Rea Wins Wet and Wild Opener in Portugal

Jonathan Rea coped best with a late downpour to win a dramatic first race at Portimao. The championship leader came through from eighth on the grid to lead before the rain came with an engine problem for teammate Tom Sykes eventually swinging things decisively in Rea’s favour.

Given the events of Superpole, Sykes would have been forgiven for thinking Sunday would be his day and the Yorkshireman signalled his intent from the start, storming past polesitter Davide Giugliano on the approach to turn one. Chaz Davies slotted into third while the fast-starting Rea rose to fourth, which would soon become second before a lap had been completed.

Sykes had built up a 1.2 second lead in the opening laps but was quickly chased down by his teammate, setting the scene for another Kawasaki head-to-head. Rea hit the front for the first time on lap twelve but with six remaining, the weather started to muscle in on proceedings. The drizzle was initially quite light but as soon as it intensified, the riders flooded into the pits for a change of tyres.

Bravely, Sykes chose to stay out an extra lap with the first two sectors of the track remaining dry and it almost paid off with the 2013 champion coming within a whisker of leapfrogging Rea. The pair would go on to swap places on a regular basis in the laps that followed but with less than two to go, Sykes’ ZX-10R began to cut out and left him powerless to prevent his teammate taking a ninth win of the season.

As Giugliano faded, Davies led the Ducati challenge against the Aprilia of Leon Haslam as the two Britons disputed the final podium position. Haslam edged ahead during the scramble in the pitlane but slid off within half a lap of fitting the wet tyres, dropping him to twelfth. Davies stayed upright to finish third with Giugliano promoted back into fourth ahead of Sylvain Guintoli with Matteo Baiocco beating compatriot Ayrton Badovini to sixth.

Leandro Mercado was eighth with Michael van der Mark recovering from nineteenth in the dry to ninth in the wet while Alex Lowes also bounced back from some early difficulties to round out the top ten.