2014 Portimão World Superbike roundup: Rain Flavours Races
Rain is the great leveller, with some bikes that lack power or traction suddenly being just as rideable as the ones at the sharper end. Suddenly, being on a Fireblade or a GSXR isn't the handicap it would otherwise be, and the Panigale looks like a contender. It won't put the Evo bikes to the front, but if you're in the top ten, having the right bike is suddenly no longer as important.
Rain can let the wet weather specialists shine, but it's hard to find a rider that's not fast in the rain, with the last two years throwing enough moisture at the field that the stalwarts all have swimming badges. Chaz Davies, for instance, had very little wet race experience having spent his formative Superbike years in the US where a wet race is a serious anomaly as opposed to a European inevitability, has now raced as many wet races as most of the field.
The first race had a mild shower in the middle while the second was properly wet, continuing on from the rain that landed during the World Supersport race. The lack of wet testing meant that all the riders had to rely on standard wet settings and guesswork. Those with the best settings and pace were the Aprilias, but Sylvain Guintoli's Marco Melandri-like pass on Marco Melandri cut their charge short and left Jonathan Rea, leading from turn one, lap one to the flag, unchallenged. Rea's victory was his fourth of the year, second only to Tom Sykes with seven wins. Rea led in the rain, putting him in the unenviable canary position as he alone probed the severity of the conditions, but as they didn't get worse, he was able to manage his race in the enviable spray-free lead.
Ducati, with two bikes on the podium in race two could well be celebrating something that was only theirs through a cruel twist of fate for their Italian rivals. Davide Giugliano has lacked consistency throughout the year, with three DNFs, and is still hunting a win, but his second podium of the year, along with Davies's third, will put the team in the right mood heading to a track they love. Those who subscribe to the myth of momentum in sports will look favourably at their chances of a first win.
The rain didn't suit the Kawasakis, unusually. While they were perfectly tempered for the mixed conditions of race one, Tom Sykes suffered in race two and Loris Baz wasn't able to bring the wet weather performance we are used to from him. Kawasaki could have done with some wet setup time.
It was left to Alex Lowes to recover Suzuki's Sunday. Eugene Laverty couldn't build on his excellent free practice performances and the bike in the rain didn't give him any confidence. Top four in dry sessions won't help you if you daren't ride it in the rain.
The immediate trip to Laguna Seca in California leaves very little time to celebrate or wallow, and it's a short, undulating track without long straights that could suit the Honda, but Jonathan Rea has never raced there before.