gap to leader Bautista to just 16 points! Follow all the action here at Infinity.

The first day of the race weekend at Misano on the Friday was an annoying one for the KRT (Kawasaki racing team) as first reigning world champion Jonathon Rea slid off on the hot and slippery track and then teammate Leon Haslam also tumbled, fortunately without injury. Rea was trying to better the top of the chart time he had set earlier in the day while Leon was still struggling with set up. Their demise opened the way for on form Pata Yamaha rider Michael Van der Mark to clamber to the top of the practice time list by a mere .008 of a second from Rea. Determined to press home his advantage and lay down an early phycological edge over his Kawasaki mounted rivals the Dutchman pushed on hard only to suffer a massive highside which unfortunately left him with concussion, broken ribs and a broken wrist.

Michael has been on top form recently, winning the last race of the weekend in Spain so naturally was expected to do well at this round and his early exit was a great blow to the team’s hopes.

How long Van der Mark’s will be out of action remains unclear at the time of writing and will remain so until he undergoes surgery, but the Dutch rider is a major doubt for the upcoming Donington Park round (July 5-7) and is unlikely to make the Laguna Seca (July 12-14) round either. His participation in the Suzuka 8 Hours could also be under threat with the iconic endurance race taking place on July 26-28 and the demands that the frantic race places on the body are pretty high on the difficulty scale.

Championship leader Alvaro Bautista was in third at the end of the day on what is regarded as the home track of Ducati, while the GRT Yamaha of German Sandro Cortese finished the day fourth overall. Our own Leon Haslam was struggling once again with set up and finished a disappointing day just inside the top ten after the fall which cost him some much needed set up time.

After the last round at Jerez Leon said;

“Every session we were struggling with the front traction. We ran a bit more angle and corner speed compared to some of the other Kawasaki riders and I think that has been hindering me I have tried to adapt my style and played around a little bit with (the) set-up. "

Consequently, Haslam was working on finding more front end grip and was pleased that he was still inside the top ten at the relatively short 4.226km circuit near the Adriatic coast of Italy.

Such was the close competition on day one that the top 13 riders set lap times within a second of each other, so be inside the top ten in this company is far from shabby.

“We ran out of track time today because a crash hindered us in something we wanted to try. We have been suffering from a little lack of front grip more than anything. We still have to work because compared to the test we had here recently the track is a bit greasier, a bit more slippery. It is totally different from the test until now. We had a certain way and feeling at the test and it is now a completely different way that we need to look for.

Michael has been on top form recently, winning the last race of the weekend in Spain so naturally was expected to do well at this round and his early exit was a great blow to the team’s hopes.

How long Van der Mark’s will be out of action remains unclear at the time of writing and will remain so until he undergoes surgery, but the Dutch rider is a major doubt for the upcoming Donington Park round (July 5-7) and is unlikely to make the Laguna Seca (July 12-14) round either. His participation in the Suzuka 8 Hours could also be under threat with the iconic endurance race taking place on July 26-28 and the demands that the frantic race places on the body are pretty high on the difficulty scale.

Championship leader Alvaro Bautista was in third at the end of the day on what is regarded as the home track of Ducati, while the GRT Yamaha of German Sandro Cortese finished the day fourth overall. Our own Leon Haslam was struggling once again with set up and finished a disappointing day just inside the top ten after the fall which cost him some much needed set up time.

After the last round at Jerez Leon said;

“Every session we were struggling with the front traction. We ran a bit more angle and corner speed compared to some of the other Kawasaki riders and I think that has been hindering me I have tried to adapt my style and played around a little bit with set-up. "

Consequently, Haslam was working on finding more front end grip and was pleased that he was still inside the top ten at the relatively short 4.226km circuit near the Adriatic coast of Italy.

Such was the close competition on day one that the top 13 riders set lap times within a second of each other, so be inside the top ten in this company is far from shabby.

Race 1

Come Saturday and the summer sun made an early appearance on the Italian Riviera which meant that the morning Superpole session was held in dry conditions with just a couple of damp patches to remind riders that the track would be quite green after heavy overnight rain.

It was Jonathan Rea on his Kawasaki who made the most of the session to take pole for the third time this year from Sandro Cortese on his with GRT Yamaha while qualifying lap record holder (from last year) Tom Sykes put his Motorrad BMW into third. The pole time was about a second away from the existing record. Our man Leon ended up on the second row about half a second away from the pole. In fact, there was only a second or so covering the top ten.

Unfortunately, as race time approached the skies rapidly darkened and then lighting storms dropped heavy rain in torrential waves. It actually took three attempts to hold what was finally an 18-lap race.

He first start was abandoned on the warm-up lap due to the torrential rain which was soaking the track.

The next attempt came 20 minutes later but the race was red flagged after just three laps had been completed due to the rain bucketing down again and causing more standing water as well as a wall of spray. This period of track action did not count for points but it changed the grid positions for the shortened 18 lap third attempt at holding the race. All the riders took their eventual grid positions from where they had been ranked after three full laps, putting Rea second on the grid behind Alex Lowes and ahead of Sykes. The two Ducati’s were on the second row with Leon joining them on the second row for the re-started race.

