Having qualified third fastest in Superpole Jonathan Rea took second place in a tough 21-lap Race One at a hot and dusty Villicum circuit, finishing just 1.5 seconds from the win. His team-mate Leon Haslam took his Ninja ZX-10RR to sixth, having started from 14th place on the grid.
After some tough qualifying and practice sessions on the dusty and slippery Circuito San Juan Villicum track surface, the first 21-lap race went ahead on time, after a longer than normal FP3 session and then Tissot-Superpole qualifying.
Third on the grid for the start of the race, Rea and three other riders, including eventual race winner Alvaro Bautista, jostled for track position in the early laps. The fight remained between those four for five laps, then the break was made on lap ten as Bautista moved ahead.
Rea used all of his championship-winning skills to finish a tricky race safely in second place, while keeping Razgatlioglu behind him in third place.
Having never raced at Villicum before, Haslam’s push to his Race One sixth place was a strong effort from a rider who started on the fifth row of the grid – especially in the tricky track conditions and on asphalt that peaked at 45°C.
Leon remains sixth overall, with two more Villicum races to come before he heads to Qatar for the final round in two weeks time.
Jonathan Rea: “It was a very difficult race. As we know the conditions were not the best so it was more a case of managing myself and the bike inside the limits. But of course I got excited a few times because I could see my pace compared to Alvaro was quite similar. I was much stronger in a lot of the circuit and there were a couple of key areas where he was that bit stronger. I was just riding on the limit to be there so that meant when you take liberties in all the critical areas of the track I was making some mistakes – and just running onto the dirty stuff penalised me a few times. There are lessons to learn for tomorrow. Pere and myself made a last minute change, just before the race, to forget about out-and-out pace and to look after the tyre. That was the biggest thing because we knew the tyre was going to drop. So massive kudos to Pere because the change was quite significant. I felt like in the end we looked after the tyre a little bit, but too many mistakes penalised us.”
Leon Haslam: “It was one of those races and it is a new venue for me I felt the track was really difficult, especially coming back from 14th. I ran off the track several times and the narrow line was so hard, especially in racing conditions. We did what we had to do, finished the race and we will do the same again tomorrow.”