Jonathan Rea restarted his 2019 WorldSBK campaign with a Race One win, shortly after securing pole position at record pace on his KRT Ninja ZX-10RR. Leon Haslam (KRT) was a battling fifth after starting the race from fourth on the grid.
With the KRT duo of Rea and Haslam on the front and second row respectively for the start of the first 20-lap WorldSBK race of the Portuguese WorldSBK weekend, expectations were high for each rider.
Rea has set a new Superpole qualifying record of 1’40.372 earlier in the day and used his sheer pace in the early laps to take a clear lead that was never challenged, especially after his championship rival Alvaro Bautista ran wide on the first lap and dropped to 16thplace at the end of lap one.
For Haslam the Portimao race was not an easy one but he was rewarded with a top five finish and more important championship points. Unable to defend on the main straight as Bautista came past in the final two laps, he won his personal duel with Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) to finish fifth, 8.887 seconds from the win.
Jonathan’s 81st career race win saw him lift his leading advantage in the championship table to 93 points, with two more Portimao races on Sunday and then three more rounds before the end of the year. Leon is fifth in the championship points and made up some ground on the rider in fourth place overall today.
There will be a ten-lap Tissot Superpole race on Sunday morning at Portimao, and then a full distance Race Two, over the same 20-laps as Race One.
Jonathan Rea: “Thanks to my team because slowly and surely over the weekend we made the bike better and better especially in the hot conditions. I worked really hard in the beginning of the race to try and find a gap. When it got to five seconds I started getting very nervous so I started to ride to my pit-board and try not make any mistakes. Thanks to all the support out there, which means so much. I am looking forward to tomorrow because I think we can try to improve the bike set-up a little bit, especially for the end of the race – just to make things a little bit more comfortable. I certainly did not have anything left in my pocket in this race. It was target achieved today.”
Leon Haslam: “I made a few mistakes which lost me the tow with Davies and Van der Mark. I felt I had the pace of those guys if not for too many little mistakes. I am struggling a little bit with corner entry; not something we have had in the past but something we have had an issue with all weekend. I just felt I was on the edge too much and it caught me out a few times. When I backed off from that the pace was quite comfortable. But to push on from the mistakes I made I needed to get a bit more of a better feel from the front.”