After the third start procedure in just over an hour Rea and Alex Lowes got clear of the chasing pack and disputed the race lead, until unfortunately Lowes fell  on the 9th lap leaving  Rea clear out in front ahead of Sykes who was comfortably ahead of the three-way battle between the works Ducati’s of Chas Davies and Alvaro Bautista and the KRT machine of Leon Haslam. Leon got past Alvaro on lap three and then passed Davies on the ninth lap. This put him in third, just three seconds away from Tom Sykes who was having his best race of the year on the BMW. 

Obviously, the fingers were crossed in the Team green pit but sadly it all came to nothing on the 12th lap as our man flew over the highside to join his friend Alex, amongst many others, in race retirement. He remounted but he'd lost his entire gearchange and footpeg assembly so was unable to finish.

“I'd finally got past both official Ducati’s and I gapped them both straight away. I was starting to close in on Tom Sykes for second and I was comfortable as I had not had any really big wheel spins all through the race and then suddenly I had a massive highside out of turn five. I probably should have settled for third rather than push on to try and take second.”

Chas Davies had suffered a big moment on lap ten as he tried to get back on terms with Leon so had been passed by both his teammate and Frenchman Loris Baz who was showing that neither he or his Ten Kate team had lost what it takes to be competitive.

Behind the top five there was a great eight way battle for the minor places being led by Marco Melandri who had been hit with a six place grid penalty that was to be applied in the Superpole race on Sunday morning for his altercation with the Ducati of Chas Davies at the last Jerez race

Rea was untroubled as he rode on alone to win by 3.692 seconds. Knowing he had a comfortable gap Jonathon celebrated in fine style with a very impressive stand up wheelie over the line as he closed the gap to the third-placed Ducati mounted championship leader Bautista by nine points.

Behind the winner Tom Sykes gave the BMW team a great reason to cheer him over the line as he finally managed to break their podium drought.

After the race Jonathan commented that when Alex came past he wasn't prepared to run at the same pace as the leader, which proved to be a wise move. He also wanted to thank his mechanic Arturo who had kept him so well informed with the pit board

Rea’s win made it 130 World SBK race victories for Kawasaki riders since the series started in 1988, cementing Kawasaki’s position as the second-most successful manufacturer in this regard.

Race 2

Obviously, the team were looking forward to the short, ten lap Superpole race on the Sunday morning after a good day at the office for one side of the garage, and a promising outing for the other side.

Another man looking to qualify well for slightly more than the usual reasons was the Italian Marco Melandri who had been hit with a six-place grid penalty for his altercation with the Ducati of Chas Davies at the last Jerez race

At the start, it was Rea who made the best of the start and he led Cortese and the fast-starting Aruba Ducati of Bautista who jumped into third from the second row. He passed the German on the first lap and then set after his Irish rival who was forced to succumb to his charms as he used the fantastic grunt of the Panigale V4R to power past as they started the third lap.

Naturally, Rea tried to keep the red machine in his sights but knew the battle was slightly one-sided as the gap opened by around half a second every lap.

While his teammate was running away at the front Chas Davies crashed out of seventh on the third lap, a similar fate which also befell third place Cortese with just three laps to go who was looking good for his first podium of the year until his fall.

 A lap later it was the turn of Rea to tumble out of a podium place as he literally rolled out of second. Jonathon held on to his ZX-10RR handlebars and the reigning World Superbike champion pushed his bike over him to flip it around before remounting to finish a very credible fifth having only lost around eleven seconds. This is one of those moments that will be replayed and talked about for many years to come and you can see it here;  https://video.eurosport.co.uk/superbikes/italy-1/2019/world-superbikes-i-ve-never-seen-anything-like-that-before-rea-s-bizarre-crash-in-misano_vid1214052/video.shtml

This provided some compensation for the Alex Lowes who had lobbed it the day before while leading and it also put Sykes in to a podium position. Behind him Leon Haslam had been closing little by little throughout the race and with only four tenths and a BMW between him and the podium with just a lap to go Haslam knew what he had to do to climb the step for the first time since the Australian round at Phillip Island

Behind him Razgatlioglu had been within half a second for most of the race and the Turkish rider was also keen to pick up an Italian pot for his mantlepiece. The fight was most definitely on.

Leon looked super determined as he tried to pass the German machine but Sykes looked to have him covered until just a few corners from home when they nearly collided as the unfortunate Yorkshireman suffered his third mechanical failure of the year. Haslam’s super quick reflexes paid off and he levered his ZX-10 past to score the 400th podium for his employer

At the front Bautista failed to outdo Rea in the style stakes as far as the celebratory wheelie went but for compensation, he had the satisfaction of knowing that his lead in the series was now out to 39 points.  Seven seconds later Lowes brought his Yamaha home in second while the men who'll be lining up for the Suzuka eight hour were next with the third placed Haslam followed over the line by Razgatlioglu in fourth and Rea fifth. A great recovery from that bizarre crash.

The Spaniards victory gave Ducati its 30th win at this track, thus making it the most for any manufacturer at a single track in the WSBK.

