Round 10 – Portimão
Jonathan Rea wins Superpole Race but Bautista bounces back to claim Race Two victory. Rea now has a 91-point buffer over Bautista in the championship chase. There are three rounds remaining with Magny-Cours hosting the next round late this month, September 27-29.
In WorldSSP 600 Italian rider Federico Caricasulo won his third race of the season and is now just 10 points behind team-mate and championship leader, Randy Krummenacher.
Dutchman Scott Deroue triumphed in the World Supersport 300 category for his first win of the season which moved him into second place in the overall championship standings. Manuel Gonzalez has one hand on the championship trophy with a handy 38-point lead in the series.
There are no Aussies in either the World Superbike or Supersport categories, but three Aussie youngsters contested the 300 Supersport category.
Tom Edwards was the highest placed Aussie in WorldSSP 300 in 11th place, one position ahead of countryman Joel Kelso who put in an impressive weekend on what was a last-minute call-up to replace an injured rider in the Nutec RT-Motorsports squad. Tom Bramich had a troubled weekend and carded a 28th place result.
The 2019 Motul FIM Superbike World Championship fired back into life on Sunday morning with the Tissot Superpole Race. After ten laps of action Jonathan Rea took his ninth win on the bounce at Portimao, whilst a relentless battle for the podium took hold behind the reigning four-time WorldSBK champion.
Lights out and it was another good get-away for Jonathan Rea, holding on to his first position from Tom Sykes and Leon Haslam.
Sandro Cortese had a better start and was fourth ahead of Alex Lowes and his team-mate Michael van der Mark, whilst Alvaro Bautista kept his nose clean and was seventh.
However, Bautista dropped positions and soon found himself in a battle with Marco Melandri, Toprak Razgatlioglu and team-mate, Chaz Davies. At the end of lap one, Rea hadn’t broken clear of Sykes, whilst Haslam was under pressure from the pursuing riders.
Lowes showed better pace than race one, now up to second ahead of Sykes and Haslam and soon, there’d be more problems for the British pair.
Bautista was picking his way through the pack, taking Razgatlioglu and capitalising on a Melandri error at turn 12. Next up, Cortese was dispatched and then it was two-for-one as the Spaniard eased ahead of Haslam and Sykes. All moves were completed on the front straight. Bautista’s teammate Davies was not having a strong race, down in tenth.
Sykes soon fell to the back of the battle for fourth, with Haslam and Razgatlioglu getting ahead – the Turkish rider taking both at turn five with five to go, whilst Michael van der Mark made his way ahead of Cortese. Two laps later, he would be ahead of Sykes – the 2013 WorldSBK champion now down in seventh and relinquishing his front row starting position.
Bautista was now chasing Lowes and on the final two laps, the two were head-to-head, with the Spaniard getting the better of Lowes on the front straight at the start of lap 10. Whilst Lowes stayed with him, there was nothing he could do about the Ducati rider. But there was nothing the pair could do about runaway leader, Rea, who took the victory and starts from pole once more in race two. Bautista will be elevated to the front row ahead of Lowes, who took his best result at Portimao.
Razgatlioglu leapt from 13th to fourth after he held of Haslam and van der Mark in the closing stages. The group were able to hold on ahead of Sykes and Cortese, whilst Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing – Yamaha) took ninth to start from row three – the original row three all being replaced after the Tissot Superpole Race. Most notably, Chaz Davies finished outside of the top nine and will start from 14th.
Off the line and it was a great start for Rea from pole position but a disaster for Bautista, who plunged down the order to sixth place after lap one. Toprak Razgatlioglu was a fast starter and up to second, ahead of Leon Haslam. Alex Lowes was fourth and team-mate Michael van der Mark was fifth, just ahead of Bautista who was right in the hunt.
Bautista soon began his comeback, first picking off van der Mark down the front straight, before picking off Lowes two laps later. He hit third a lap later, before slicing ahead of Jonathan Rea to momentarily lead with 15 to go. But Razgatlioglu had other ideas, as the Turkish rider hit the front of the field.
With Razgatlioglu and Bautista leading, Rea had to try and find a way to react to the change of the guard at the front. Haslam was still in the mix with the two Pata Yamahas just behind; with the front six covered by just one second.
A lap later, the horsepower of the Ducati propelled Bautista back into the lead of a race for the first time since Misano, and the Spaniard soon began to put the hammer down.
Rea fought back on his fellow Kawasaki rider Razgatlioglu, but whilst he closed up on Bautista, he wasn’t able to make a move on the Spaniard.
Further back and at half race distance, isolation of the leading six began to set in. Lowes made his move on Haslam with 10 to go, after the ‘Pocket Rocket’ lost an entire second to his fellow Brit.
