Jonathan Rea maintained his 100% record to start the 2017 WorldSBK season, and in doing so the Northern Irishman became the first rider since Neil Hodgson in 2003 to open his campaign with four consecutive victories.
The Northern Irishman has made the Chang International Circuit his own over the course of the last three years and this weekend was no exception. A dominant lights to flag victory on Saturday was followed by a tremendous opening lap in Race 2 that saw him slice through the field to be in second position by the end of the opening tour but Rea said afterwards that he was taking nothing for granted as he stalked Marco Melandri.
“This is my best ever start to the season,” said Rea. “I’m feeling good with the bike but I was so nervous about the ninth place start to be honest because it is so hard to overtake on this track , especially with the speed of the Ducatis. and Melandri is so hard to pass. I’m really lucky this weekend that I had sector three pretty dialed and as soon as I got into something there, and by T4 I put my head down and managed to pass Marco after three or four laps. This is a massive thanks to all my team, all my mechanics, its been a hot weekend and they've been working relentlessly so these race wins are for them.”
While Rea was thrilled with his race his chief title rival, Chaz Davies, was in recovery mode to get through the pack after a crash while chasing Melandri for the lead on the second lap. The Welshman said that “basically I was a little bit hot and I tried to take the outside line but I couldn't recover the grip on the rear. I was trying to save the slide but in the position I was in the bike basically switches off and it's bouncing on the rear and you're left with a choice of riding it out or standing the bike up. I felt that if I stood up that I could have been high-sided but I just couldn't save it and I low-sided.”
A red flag due to a crash for Lorenzo Savadori gave Davies a second bite of the cherry and he managed to fight through from 19th to tenth at the opening corner. The Ducati rider struggled with throttle connection following the restart and said that immediately he knew that “it would be a long day.” That long day was rewarded with a top six finish and while he falls 30 points behind Rea he is still closer to the title lead after two rounds than in the past.
The next round of WorldSBK will be at Aragon in three weeks time and Davies, who has won five times at the Spanish circuit, will look to claw back some of the points to the championship leader.
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