2018 Imola World Superbike Race One Results: Technically Interesting

World Superbike race one at Imola was 19 laps under good weather. Leon Camier was replaced for the race on the Red Bull Honda by Jason O'Halloran after Camier pulled out after two sessions on Friday, not having recovered enough from his crash at Aragon to compete. Extra front brake cooling was allowed for there first time and this safety measure will continue testing at Donington in a couple of weeks.

Jonathan Rea and Chaz Davies dominated on Friday and looked set to continue their ongoing duel, but a bad start, lifting the front wheel, put Davies in seventh place by the first turn. Rea escaped at the front, joined by his Kawasaki teammate Tom Sykes, with Marco Melandri filling the gap in third left by Davies. Eugene Laverty made a good start but was quickly passed by a hard charging Michael Ruben Rinaldi who briefly took third place from Marco Melandri until the start of the second lap.

Ominously, after just one lap, Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes were separated by seven tenths of a second with Sykes in second over a second and a half clear of the Ducatis of Melandri, Rinaldi and Davies. At the end of lap two, Chaz Davies's charge to try to give us the fight we were promised came to an end as he ran on into the last chicane, the Variante Bassa. The rules state that when you run on to the chicane, you have to come to a full stop before carrying on, and Davies neglected to do that. Davies recovered from his mistake behind sixth placed Michael van der Mark and seventh placed Leon has lam. Haslam was passed on lap three and van der Mark on lap five and Davies faced a two-and-a-bit second gap to Xavi Fores and Rinaldi ahead. 

Seven laps in, Jonathan Rea had over two and a half seconds of lead over Tom Sykes who was two seconds clear of Marco Melandri whose lead over Michael Ruben Rinaldi was comfortably over a second. The front three places looked settled as all three riders were all on pace to just gently stretch things out over time.

As the front three did their thing, Chaz Davies behind them was not settling for places and he was the fastest man on track, even though he was almost ten seconds off the lead.

By lap ten, Chaz Davies had caught Xavi Fores and pushed him to catch Michael Ruben Rinaldi, and then the three Ducatis fought. Fores made a pass on Rinaldi and Davies followed him through, glued to his rear wheel. As the pair cleared off from Rinaldi, staring at a gap of almost four seconds to Macro Melandri, Race Direction informed that Chaz Davies would not get a penalty for his lack of stopping after running through a chicane, as he didn't gain an advantage. 

As Fores was wobbling Melandri-like, Davies was super smooth in his wake and at the Variante Bassa on lap eleven, Davies made his move. He was four seconds behind Marco Melandri.

With clear track in front of him, but three riders in front not causing each other problems, Davies had four seconds to close and eight laps to do it in. Lap twelve, Davies took four tenths from Melandri. Lap thirteen, another four tenths. Lap fourteen, personal best for Davies and another four tenths, but Melandri was aware the gap had dropped to two and a half seconds and upped his own pace accordingly, setting his own personal best a lap later. Another Davies personal best and Melandri personal best the lap after, Davies started the last lap with over a second and a half to make up, an insurmountable gap, and he settled into his fourth place and pole position for tomorrow's reversed grid.

At the front, Jonathan Rea wheelied over the line four seconds ahead of Tom Sykes and Marco Melandri. His win extends his lead to forty two points from Chaz Davies as Tom Sykes closes to within ten points of third-placed Marco Melandri. 


Pos No. Rider Bike Gap
1 1 J. REA Kawasaki ZX-10RR  
2 66 T. SYKES Kawasaki ZX-10RR 3.755
3 33 M. MELANDRI Ducati Panigale R 6.906
4 7 C. DAVIES Ducati Panigale R 8.191
5 12 X. FORES Ducati Panigale R 15.550
6 60 M. VAN DER MARK Yamaha YZF R1 19.339
7 21 M. RINALDI Ducati Panigale R 22.522
8 32 L. SAVADORI Aprilia RSV4 RF 25.772
9 91 L. HASLAM Kawasaki ZX-10RR 30.269
10 22 A. LOWES Yamaha YZF R1 30.377
11 54 T. RAZGATLIOGLU Kawasaki ZX-10RR 30.660
12 50 E. LAVERTY Aprilia RSV4 RF 34.188
13 76 L. BAZ BMW S 1000 RR 36.494
14 81 J. TORRES MV Agusta 1000 F4 36.671
15 36 L. MERCADO Kawasaki ZX-10RR 38.041
16 45 J. GAGNE Honda CBR1000RR 41.312
17 68 Y. HERNANDEZ Kawasaki ZX-10RR 55.007
18 37 O. JEZEK Yamaha YZF R1 1'07.522
RET 40 R. RAMOS Kawasaki ZX-10RR 15
RET 5 V. LEONOV Kawasaki ZX-10RR 2
RET 20 J. O'HALLORAN Honda CBR1000RR 18 Laps
RET 99 P. JACOBSEN Honda CBR1000RR  
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... WSBK, once again, looks to be in dire straights as Rea and Kawasaki seem able to overcome any handicap thrown at them. As for Ducati, are we about to witness the first superbike produced by the factory that doesn't win a single WSBK championship?

Considering Dorna runs both series, I'm starting to wonder if a rule needs to be drafted that forces overly-dominant riders into MotoGP ;)

The race was spread out at the front but fortunately there were some good mid pack battles shown during the race. Van der Mark did a good job coming through the pack after a poor qualifying and the group around Haslam had a good fight.

Also, the Red Bull Honda curse continue with the replacement O'Halloran high siding on lap two and busting his leg. Fingers crossed for a speedy recovery.

Didn't quite fall asleep as the Ducati battle and Davies attempts to catch Melandri just about held my interest.

However, apart from the new regs not really achieving the desired result after a bit of a false dawn while the Kawasaki factory sorted out the electronics, what must be most alarming for Dorna/WSB were the half empty grandstands obvious from the television coverage.

If even the Italians can't be bothered to turn up, it doesn't bode well for the future.

Dorna needs to ship Rea to MotoGP if they want SBK to be competitive. You can't make me believe that he's not as fast as some of the Moto 2 riders that teams have their eye on or even some current MotoGP pilots like Redding, Smith, Bautista, Abraham, etc. If they really want SBK to survive then the racing has to become more interesting. The way Rea passed the others from 9th on the grid in the second race was embarrassing. I used to think that the Kawasaki was just superior to the other makes but now I think that Rea could win on just about any SBK bike.