Official KRT rider Jonathan Rea took his first race win of the 2019 FIM Superbike World Championship season by over seven seconds at Imola today, having started from second place on the grid. His team-mate Leon Haslam battled hard to be in the podium mix and finished in fifth place.
The combination of Rea and the Ninja ZX-10RR had worked well at the 4.936km long Imola circuit since the very first practice session on Friday. As he and his crew built their way to a final set-up package Rea secured second place in Superpole, giving him an ideal front row starting position.
On a development specification Pirelli rear tyre Rea set a new lap record of 1’46.023 on lap three of the opening race. He took his number one plate across the start-finish line in the leading position for all 19-laps at this intense and undulating circuit.
In a challenging race for Haslam, who had started from fourth place on the grid, he had to make up ground to get back into podium contention. He was less than one second from third place and tried to make one final pass on the last lap to take fourth, just missing out by 0.143 seconds across the line.
After a dry and mild first raceday of the weekend the two contests scheduled for Sunday – the ten lap Tissot-Superpole race and a second 19-lap full race – have a high probability of being held in wet conditions, according to most weather services.
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team Rider): “I am very proud of the team. Even though we have not won a race until now this season, no one has given up. The atmosphere inside the garage is incredible and I have so much support from my team. It is a real nice victory because it is for everybody that has been working hard. We kept working and making steps with the bike set-up. I felt really good because we made a step in the right direction. I stuck a pass in on Chaz Davies in turn four of lap one and then stuck my head down. That was my complete strategy. The plan worked perfectly as I was able to push the pace and then roll off in the last laps and enjoy the moment. I want to thank Kawasaki because we made a step forward from last year.”
Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team Rider): “We have been struggling to stop the bike. The pace was quite good and when I ran off track I bridged the gap of two seconds to the riders in front, I did it in two laps. When I was behind them it was impossible to pass. For me the race was very difficult because I felt I had a faster pace but I could not do anything with it when I was behind them.”