Loris Baz closed on the battle for fourth. Behind them, Tom Sykes and Jordi Torres were squabbling over ninth, just behind Marco Melandri.
With the gap between Bautista and Rea extending to over a second, and Razgatlioglu sat in a safe third place – barring acts of God – the big battle on track was for fourth, with Lowes and Haslam swapping places with five laps to go. At turn three, van der Mark parked his Yamaha in the way of Haslam, bringing Baz right into play. Haslam fought back however, and a lap later he was back in fifth place and chasing Lowes.
In the closing laps, the race began to come alive at the front, with Rea lapping quicker than Bautista and the gap coming down to less than a second, although with two laps left to run, it was beginning to look a little bit late for Rea to return to the front. However, his teammate Haslam, was climbing all over Lowes in the battle for fourth.
On the final lap, the gap at the front closed dramatically and Rea was right with the Spaniard, but on the run to the line Ducati power prevailed over Rea’s resilience.
Bautista was back on top and took the verdict, winning for the first time at Portimao. Rea was second and Razgatlioglu took a tenth career podium in third. Lowes held-off Haslam but Baz made it to sixth and beat van der Mark. Lowes therefore returns to the third overall.
Melandri putting in a hearty effort for eighth place, whilst Sykes was able to beat Sandro Cortese in the remaining places inside the top ten. Jordi Torres was eleventh and couldn’t return to the top ten, with Michael Ruben Rinaldi, Markus Reiterberger , Eugene Laverty and Leandro Mercado completing the points.
The 1-2 gap comes down to 91 points in the championship race, but the battle for third is well and truly alive, with 45 points covering third to seventh.
Riders Reflect on Portimao weekend
“I felt strong with the bike. I was pushing in Race Two and where Alvaro was gaining time on the front straight and the top straight, coming out of T5 I almost felt that he was increasing the gap. But when we went into T14 I had already eaten up that advantage he had in the first sector. It was enough motivation to keep pushing. He was making a few mistakes and it was enough for me to keep the pressure on. You never know what can happen and I could see the gap to Toprak was increasing in those last six laps. Yesterday I ate too much tyre in the beginning but today on lap 19 I could set a 1’43.2. I enjoyed that final race; we had a fight. I am proud of myself because I had fight in me.”
“It has been a very tough weekend for me, especially physically because my shoulder is still not at 100%. I felt worse this morning after yesterday’s race so I tried to start well in the Superpole Race. Unfortunately, I lost a lot of positions and used up most of my energy, but I finished second which meant that I could start from the front row in race 2. In the afternoon I again made a bad start, lifting the front of the bike up and losing some positions but I was still in the leading group so was not too worried. Mid-race I felt my pace was stronger so I decided to go for the lead and push hard until the end. I could manage the advantage but in the last two laps I felt every drop of energy leave me, luckily it was the last lap because I didn’t have anything left. It was my first time here in Portimão and I’m happy to get a win again after more than two months.”
“This morning we tried a new and different electronics set-up, which gave me a good feeling. In the short race it was important to get a good starting position for the final long race, so fourth position was not bad. In the final race I followed Johnny and Bautista and after ten laps the tyre had a big drop. I know all the riders had the same but I am happy because again I got on the podium.”
“Yesterday I was a bit frustrated because a lack of grip in the latter stages meant I couldn’t really race, but it was the complete opposite today, with two really good races. The battle with Leon Haslam in Race 2 was fantastic and really good fun. He was struggling with the front and I was struggling more with the rear, so while he could get the run on me, he couldn’t get the bike stopped, which made for a really close race. To get a third and a fourth today, at a track where I’ve struggled a bit in the past when it’s hot, is fantastic. Good racing, I really enjoyed it and now I’m looking forward to Magny-Cours.”
“It was a good fight in the final race and I felt I should have got Alex Lowes, as I had more grip than him at the end. That said, from half distance I sort of lost the front grip on the right side, a little bit but I felt comfortable behind Johnny and Toprak. After about nine laps I lost my advantage with the front so I dropped off the pace quite a lot which put me in a battle with Alex. I was managing the front but I got in a bit of a scuffle with van der Mark, which lost me the tow. I managed to bridge that gap quite quickly but I was suffering just to get the thing to stop. I tried to pass several times into turn one. We made a lot of steps for that race with the bike balance but I am a little bit disappointed because I felt again we had the pace to go with the podium guys, especially in the first half, but just a few little niggles and mistakes just knocked me out of it. My pace in the Superpole race should have got me a better result.”
