Jonathan Rea equalled Doug Polen’s 27-year-old record for most victories in a single WorldSBK season after winning race one at Losail. Polen won 17 races on his way to the 1991 championship and Rea has now drawn level, with the opportunity to claim an unprecedented 18th victory of the campaign in Saturday night’s finale.
Rea had to play second fiddle in Superpole though as team-mate Tom Sykes marked his final weekend with the Kawasaki with a 48th career pole position. The Yorkshireman set the fastest ever lap of Losail on a superbike to take top spot, although he wouldn’t stay ahead of his team-mate for long as Rea launched straight into the lead once the lights went out.
From there, Rea was in a class of his own as he eased to an eleventh consecutive victory, although Sykes kept him honest to finish just 1.4 seconds adrift. The real action came in the fight for the final rostrum position with Alex Lowes and Eugene Laverty swapping places throughout, only for the Irishman to lose the front end of his Aprilia at the final corner, leaving the Yamaha with a clear run to third. Laverty did save the slide though and brought his RSV4 home in fourth.
A glitch with the timing gantry caused confusion on the last lap with Xavi Fores sitting up at the end of the penultimate lap, responding to the gantry which indicated the race was over. Once the Spaniard had recognised the true picture, he had fallen to 13th, promoting Marco Melandri and Loris Baz into fifth and sixth respectively.
Despite finishing seventh, Michael van der Mark’s hopes of finishing championship runner-up are all-but over with Chaz Davies following him home in eighth. The Welshman narrowly held off Honda’s Jake Gagne though in a sprint for the line.
WorldSBK 2018: Pirelli Qatar Round: Race One
|1||1. Jonathan Rea||Kawasaki||Kawasaki Racing Team||33:34.913|
|2||66. Tom Sykes||Kawasaki||Kawasaki Racing Team||+1.424|
|3||22. Alex Lowes||Yamaha||Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team||+3.705|
|4||50. Eugene Laverty||Aprilia||Milwaukee Aprilia||+4.723|
|5||33. Marco Melandri||Ducati||Aruba.it Racing - Ducati||+10.579|
|6||76. Loris Baz||BMW||GULF ALTHEA BMW Racing Team||+13.173|
|7||60. Michael van der Mark||Yamaha||Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team||+14.557|
|8||7. Chaz Davies||Ducati||Aruba.it Racing - Ducati||+17.216|
|9||45. Jake Gagne||Honda||Red Bull Honda World Superbike||+17.277|
|10||54. Toprak Razgatlioglu||Kawasaki||Kawasaki Puccetti Racing||+18.179|
|11||32. Lorenzo Savadori||Aprilia||Milwaukee Aprilia||+24.924|
|12||36. Leandro Mercado||Kawasaki||Orelac Racing VerdNatura||+30.183|
|13||12. Xavi Fores||Ducati||Barni Racing Team||+34.931|
|14||40. Roman Ramos||Kawasaki||Team GoEleven Kawasaki||+46.851|
|15||16. Gabrielle Ruiu||Kawasaki||Team Pedercini Racing||+58.890|
|NC||77. Maximillian Scheib||MV Agusta||MV Agusta Reparto Corse||+9 Laps|
|NC||2. Leon Camier||Honda||Red Bull Honda World Superbike||+10 Laps|