The Japanese and Italian rivals were both looking to put another notch in their corporate bedheads as the field lined up for the second full distance race of the weekend in the afternoon sunshine. The grid having been decided from the earlier superpole race naturally had the victor Alvaro Bautista on pole with Alex Lowes alongside and our own Leon Haslam lining up on the front row for the first time all year.

Razgatlioglu, Rea and leading privateer Marco Melandri made up the second row.

When the lights went out it was Bautista who got the drop and led them away with Haslam making the most of the front row to follow the championship leader away. A fast starting Toprak was well in the hunt for second on the opening lap but made a small error towards the end of the first lap so Rea was soon on the tail of his teammate.

As the combatants reached the fourth corner for the second time it was the turn of Alvaro to make his second mistake in as many rounds as he low sided his red machine. He was able to recover but lost around 36 seconds by the time he had recovered his stricken machine.

This put the three Kawasaki’s at the head of the field and for the first time all year we saw the Infinity Motorcycles supported Leon Haslam lead a world superbike race.

We naturally expected his teammate to try and find a way past Leon quite rapidly, but he led until lap five and for Leon it was an unexpected coloured machine that came past at turn one as Razgatlioglu punched his way down the inside. Reigning champion Rea had been passed the lap before by the flying Turk who decided on the next lap that he wanted to enjoy an empty track in front of him so he went past Leon as well. Unfortunately for Leon the pace of the Puccetti team rider was being matched perfectly by his own teammate and he was soon demoted to third. He certainly couldn’t relax though as the Yamaha of Melandri was looking like a serious podium contender too, in fact the two of them made quite heavy contact as the straightened up at the chicane.

Toprak showed he meant business and pushed on hard trying to open up his lead but Rea is not a four-time world champion by accident and rarely was the Turk more than quarter of a second ahead as they went over the line for next dozen or so times. 

Leon tried to hang on to them but such was the pace of the leaders that he started to slip back a little. He was enjoying a small gap over rival Marco Melandri, but an Italian at an Italian track is always going to be a tough prospect. Marco decided to be charitable and handed the fourth place to fellow Yamaha rider Alex Lowes when he slid off and re-joined at the back on lap 13.

Another one who had already signed up to the crash and recover club was Sandro Cortese who for the second time that day decided to drop his Yamaha out of sixth place in to the first turn on lap four. He was able to recover and at least score a single point for his efforts at the end of the 21 laps, just ahead of a dejected Melandri.

Rea was pushing Toprak hard and hoping to push him in to an error. As none was forthcoming, despite his best efforts, he instead went past on lap 18 and tried to open up a gap.

The Turkish rider, who has yet to claim a WSBK victory fought back really hard, drifting his machine sideways as he laid down the power out of the corners, even passing the lead Kawasaki rider at one point on the last lap. He was unable to make it stick as he drifted a little wide and it was the green machine with the Irish star on board made it victory 131 for the Japanese factory.

Toprak had certainly shown why he’ll be on the factory bike with their two star riders in Suzuka, especially as he rides a privateer machine for his day job.

Leon raced on in third with Lowes for close company, in fact Alex went past at one stage with a desperate lunge that saw him running wide, but clearly we're seeing the result of his and the teams hard work as he headed to the third step on the podium for the second time that day.

The Yamahas which had promised so much in qualifying were ultimately unable to match the pace of the Kawasaki’s in the dry conditions and throwing themselves in the scenery wasn't exactly helping their cause. The other Ducati of Chas Davies was only able to fight his way up to seventh after starting at the back following his earlier crash in the Superpole race. At races end it was Michael Ruben Rinaldi who took the honour of top Ducati for the Barni Racing squad in fifth place ahead of the BMW of Tom Sykes

Wildcard Samuele Cavalieri on the Motocorsa Racing Ducati kept clear of Bautista on the final lap to see the Spanish rider cross the line in 14th place to provide a small damage limitation to his points lead. That certainly won’t hurt the team’s chancing of rummaging through the Ducati go faster parts bin when the need arises…

It was a very happy Infinity supported rider who was back on the podium for the second time that day on what was his dad’s birthday weekend.

“The third place in the sprint race today was just a matter of staying on and bridging the gap to Tom Sykes, and I managed to pass him on the last lap. This afternoon I was struggling from lap one and did not have much front feeling, but I think everybody was in the same position. When Johnny and Toprak came past I felt I could have pushed to go with them but I had already risked too much so I had to run my own race. Alex was then behind me and I did not want to give up the podium, so I fought a little bit at the end. We have made some good steps from the Jerez test but there are little things we are still finding out.”

The demise of Bautista and the 75th wsbk victory for Rea means that at meetings end the Green team come away from the event with the points gap at the top of the tree closed to within just 16 points. What was looking like a Ducati world championship benefit after several rounds is now shaping up to be a very close exciting battle between two of the best teams in the world. We await the next round at Donington Park on the 6th and 7th of July with great interest, especially as it's the home circuit for Leon Haslam.

This on track clean sweep performance from the three Team green riders certainly augers well for the forthcoming Suzuka 8 hour, the Blue Riband event as far as the Japanese factories are concerned.

Current Standings:

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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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