“After yesterday’s good result, we made a set-up change to try and improve even more, but it didn’t work the way we expected. Obviously starting from P14 also means it’s pretty hard work from there and for me the race was tough. The initial pace was not so bad even though I struggled in the early laps a little bit, then just when I thought I could make an impact on the race I started encountering some problems with the gear shifter and it wouldn’t let me ride in the right way. The podium here in Portimão was good, but I’m disappointed with the way things turned out today. Overall the weekend has given me optimism going forward and it just proves we’ve got a pretty good competitive window now, even on tracks that are usually unfavourable for us.”
Michael van der Mark
“The Superpole race wasn’t easy, but our goal was to improve the feeling with the bike and secure a better grid position for Race 2 and we achieved that. We made a small change to the set up ahead of Race 2 and, as a result, I struggled a lot more than yesterday, unfortunately. Yesterday I could ride the bike exactly how I wanted, but today I simply didn’t have a good feeling from the start and wasn’t able to maintain a consistent pace. I lost a lot of time, which is a shame, but we know where we need to improve and I’m confident we’ll be back at the front in Magny-Cours, which is a track I really like.”
“It was a hard day yesterday for me, as I made a mistake in qualifying and that had a huge impact on the weekend as a whole. In the Superpole race, the only goal was top nine to improve my grid position for Race 2 and I managed that, despite dropping back to 18th from the start. Race 2 was okay, other than another bad start which is something we need to work on, but I managed to come back. I lost a lot of time, around three seconds, behind Tom Sykes and that meant once I’d managed to pass him, I had a big gap to Michael van der Mark ahead of me. But I managed to close the gap without killing the tyre, which is where the race simulations we did at the test paid off, and I eventually passed him for sixth. I’m happy with the result; the guys worked really hard after my mistake yesterday, so big thanks to them. We enjoyed a strong weekend and we showed that we’re getting closer and closer to the podium.”
“It has been a bit difficult and obviously in race conditions we saw that we have some more work to do. Today we had some quite extreme race conditions and as a result collected some good data. In the last race we made a few changes to the BMW S 1000 RR, which helped us to move forward and the race itself has given us a lot of information and a clear point where we are lacking and where to try and improve. Having said that, we certainly have some positives to take away from this weekend in terms of track performance. A big thanks to the whole of the BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team; we’ve had quite an intense few days testing here a few weeks back and here at the race weekend so credit to them, we will keep working and hopefully get to where we want to be in a few weeks’ time at Magny-Cours.”
“It’s been a difficult round, but a positive is that for Race 2 we found the best set-up that we’ve had here this weekend in Portimão. Even so, it was still a tough race. My problem is clear, but finding a solution has so far proved tricky, despite the hard work of Yamaha and my team. I need a better start, because this is always better, but I also need to be more consistent in the race. It was really hard for me to use the same line every lap and I was working the tyre really hard. When the front grip dropped down then I was struggling a lot today. In the end I think everyone was struggling for rear grip, but we know we still have some work to do ahead of the next race in Magny-Cours.”
“From the first lap in Race 2 this afternoon I had a big problem with the rear of the bike sliding around and I wasn’t able to stay with the second group. We don’t know what the cause was, because I felt pretty good in the Superpole race this morning and I had a good race. This afternoon I managed to finish top-ten but my expectations after this morning were much higher. But it was a weekend without a crash, my self-confidence is back, and I was happy with both Race 1 and the Superpole race. Race 2 this afternoon I felt much stronger in myself than was reflected in the result.”
“We tried a little modification in the warm up. It felt positive but we knew that we should not be fooled since in the cooler mornings the grip is always better and our bike works really well then. Unfortunately, we struggle more and more the warmer it gets. We were able to use the soft tyre in the Superpole race but I finished only 14th so it was not a good race. For the second race, we made another change and the feeling was great. The start was good, but maybe I was a bit too cautious in the first two corners and lost a few places. But then I was able to set good lap times and keep in touch with the group but I just could not get past Michael Ruben Rinaldi. We are still lacking a bit of acceleration and power.”
“I’m not satisfied with my results in today’s races. I lost too much time behind other riders over the first laps and ultimately my pace was not competitive enough. I wanted to do better. Generally speaking, the weekend was a good and exciting experience even if I’m sorry Leon is still recovering from his surgery. The three-race format is tough, but it was good to pair with Ryuichi again, and everything ran smoothly in the garage. I wish to thank the team for all their hard work”.
“Today we were able to find better balance in terms of the bike set-up and this meant that we were able to use a softer front tyre spec with respect to our usual choice. That improved both my feeling with the front and my general confidence on the bike. I’m sorry that results are still far from good, but I’ll keep working hard with my team and trying my best to do better. I really enjoyed sharing the garage with Takumi this weekend, we get along very well but it will be good to have Leon back at the next round”.
WorldSBK Results/Championship Standings