World Superbike's penultimate race of 2018 took place under the floodlights of Losail, Qatar. The sun's departure gave the track a drop in temperature down to 30ºC. Jake Smrz missed out this weekend, leaving just eighteen bikes to contest the win over seventeen laps.
As the lights went out, Tom Sykes in pole position lifted his front wheel, letting Jonathan Rea lead into turn one followed by Alex Lowes, but Sykes took second place off the Yamaha into turn two as he had the inside line after holding the outside line around turn one. With the Kawasakis in the lead, they were both quicker in the early sectors of the lap and pressed their advantage.
At the start of lap two, Tom Sykes overcooked turn one, but it wasn't a problem as behind him Eugene Laverty took third place off Alex Lowes and the pair were too busy dealing with each other to hamper Sykes. As the lap went on, Rea set the fastest lap, breaking free from Sykes, Laverty and Lowes. Behind the front four, Xavi Fores was the leading Ducati, ahead of Marco Melandri who was unable to use his bike's strengths to pass Fores as Melandri's Ducati was almost identical to Fores's customer machine.
On lap four, Fores closed up to the battle for second, but a lap later, the leading riders broke away and everything settled into its rhythm. By the seventh lap, Jonathan Rea was over a second clear of Tom Sykes who himself had a gap of over a second from the tight-knit pairing of Eugene Laverty and Alex Lowes. The Xavi Fores and Marco Melandri battle was a further second and a bit behind Lowes. Lowes briefly held third place, but Laverty's power down the straight meant Lowes only held third place until turn one of lap nine.
The race didn't change much until Loris Baz woke up and became the fastest man on track in tenth place, catching the battle for seventh place between Chaz Davies and Michael van der Mark on lap sixteen of seventeen. At turn six, van der Mark missed a pass on Chaz Davies and Loris Baz wasted no time getting past him and on to hounding Chaz Davies. At turn twelve, Baz wedged himself underneath Davies and made a clean but hard pass to take seventh from him. Van der Mark took care of Davies shortly after, pushing the man in second in the championship down to ninth place.
On the last lap, the action focussed on the fight for third place, with both Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes dropping in pace a little in the two leading places, but with enough of a gap around them to be quite save in the top two spots.
At turn four, Alex Lowes saw that Eugene Laverty was having an issue with his front tyre not being what it was, and took third place off him, only to have Laverty take it back at turn six. The two kept up their fight until turn twelve, where Lowes made the same move on Laverty that Baz made on Davies, only making it look safer by starting the pass earlier. Laverty knew that his bike was faster, and that all he had to do was stay on Lowes' tail until the kilometre long straight, the longest of the year. Coming into the last corner, positioned where he needed to be, Laverty applied the power only to lose the front wheel mid-corner. Bonkers-quick reactions allowed Laverty to save the crash and get right back onto the power, but he'd lost his opportunity and he had to settle for fourth place behind a jubilant Alex Lowes. Marco Melandri took fifth place, after Xavi Fores dropped eight places on the last lap.
Jonathan Rea won the race ahead of Tom Sykes, with Alex Lowes rounding out the podium in third. Rea's seventeenth victory, his eleventh consecutive, puts him equal to Doug Polen's 1991 record of wins in the year, and Rea has one last chance tomorrow to beat the record.
With only one round left, Chaz Davies sits in second place in the championship, twenty three points clear of Michael van der Mark.
|1||1||J. REA||Kawasaki ZX-10RR|
|2||66||T. SYKES||Kawasaki ZX-10RR||1.424|
|3||22||A. LOWES||Yamaha YZF R1||3.705|
|4||50||E. LAVERTY||Aprilia RSV4 RF||4.723|
|5||33||M. MELANDRI||Ducati Panigale R||10.579|
|6||76||L. BAZ||BMW S 1000 RR||13.173|
|7||60||M. VAN DER MARK||Yamaha YZF R1||14.557|
|8||7||C. DAVIES||Ducati Panigale R||17.216|
|9||45||J. GAGNE||Honda CBR1000RR||17.277|
|10||54||T. RAZGATLIOGLU||Kawasaki ZX-10RR||18.179|
|11||32||L. SAVADORI||Aprilia RSV4 RF||24.924|
|12||36||L. MERCADO||Kawasaki ZX-10RR||30.183|
|13||12||X. FORES||Ducati Panigale R||34.931|
|14||40||R. RAMOS||Kawasaki ZX-10RR||46.851|
|15||16||G. RUIU||Kawasaki ZX-10RR||58.890|
|RET||17||77 M. SCHEIB||MV Agusta 1000 F4||9 Laps|
|RET||2||L. CAMIER||Honda CBR1000RR||10 Laps|