Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) produced a masterclass in the Qatari desert on Friday night at the Losail International Circuit, getting away brilliantly from pole to dominate the penultimate race of season and eventually cross the finish line a clear 4.944s distance ahead of second placed Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati). The Race 1 podium at the Acerbis Qatar Round was completed by Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati).
Having set a new outright circuit record lap in Tissot Superpole 2 earlier in the evening, Rea pushed his Kawasaki ZX-10RR to the limits over the course of the 17-lap contest around the 5.380km Qatari track. He was untouchable at the front as he cruised away for his 15th win of a remarkable season.
Davies did his best to chase Rea down but would eventually finish a lonely second despite his best efforts – still a good result in his bid to secure the runner-up spot in the 2017 championship. His teammate Melandri crossed the finish line a further five seconds behind him.
Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) produced an excellent ride to fourth, missing out on the podium by under two seconds, whilst his colleague Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) was just behind him – completing the top five.
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team), Jordi Torres (Althea BMW Racing Team), Sylvain Guintoli (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing), Leon Camier (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) and Roman Ramos (Team Kawasaki Go Eleven) rounded out the top ten.
In a drama-filled race there was cruel luck for Xavi Fores (BARNI Racing Team) who pulled off track with a technical issue when challenging for a strong podium finish with seven laps to go. Shortly afterwards Raffaele de Rosa (Althea BMW Racing Team) went down at turn 9 when riding in the top ten and then Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) crashed at the last corner of the lap when also in podium contention. Lowes picked up the Yamaha YZF R1 to go in search of valuable championship points but would crash again in the final stages.
Earlier in the race Michael van der Mark crashed at speed at turn 9 meaning it was a difficult day all round for the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team.
Race 2 at the Acerbis Qatar Round will take place at 9pm local time (GMT +3) on Saturday under the floodlights of the Losail International Circuit.
P1 – Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team)
“Its nice to do it here, I love this event and the night race and I love the circuit. I just wanted to put my head down on lap one, I am really happy with the way the team have worked this weekend, I want to thank each member of the team who have worked so hard with the bike. I am living the dream right now.”
P2 – Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati)
First part of the weekend is complete, it was a tough race and I think a lot of people were struggling. I didn’t know what to expect, I knew we would be ok but didn’t know if we would be ok to finish on the podium. From lap one the entry grip was really bad but 17 laps later I’m really happy to get that 20 points and hopefully we can make some steps forward.”
P3 – Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati)
“It was a very difficult weekend and luckily for the race the team made a better set up for the race and I was feeling a lot better. I was lucky and my pace was much better and in the last five laps I started to think I was pushing too much on the front tyre so I decided to slow down and third is the best we could have done.”
#QatarWorldSBK at Qatar: Race 1
1. Jonathan Rea Kawasaki
2. Chaz Davies Ducati +4.944
3. Marco Melandri Ducati +10.405
Championship Standings after Race 1, Round 13
1. Jonathan Rea (GBR) Kawasaki (531 points)
2. Tom Sykes (GBR) Kawasaki (383 points)
3. Chaz Davies (GBR) Ducati (373 points)