Press releases from the teams and series organizers after Sunday's races at Imola:
#ImolaWorldSBK Day 3 - Record-breaker Rea fights off Davies for Imola Double
Rea equals Carl Fogarty’s legendary win record in thrilling Race 2
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) on his way to making history in Italy
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) has won Race 2 at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola, equalling Carl Fogarty for the most wins in the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship in the process. Victory number 59 came after a stunning battle with Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), who fought off several attacks from the reigning champion before having to settle for second place.
The battle had been anticipated all weekend, but it was Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) who made the early move, flying out from the blocks and taking the lead ahead of Davies. The Welshman kept close behind however, finally making his move at Variante Bassa at the end of lap 3. By then, Rea had made it up to third, and a few bends later, at Tosa, passed Rinaldi and set up the fight.
For nine laps, it was cat-and-mouse game, with barely a tenth of a second separating the two. For several laps, Rea stalked Davies, creeping up and planning his pass. He fired the first shot at Tamburello on lap 10, going wide and allowing Davies back through by the straight. Shot two came at Tosa two laps later, and it couldn’t have been closer. Rea found the pace he needed around Tosa, but Davies took the inside line. The pair touched, Rea went wide, and the Ducati stayed in front.
It was third time lucky for Rea, however, one lap later, at the entry to Variante Alta. From there on, the fired-up reigning champion put on an incredible display, giving Davies no chance to even answer back, and increasing the lead to four seconds by the checkered flag.
Behind the flying duo was Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), completing an all-British duo for the first time this season. Sykes had a beautiful battle with Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team) throughout the race, finally managing to make it past the Spaniard, who finished fourth, with three laps to go.
Before that, Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) and Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team), who had been contending for that final podium place, came together on lap 10 around Rivazza. The pair collided and ended up on the gravel, neither man able to return.
Jordi Torres (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) scored his best result of the season with a scintillating fifth place finish, after starting on Row 4. One place behind him on the grid and finally at the flag, Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) came in sixth, equalling his best Imola result.
Rinaldi also equalled his Race 1 result in seventh. The Italian was unable to keep up his initial pace, but comes out of the Pata Italian Round with his best return over two races in WorldSBK. He beat Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) to the flag, also matching his best WorldSBK result.
In ninth, Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) made his return from injury a successful one. Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura), closed the top ten, with one of his best performances of the season.
P1 - Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK)
"I'd forgotten all about the win record! Honestly I felt really good, a lot better than yesterday. The temperature crept up and I was able to feel good on the bike, its incredible as we've taken a full set. I've been fastest in every session from free practice, to Superpole and with two race wins it's a perfect weekend. We've made a huge step here since last year, and I just want to say thanks to Pere all the boys!"
P2 - Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati)
"I was disappointed not to continue our form from the last couple of years here, but with a crowd like this its hard to be disappointed. It's a pleasure to be here, it could have been the opposite, I had some hairy moments, I just wasn't feeling it with the bike at all and it was just a battle from beginning to end. When I smoothed it up the lap time didn't come and when I pushed it didn't come but anyway, 20 points, not so bad and congrats to Jonny!"
P3 - Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK)
"There's not much to say, we made a small change but struggled to get the bike into the corner's, and then it was a big battle. I couldn't get into the turn and be able to utilise the power from the Superbike. It took me a long time, and by the end of the race I could just get my head around how the bike was working, and we made the best out of a bad situation."
#ImolaWorldSBK at Autodromo Internazionale Enzo d Dino Ferrari di Imola: Race 2
1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK)
2. Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati) +4.019
3. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +9.530
Record Equalling Double For Rea As Sykes Podiums
In taking his first double race win of the season at Imola today Jonathan Rea (KRT) made WorldSBK history by equalling the all-time record of 59 career race wins. He now shares that honour with WorldSBK legend Carl Fogarty. Tom Sykes (KRT) finished a fighting third in race two, after sharing a third row starting position with Rea.
After a masterful race one win for Rea from pole position on Saturday, Sunday’s 19-lap race delivered a victory of a different kind. Starting from ninth, and not getting away as cleanly as his team-mate Sykes, Rea had to put in several passes before getting into the slipstream of early leader Chaz Davies.
