Jonathan Rea became the first rider ever to win three consecutive World Superbike titles after a champion’s performance to win race one at Magny Cours. The Ulsterman dominated in wet conditions to claim his 50th WorldSBK win by over sixteen seconds from Marco Melandri who won a thrilling last-lap battle with Tom Sykes for second.
Rea had already been the pacesetter in the dry on Friday but rather than act as a leveller, the heavy rain on Saturday only emphasised his superiority. The Kawasaki rider shrugged off a crash early in SP2 to take pole position by over a second from surprise-package Leandro Mercado with the returning Sykes, back after missing Portimao with a broken finger, completing the front row.
Rea was astonishing from the word go, opening up a 2.4 second lead on the opening lap as Sykes fought with Chaz Davies over second. The Welshman would soon encounter electrical problems on his Aruba Ducati, sending him plummeting back down the order, as the Kawasakis eased away into what looked set to be a comfortable 1-2.
While Rea was cruising to the title, Sykes would come under pressure in the latter stages as Melandri began setting fastest laps in third, gaining a second per lap on the Yorkshireman. With two laps to go, the Italian had wiped out the eight second deficit but almost came off his Panigale altogether when he tagged the rear wheel of Sykes’ Kawasaki at Estoril. On the final lap, Marco made no mistake at the 180 corner and with the fastest lap of the entire race, the no.33 secured second.
MV Agusta’s wait for a rostrum finish goes on with Leon Camier an agonising fourth, although he does earn pole position for race two tomorrow. Alex Lowes was a solid fifth for Yamaha ahead of Eugene Laverty who got the better of fellow-Aprilia-rider Mercado for sixth while Davide Giugliano rode superbly to give Red Bull Honda eight points for eighth. Michael van der Mark took a tumble on lap one in an incident which also took down Xavi Fores but the Dutchman still recovered to ninth, beating the frustrated Davies into tenth.
WorldSBK 2017: French Round – Race Two Result
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