Jonathan Rea moved a giant step closer to a third World Superbike title after winning race one at Portimao while his nearest rival Tom Sykes endured a disastrous day in Portugal. The Ulsterman totally dominated Saturday’s race from pole position while Sykes saw any slim hopes of the championship disappear before Superpole had even started.
The day began in dramatic fashion with Sykes suffering a horrible accident on the downhill approach to turn five, his Kawasaki bursting into flames as it slid along the tarmac. The impact left the 2013 champion with fractured and dislocated bones on his left little finger, injuries that require surgery, ruling him out of the rest of the weekend.
With one of his key challengers out of play, Rea was already in a strong position which he underlined by taking pole position, seven tenths clear of the Aprilias of Eugene Laverty and Lorenzo Savadori while Chaz Davies had to settle for ninth after crashing on his qualifying tyre. Rea promptly opened up a 2.2 second lead over the field on the first lap of the race and wouldn’t be seen again.
The main interest surrounded the other two rostrum spots with Davies making positive early progress, picking off five riders on lap one before setting his sights on the Milwaukee duo ahead. Savadori surrendered third at the beginning of lap three and when Laverty fell victim to an identical move at turn one two laps later, Davies had secured a safe second.
As the Aprilias faded, Marco Melandri climbed to third on the second Aruba Ducati but the Italian had to resist a late charge from Leon Camier who had been forced to start eleventh after a technical problem in Superpole. The Briton came agonisingly close to MV Agusta’s maiden rostrum, missing out by three tenths of a second, but does earn the consolation prize of race two pole position.
MotoGP-bound Michael van der Mark put his upcoming Aragon appearance to one side, finishing fifth for PATA Yamaha on a day where his team-mate Alex Lowes crashed out. Jordi Torres took sixth, relegating Laverty and Savadori to seventh and eighth, while Spanish pair Xavi Fores and Roman Ramos completed the top ten.
WorldSBK 2017: Prosecco DOC Portuguese Round – Race One Result
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