Jonathan Rea moved one step closer to clinching the 2015 World Superbike title with a dramatic last lap victory in race one at Sepang. The race came alive in the closing laps with a seemingly dominant Tom Sykes hitting tyre problems, setting the stage for a final corner scrap between Rea and Ducati’s Chaz Davies.
After making no mistake of the start line, Sykes looked on course to convert pole position into a comfortable victory but tyre wear came into play with a handful of laps remaining, causing him to plummet back towards the fight for second between Davies and Rea. Chaz hit the front with five to go, easing past the no.66 Kawasaki at the penultimate corner but Jonathan had to wait almost half a lap to follow the Welshman through, handing the Ducati a slight advantage.
By the last lap, Rea was back on terms and a better run through turn three allowed him to dive past the Panigale but a surprising error at the final corner almost undid all the hard work. Rea outbraked himself, running so wide that Davies ducked underneath him, the Kawasaki got such a good slingshot from the outside of the hairpin that Rea outdragged him on the run to the finish line anyway.
Davies had to settle for second while Max Biaggi was the next beneficiary of Tom Sykes’ tyre issues, marking his return to WSBK with a podium finish. Sylvain Guintoli also profited to take fourth, his best result of the season, while Sykes fell to fifth ahead of Alex Lowes’ Suzuki and Leon Haslam’s Aprilia.
With his victory, Rea is now in position to clinch the title in race two. If he finishes ahead of Chaz Davies and outscores Tom Sykes by six points, the championship will be won with six races to spare.