Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) took the 2018 WorldSBK crown in style at the Acerbis French Round, slicing past teammate Tom Sykes in the early stages of Race One and imperious from there on in to take victory number 13 of the year. Unlucky for some, but far from it for the now four-time Champion. Sykes took second from his record-breaking pole, with Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team) completing the podium after a three-way fight for third.
It was Sykes who got the holeshot from pole, getting a lightning start and leaving teammate Rea to trail him in second – albeit in very close company. Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) kept his P3 from the front row as they shot off the line, with Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team) slotting into fourth as the field made their way around Lap 1. But Rea remained threatening in second and feinted a number of moves, before the reigning Champion pounced for the lead not long after.
Just off that fight at the front, Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) took an early tumble, followed not long after by a DNF for Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Junior Team) in that same mid top ten group. Rea was then pulling away from Sykes and Sykes from those on the chase as Fores hustled past Savadori and took over in third, but the Italian stayed close and Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) was beginning to hone in on that battle.
Rea crossed the line for win number 13 and his fourth crown in style, with Sykes just behind his teammate in another impressive 1-2 for Kawasaki. Fores was able to fight off Savadori, and both just stayed ahead of Davies by the flag. Davies needed to finish second to stop Rea taking the crown, but after a mid top ten qualifying and still recovering from a broken collarbone, it was a tall order. The Welshman nevertheless put together an impressive ride in difficult circumstances – much like his races in Portugal. His teammate Marco Melandri , after a tough qualifying, moved through from p12 on the grid to take sixth.
Seventh went to Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) as he moved up from tenth on the grid, getting past Toprak Razgatliouglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) at mid-distance and steadily pulling away from the Turk, who came home in P8. Loris Baz (GULF Althea BMW) had been fighting him in the latter stages but couldn’t make it stick, and just at the end was pipped to ninth by Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia).
Leon Camier (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) took P11, ahead of Jordi Torres in P12 for MV Agusta Reparto Corse.
Four titles in a row, 13 race wins this season and two rounds still to go make for another amazing season for Jonathan Rea. See him race as the 2018 champion for the first time on Sunday in Race Two from Magny-Cours.
Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) took Tissot-Superpole 2 by storm at Magny-Cours, leaving it late to blast to the top of the timesheets but then deposing home hero and teammate Lucas Mahias in style. Mahias starts second in a last chance saloon weekend for the reigning Champion if he hopes to retain his crown, with the front row locked out by compatriot and key contender Jules Cluzel (NRT). Points leader Sandro Cortese (Kallio Racing Team) was bumped down to the second row after a crash.
Caricasulo’s late lap was unmatchable for Cluzel, who had been up in the first sector before fading slightly as he found some traffic and everything coming down to the duel between the two. They’re only four points apart in the title fight, too, with a lot to play for on Sunday – and Mahias is the joker in the pack on the front row. The reigning Champion’s shot at the title is now a seriously long one, with Mahias 46 points down on Cortese…but there are still 75 on the table.
Cortese had his own dramas in qualifying, however. The German will be lining up fourth after a crash in Superpole put paid to his chances of improving, just ahead of Randy Krummenacher (BARDAHL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team). They’re joined on the second row by an impressive performance from Frenchman Corentin Perolari (GMT94 Yamaha), who was sixth fastest at his home round, with Hikari Okubo (Kawasaki Pucctti Racing) a late improver to move up from P12 to seventh.
He’s just ahead of Raffaele de Rosa, who put MV Agusta Reparto Corse by Vamag in P8 and that despite a spectacular crash – rider ok – that caused the Red Flag to come out for a few minutes mid-session. Ayrton Badovini, de Rosa’s teammate, was close company in ninth.
Hannes Soomer (Racedays Honda) was the top European Supersport rider as he completed the top ten, beating Kyle Smith (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda) and Thomas Gradinger (NRT) to the honour.
With the title contenders scattered over the first two rows and points leader Cortese one of those lacking a clear view of Turn 1, it could be a race to remember at the Acerbis French Round on Sunday.
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