Imola was thought by many to be the first real opportunity for someone to beat runaway championship leader, Alvaro Bautista, due to his inexperience at the Italian circuit. The two races lived up to expectation and we saw a return to the top step of the podium for defending champion, Jonathan Rea.
Along with Rea’s two victories, there were numerous other firsts that happened. Toprak Razgatlioglu secured his first podium of the year and Chaz Davies broke his own lap record to secure pole, while finishing ahead of his team-mate Bautista for the first time.
When asked if he was thinking of the championship after these two victories, Rea said, “To be honest, no, not really right now. We know how unique a circuit Imola is, last year I was very strong here and the situation this weekend was in our favor, we started very well in FP1 and I found a good momentum. Let’s see what Jerez brings, I am definitely optimistic because I felt a little bit more confident with the bike.”
With conditions getting worse on Sunday, the weekend’s action came to an abrupt end with the second feature race being called off due to rain. Imola is a very dangerous circuit and with four red flags over the course of Friday and Saturday, it was one risk too far to go forward with the race.
It was a great performance from Bautista to finish second and third in the two races and adapt that quickly to a new circuit. With Rea and Davies in such superb form, it would have been a relief for Bautista to only see his championship lead cut from 53 points to 43.
Bautista summed up his weekend by saying, “The weather was not perfect, and the track conditions were very dangerous. I think for the safety of the rider, it is better to cancel the race. I am sorry for all the fans because we know that here, there is a lot of support for WorldSBK and we are disappointed for them. To have the support of all Ducatisi is incredible and for me, it has been one of my best weekends of all my career, because I feel the support of all of them.”
For his team-mate Davies, it was an unfortunate end to race one due to mechanical failure, but a great ride in the Superpole race, which has seen him jump up to sixth in the championship standings.
It was a disappointing weekend for Yamaha too, as Alex Lowes struggled with illness and, subsequently, raw pace. Similarly, Michael Van Der Mark also struggled for pace. Both riders have gone well at Jerez in the past and will hope to be back in the podium fight at the next race weekend.
It was a mixed weekend once again for BMW, with the bike showing huge potential. Tom Sykes qualified in fourth place and was comfortably running in third during race one. However, a mechanical issue led to retirement and a podium finish slipped through his fingers. In the Superpole race he produced a stunning fightback from the pit lane to finish eighth.
Regarding his weekend, Skyes stated “What can I say? It’s just been a little bit of a frustrating weekend for myself.” The whole of the BMW Motorrad WorldSBK team had a good Friday and we have obviously made some progress on the chassis etc and I was feeling like we could have some strong results here.”
Regarding the decision to abandon race two, Sykes was in full support of the decision, “I was excited but, I have to say ‘fair play’ to the organisers, I think they made a very calculated call and today, that was the right call. It is always a shame to let the fans down but ultimately, I think it was the right call. Rolling on now to the next round, hopefully we can carry some of this momentum and hopefully, find something extra!”
Rea’s team-mate, Leon Haslam, would have been disappointed to be beaten by Razgatlioglu, who is a potential threat to his Kawasaki ride next year. But the former BSB rider collected some good points nonetheless with a fifth and sixth place finish.
WorldSBK heads to Jerez next and we should see Bautista challenging for the top step once again. This will be the second round in front of his home crowd.