Rea was in second place after four laps, and sat behind Davies for much of the race before deciding to make a final pass into the Variante Alta, on lap 13. Rea put in two blistering laps with clear track ahead of him and eventually won by a margin of 4.019 seconds. He has now won half for the races in 2018, but this is the first time has been able to win the second race of any weekend, rather than the first.
He now has the chance to become the stand-alone record holder for race wins at the next round, at his home circuit of Donington.
For Tom Sykes a less than perfect front end feel in race two held him back down the order for some time, even after he had made a strong launch from his seventh place grid position.
As some other riders fell Sykes used all his experience to catch and pass Xavi Fores with three laps to go, and took his fourth podium of the 2018 season. In doing so he has moved up to third in the championship rankings.
Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) just missed out on a point after running off track late in the race, being classified 16th.
In the championship standings, after five of 13 rounds, Rea leads Davies by 47 points, 209 to 162, with Sykes now third on 137.
Jonathan Rea, stated: “We got it done and it was probably the best race win of the season. Coming from ninth on the grid, it was so difficult. I was not so confident I could win today. In fact, it was Fabien Foret, who kept talking me round. I think I was over-thinking the first lap a lot - and my track position - coming from the outside of row three. I lost places in the first corner but eventually I was able to stick in some passes. I wasted no time so when I arrived with Chaz I was able to relax a little bit behind him and understand where I could pass him. I tried two or three times, but he was determined to come back. The final time I made it through, into the Variante Alta, it was time to put my head down, set two clean laps and make a gap. It was really nice to equal the record total of race wins, and with a long season left I feel confident that I can extend my win tally, and that is super-nice.”
Tom Sykes, stated: “It is positive that I am now third in the championship, so we are coming back. We had a difficult feeling with the front of the bike today and it was not easy to do what I wanted on the entry to corners. That meant I suffered with rear traction on the exits, so it was difficult for me to manage the race. I kept pushing and I could see the guys in front of me had better overall speed but, strategically, I tried to come back at them and slowly, slowly got there. Michael van der Mark made a mistake and he and Marco Melandri were out of the race and that made it easier for me to manage. On a ‘bad’ day I was able to take a podium so I have to be happy for this.”
Davies 2nd in Race 2 at Imola, Melandri forced to retire due to a contact
After taking third place with Melandri in Race 1, the Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team took another podium at Imola (Italy) with Chaz Davies. The Welshman, who started from pole position after finishing Race 1 in fourth position, led the race for 10 laps while pulling away with Rea to finish second in front of the ducatisti fans who filled the stands.
Melandri was instead forced to retire due to an accident during lap 8. The Italian was in fourth position and well within podium contention when he was unfortunately hit by another rider under braking, a contact that fortunately didn't result in any injuries but forced him to retire.
Michael Ruben Rinaldi enjoyed a memorable start, leading the race for the first two laps, then he faced a small drop in pace to finish in seventh position once again with the Aruba.it Racing - Junior Team. After five rounds, Davies (162 points) and Melandri (131 points) are respectively second and fourth in the championship, while Rinaldi is twelfth. The Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team and the Aruba.it Racing - Junior Team will resume action at Donington (U.K.) for the fifth round of the WorldSBK Championship, scheduled for May 25-27.
Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati #7) – 2nd
"We did our best today but unfortunately it wasn't enough. The temperatures were higher and I didn't have much feeling, so I was struggling a bit both in corner entry and acceleration. I thought I'd try and go with Rea but realistically I knew it would have been too risky. Twenty points is the best we could do today. It's very important for me to be on the podium at Imola, Ducati is very close and there are so many fans supporting us. We would have liked to give them an even better result, but we still had fun."
Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati #33) – DNF
"It wasn't our lucky day, because during WUP we managed to make another step forward with the setup, which allowed us to be a bit more consistent and fast during the race. Unfortunately, we still struggle under braking, especially with a full tank, and this penalizes us while trying to overtake. The podium was well within our reach, but unfortunately VD Mark hit me under braking and my race couldn't go on. Looking ahead, Donington is a track I really enjoy and our bike keeps improving, so we can aim high even though we need to be faster on new tires."
Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing - Junior Team #21) – 7th
"I'm quite happy with this round, which finished with two seventh places and the satisfaction to have led the race for two laps. We have the potential to do better, but we still lack a bit of experience. The important thing is to keep improving, and we'll try to do that in Donington as well, another track that I really like."
Stefano Cecconi, CEO Aruba and Team Principal
"To race at Imola is always a great pleasure. Our riders gave everything they had to bring home a win, but unfortunately this time it wasn't possible. We need to keep working hard to allow them to challenge for the win in any condition. Anyway, we'll have a chance to bounce back soon at Donington."
Pata Yamaha Fights Forward as Lowes Charges to Sixth in Race 2 at Imola
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team's Alex Lowes mounted a superb charge through the field in Race 2 at Imola on Sunday at Round 5 of the 2018 FIM Motul Superbike World Championship. The British rider lined up 12th on the grid and when the lights went out immediately showed podium pace and was on a charge before he ran off track. Recovering and getting straight back into his rhythm to do it all again, Lowes blazed his way to a sixth-place finish to mirror his teammate's result from Race 1. Michael van der Mark started from the front row and was battling in the podium group when he made a small mistake and crashed out of the race on lap 9, recording his first DNF of 2018.
It was another glorious day at a hot and humid Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari with hardly a cloud in the sky and track temperatures reaching 48°C on Sunday afternoon for Race 2. It would turn out to be a case of déjà vu for the Pata Yamaha team as, for the second race in succession, one of their riders would storm his way through the field from 12th on the grid to cross the line sixth.
This time it was Lowes who lined up on the fourth row of the grid after he brought his R1 home in tenth during Race 1. The 27-year-old wasted no time in getting down to business when the race started and had blasted his way up to eighth by the end of lap 2. He was demonstrating podium pace and had closed right up to the back wheel of Tom Sykes at the end of lap 3 when he made a small mistake and missed his braking marker into the Variante Alta chicane, running wide and dropping back down to 13th.
Undeterred, Lowes immediately got his head down and resumed his charge. By lap 9, he was up to seventh place and had set his sights on the top six, while also riding as hard as he could to keep wildcard Leon Haslam, who was nipping at his heels, at bay. He battled all the way to the chequered flag, maintaining his consistent pace to cross the line in sixth and collect 10 points which, when added to the six he secured in Race 1, means he leaves Assen occupying seventh in the overall standings with 92 points, now just 21 points behind his teammate. Up next is Lowes', and the team's, home round at Donington Park and the 2013 British Superbike Champion cannot wait to get back to racing at his local track, also one that traditionally suits the characteristics of the Pata Yamaha R1 more than the Imola layout.
Van der Mark started Race 2 from the front row after he had pulled off an almost identical feat to Lowes in Race 1, crossing the line in sixth after lining up 12th on the grid. When Race 2 started, the 25-year-old Dutch rider got a good initial drive off the line but was having some issues in trying to get his Pata Yamaha R1 stopped for the tight chicanes due to a lack of front-end grip. Riding around this problem, he managed to stick with the group battling for the podium in the opening laps and then, as is his trademark, his pace started to improve as the laps ticked off. He recorded his fastest time on lap seven and by that stage was in fifth place and closing down Marco Melandri ahead of him.
Unfortunately, while chasing Melandri on lap 9 into Turn 18, he just could not get his R1 stopped in time and, despite his best efforts to avoid a crash, ended up making contact with Melandri and both riders went down, luckily escaping unhurt. Immediately, he made his way over to Melandri in the gravel trap to apologise and then went straight to the Italian's garage to apologise to his team, admitting he was at fault. Disappointed to have missed out on the chance to fight for the podium and some vital championship points, van der Mark still leaves Imola happy with the progress made on his Pata Yamaha R1 and determined to bounce back at Donington Park. His first DNF of the season sees him drop to sixth in the overall standings with 113 points, just 11 points behind Xavi Forés in fifth.
