Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) has won the first race of the Pirelli Qatar Round and matched Doug Polen’s record for the most race victories in a single season.
With bad weather hitting Qatar Saturday, race two was cancelled (see story below) and his race one victory closed his fourth consecutive title-winning season.
Rea was untouchable out on the Qatari circuit, getting the holeshot at the lights and never relinquishing the race lead. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) completed a KRT one-two, with Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) getting the better of Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) for third position after a race-long battle.
A dream start for the Northern Irishman pushed him into first place before even arriving to turn 1, while Laverty and Lowes jostled behind to see who could follow the Kawasaki bikes. The Aprilia’s incredible top speed on the kilometre-long straight was Laverty’s best weapon all throughout the race, using the slipstream to move into third after lap one.
With Rea managing a comfortable two-second gap over his teammate and both riders a step above the rest in terms of consistency, all eyes were set on the Yamaha and Aprilia battle behind. Lowes moved ahead in lap 6 but was again beaten on the front straight three laps later. It all came down to an epic last lap battle where they rubbed shoulders all the way through, including a brave final pass from the Englishman at turn 12. Laverty tried to return the favour on the final turn but nearly lost the front end, handing Lowes the final podium position. There is a silver lining for the Aprilia rider however: he starts from P1 on tomorrow’s grid.
Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team) followed the front quartet with a confident race all the way to the final lap, but late issues pushed him down to thirteenth to the benefit of Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati). The Italian takes fifth position and will start his last race for the Borgo Panigale squad from the front row of the grid.
The last two laps at Losail saw one of the wildest battles of the season, as Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) and Loris Baz (GULF Althea BMW Racing Team) raced side-by-side for that final front row spot. The Frenchman was triumphant in this war, taking sixth position with the Yamaha in seventh, while Davies nearly lost eighth position on the final straight to Jake Gagne (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team), ninth.
Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) closed the top ten, with Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) in a disappointing eleventh after starting from the second row.
WorldSBK Race 1: 1 Jonathan Rea – Kawasaki 2. Tom Sykes – Kawasaki 3. Alex Lowes - Yamaha
Final WorldSBK Championship point score: 1. Jonathan Rea – Kawasaki 545 points 2. Chaz Davies – Ducati 356 points 3. Michael van der Mark – Yamaha 333 points 4. Tom Sykes – Kawasaki 314 points 5 Marco Melandri – Ducati 297 points
WorldSBK Race 2: Track conditions stop competition in final race of the season
Following a severe rain and sand storm on Saturday morning in Qatar, WorldSBK race two was cancelled at Losail International Circuit. With the storm hitting the Losail track in the morning, conditions deteriorated and therefore a difficult decision was taken to cancel the final race of the day.
The decisions signalled an early end to the 2018 season, and Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) will end the season with 545 points and 17 victories. Whilst Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) takes second position in the championship, 23 points ahead of Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team).
Race direction statement: “Following the World Supersport race, the safety commission (FIM, Dorna WSBK Organization and SBK® riders) met. Due to an increase of standing water, as well taking into account the difference between power and tyres of WorldSBK and WorldSSP bikes, this led us to decide racing would not be safe in these conditions.”