Jonathan Rea came within 0.240 seconds of winning an unpredictable and exciting 21-lap WorldSBK race at Magny Cours today but it was Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) who won for the first time in WorldSBK. Leon Haslam was unfortunate to fall exiting the final chicane on lap 17 and no scored today.
After qualifying on pole, for the sixth time this year and for the 22nd time in his career, Jonathan became the fourth most successful qualifier in WorldSBK history.
In WorldSBK’s 800th race – also the 800th participation for Kawasaki as a manufacturer – Rea and Haslam had very little dry track time to prepare a full-distance race set-up, especially after Superpole had dawned wet.
From pole position on the grid Rea was unable to get clear in the early laps and was involved in many close battles, providing fantastic entertainment for the fans but making it a nervous time for much of the race.
After long-time leader Michael van der Mark fell, with Rea closing in behind, Jonathan took the lead for two of the final three laps. Razgatlioglu closed in on the final sector of the 4.41km circuit and took advantage of an opportunity to pass, winning his first race at this level and delivering the first FIM Superbike World Championship race win for his Kawasaki Puccetti Racing team.
Haslam felt strong in the morning sessions today, qualifying third in the wet Superpole, but was racing for seventh place when a landing from the lip of the kerbs in the final chicane saw his machine get crossed up. Leon fell, without injury. He now looks to what all hope will be two dry races on Sunday to get back into podium contention.
The ten-lap Tissot Superpole race on Sunday morning will be followed by a 21-lap Race Two.
Jonathan Rea: “I made a small mistake in sector two. With the gap on my pit board with a few laps to go, I was convinced that by keeping a good rhythm it would be OK, but that mistake gave Toprak the opportunity to make a manoeuvre in sector three. That is how it is. So if I try to look from the outside, from the championship point of view, it has been a strong race. But I am also a little bit disappointed because I did most of the work to put myself in a good position at the end, and we couldn’t finish the job. We have got two more chances tomorrow.”
Leon Haslam: “Superpole was good in the wet but the race was a disaster. I kept losing the front brake so we struggled the whole race. We ran on a few times, with the brake lever coming back. In the end I must have clipped the kerb going onto the start/finish straight. The best I was going to be in that race was seventh and for me it was quite disappointing because this morning I felt really confident to run with Toprak, Johnny and the guys. So from my point of view it was a disappointing race.”