After a weekend of mixed results but buoyed by the improvement shown at, traditionally, one of the toughest tracks for the R1, the Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team head to their home round at Donington Park in the UK on the 25th-27th May full of confidence. Check out the Race 2 results from Imola.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - 6th +16.162s
"I am happy with P6 and my pace, especially considering where I started and the mistake on lap 3. Obviously, for whatever reason, yesterday the race was very difficult for me and I didn't have the pace I had enjoyed in all the other sessions so, I was really frustrated but today was good. I felt really good early on and felt like I could go forward. I was a few places behind Michael but catching up quite quickly, but I got a little bit too deep at the chicane and made a mistake, so to get sixth with a runoff and after being 12th on the grid at a very difficult track to pass - I am quite happy. The guys did a good job with the bike, I am still not 100% comfortable on corner exit but I did my best in both races and sometimes that's not as good as other weekends but I am looking forward to Donington now. A massive thank you to all the guys, especially Andrew and Christophe who, alongside Yamaha's engineers, have worked so hard on the bike and the electronics. We just need to keep chipping away because there is a lot of potential."
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - DNF
"I had quite a good start, especially the first part but the second phase wasn't that good and I was struggling a bit, but then I found a good pace. Jonny and Chaz pulled away and Marco passed me and then, with Marco, we started to chase down Forés and the pace was improving. To be honest, I was struggling in the race to stop the bike as the front grip didn't feel as good as yesterday so a few times I had a warning and ran wide. Coming down the hill into Turn 18, I was behind Marco and I couldn't stop the bike and I dived to the inside to try and avoid hitting him but we were unlucky. I am sorry to Marco and his team to have made him crash out of his home race, we both had a good pace and could have fought for the podium, so I am sorry. Hopefully, at the next round at Donington, we can get some great results for the team's home round."
Paul Denning - Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team Principal
"Both our guys had very exciting Sunday races here in Imola and showed huge promise but unfortunately for Michael, his mistake when fighting with the podium group and the collision with Marco put an end to an extremely positive performance and a very positive weekend at such a challenging circuit. Obviously, we hope that Marco is physically okay and behalf of everyone in the team we would like to apologise for ending his race. Nonetheless, Michael can leave Imola with his head held high, we have made big steps at this circuit compared to past years and the fact that he crashed when fighting for the podium shows significant progress. Alex, by his own admission, really struggled yesterday. We made some changes to the bike today and he absolutely came out swinging - his pace at the start of the race was so much faster than we expected! He was able to make very precise passes and battle his way through to the front group but unfortunately, on the entry to the Variante Alta chicane he got sucked in behind Sykes, missed his braking point and that cost us the chance to fight for the podium, which is where Sykes finished and, of course, Alex was on his back wheel at that point. From there it was a great recovery and a very strong ride. The R1 wasn't at its best here at Imola but we have made good improvements and are very excited about getting to Donington and Brno where the more open character of the racetrack will really suit the Yamaha's natural abilities."
Gagne retires from Imola Race 2 in weekend to forget for the Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team
Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, Italy
The Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team ended their Imola WorldSBK weekend with a retirement from Jake Gagne in Race 2 as the team endured a disappointing visit to the fabled Italian circuit.
After Gagne finished in P16 in Race 1 yesterday, the signs were looking good for an improved performance today as the American rider set the twelfth quickest time in this morning’s Warm Up session following a setting change to the bike overnight. Lining up in P18 on the grid, Gagne hoped to get a good start but a poor getaway caused his clutch to overheat, ruining his chance of making up places in the opening phase of the race.
Gagne pressed on valiantly, however five laps into the race his clutch issue became terminal with the rider returning to the pits and retiring for his first DNF of the season. After five rounds Gagne sits in eighteenth place in the championship standings with 17 points.
The Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team will now regroup and head to Donington Park in the UK in two weeks for round six of the 2018 FIM World Superbike Championship.
Jake Gagne 45
The day started really well, we made some good improvements with the bike and my riding style for Warm Up and I was able to set a really strong pace, much closer to the top guys than yesterday. I felt like I was on for a good race result, but unfortunately at the start I made a mistake and I slipped the clutch a lot which lost me some time and then during the first lap I could tell something wasn't right with the clutch. I was hoping after a couple of laps the clutch would recover but it continued to get worse so I had to retire. It's a real shame, especially given how strong I was in Warm Up but I've still learned a lot this weekend and we'll try turn it around in Donington.
- Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team
The team worked really well to improve the setting for Jake after Race 1 yesterday and his pace in warm up was his best of the weekend so we were confident of a much improved result. Unfortunately a small mistake by Jake at the start of the race meant his clutch overheated and although he battled on, after 5 laps he had to retire. It wasn't the result we deserved but these things happen in racing so we'll learn from this experience and get ready for Donington in a couple of weeks.
A complicated weekend for Gulf Althea BMW at Imola
Imola (Italy), Sunday 13 May 2018
On track at Imola for round 5 of the Superbike World Championship, the Gulf Althea BMW Racing Team and rider Loris Baz crossed the line eleventh in the second SBK race while, in the Superstock 1000 category, an injured but courageous Alessandro Delbianco concluded his race in ninth position.
Superbike - Race 2 – Baz, thirteenth off the line, struggled to find pace in the first part of the race, in a similar way to yesterday. Fifteenth through the opening laps, he made up three positions during the central phase. Lapping, in the later stages, with times very similar to those of the riders immediately ahead of him, the Frenchman could not improve any further, taking the chequered flag in eleventh position.
STK1000 - Race – from the front row of the grid, Alessandro found himself battling with both his rivals and his painful shoulder, having fractured it just one week ago during testing. He oscillated between second and fourth position as far as the mid-race point, after which he gradually lost ground, struggling to maintain his earlier pace due to the physical effort required to fight. Gritting his teeth, Delbianco did well to conclude the race, crossing the line in ninth position.
After round five of the WorldSBK, Baz is now tenth in the general standings with 52 points. Delbianco also places tenth in the Stock1000 championship, with 15 points.
“In the end, the race was fairly similar to yesterday’s. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough grip and there’s too much wheelieing. The only difference today, compared to yesterday, is that we were able to maintain a slightly faster and more consistent pace for the duration of the race. It's not the result we were hoping for, but I can say I gave it my all again today. Now we’ll work on preparing as best we can for the next round at Donington.”
“A tough weekend, but I’m pleased anyway. It’s the third race and the third time we’re battling at the front. It’s all gone to plan really, and it was just a pity that my shoulder didn’t hold up until the end of the race. We had great potential and who knows what we could have done today if I’d been fully fit. So I’m pleased, I think we’ve consolidated our work and the bike feels increasingly “mine”. Now I’ll work on my physical condition in the coming days, so that I can come back strong at Donington.”
Triple M Honda World Superbike Team collect valuable points In Italy
Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, Italy
After competing in only its fifth WorldSBK round this weekend at Imola, the Triple M Honda World Superbike team saw their American rider PJ Jacobsen qualify as the top Honda rider in Superpole on Saturday and then score a 14th place finish in race two on Sunday.
On what appeared to be a challenging layout for all the Honda competitors around the classic 4.936km long circuit, Triple M and Jacobsen made use of experience gained during a recent test session at Brno in the Czech Republic. This helped them to become the highest ranked Honda squad in Superpole, with PJ qualifying 17th on the grid.
A technical issue prevented PJ from competing in race one on Saturday, but a determined ride in race two saw Jacobsen collect more championship points for 14th place.
Down in 19th in the first few laps of race two, PJ made up ground and benefited from other riders’ misfortunes as he moved his way up to his final finishing position of 14th. He was Honda’s only points scorer this weekend. After five of 13 rounds, PJ is now ranked 17th overall, with 17 points to his credit.
Hot and humid conditions graced the Imola race weekend, with a marginally warmer track surface being evident in race two, during which PJ had his first chance to see how his machine and tyre selections would work in the heat of battle.
The next WorldSBK venue for the Triple M Honda World Superbike Team will be Donington Park in the UK, with race days on 26 and 27 May. PJ has a season of experience riding in the BSB championship, in 2013, and will be looking forward to challenging the most experienced Superbike riders and teams in the world once again, at a track he knows well.
PJ Jacobsen 99
Imola is a pretty good track for me and I like this place a lot, but it was a little bit of a difficult weekend. We were the first Honda team in qualifying, which is a positive thing. We just did not get to start race one, which was the problem. Then again, this team is brand new and everybody has been working hard the first time here with the Honda. We have to keep looking at things positively, even if sometimes it does not look that good on paper. In the end we will arrive, so we just need to keep working hard. We got in the points in race two so that is pretty positive, and we will just keep chipping away
- Triple M Honda World Superbike Team
This was a very difficult track and also all the Hondas seemed to struggle a little over the weekend here. We got two points today which were the maximum from Honda this weekend. Yesterday we had a small issue which did not allow us to take part, so the Sunday race was actually race one for us this weekend. It is what it is, but we struggled a little bit and let us wait and see how it is in the next race in the UK.
WorldSSP: Cluzel returns to top with electric Imola win
Distance between first and fifth down to 12 points after fantastic race 5
Jules Cluzel (NRT) cruised to the race in a tough race
It took Jules Cluzel (NRT) a year and a half to find his way back to the top before Assen. For win number 2, it has taken just 21 days, as the French rider won his second consecutive race of the 2018 FIM Supersport World Championship season. The Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola witnessed a thrilling fifth race of the year, with Italian pair Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) and Raffaele De Rosa (MV Agusta Reparto Corse by Vamag) in second and third.
Things got emotional early at Imola. Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing), who was third on the grid, decided at the last moment to not take part in what was supposed to be his final race. The WorldSSP legend climbed on his Kawasaki ZX-6R one last time, led the field one lap around the track, and headed into the pits. A final bow, on his terms, from an inimitable champion.
Of course, there was still a race left at Imola – and perhaps as a tribute to Kenan’s career, it was an electric, drama-filled affair. Right from the start, five riders shot out ahead, with Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) protecting his lead from Cluzel and Caricasulo. The reigning champion defended brilliantly until lap 6, when a slip at Rivazza left him tumbling down to 20th.
The now-front four led with blistering pace, tenths of a second amongst themselves but double figures with the rest. Caricasulo, fighting to hang on after a mistake in lap 7, managed to overtake Sandro Cortese (Kallio Racing) and De Rosa in the closing stages, but Cluzel proved to be just that inch too fast, racing ahead and meeting the checkered flag, with the Italian in second.
De Rosa managed to put his MV Agusta onto the podium for the second race in a row. The rider in red has grown into the championship, and adds another name to an already stacked front-end. Cortese, meanwhile, finished fourth, just 0.084 seconds off.
Behind the leading four, Randy Krummenacher (BARDAHL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team) managed to climb through from 11th on the grid and becomes the new championship leader, on 81 points. Anthony West (EAB antwest Racing) made a triumphant return from injury with sixth place, while Mahias, in full-damage limitation mode, was beaten to seventh by Niki Tuuli (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda) by just one thousandth of a second. The Frenchman relinquishes his championship lead, but remains just two points behind Krummenacher. Most importantly, however, the distance between first and fifth is now down to just 12 points.
Completing the top ten, Luke Stapleford (Profile Racing) came in ninth, scoring valuable points to keep him in touching distance with the front riders, while Hikari Okubo (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) finished the race in tenth.
P1 - Jules Cluzel (NRT)
"It was very difficult race, because I was expecting to go faster. Mahias passed me and was faster, but he made a mistake so I tried to keep the best pace without making any mistakes. Then when Caricasulo was in the lead, he also made a mistake and i just tried to keep my ace and make no mistakes. My plan was to push the most on the last lap and try to escape with no one behind me!"
#ImolaWorldSBK WorldSSP at Autodromo Internazionale Enzo d Dino Ferrari di Imola- Race
1. Jules Cluzel (NRT)
2. Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) +0.363
3. Rafaelle de Rosa (MV Agusta Reparto Corse by Vamag) +0.906
Warm Send-Off For Sofuoglu On His Final Weekend
Having qualified third for what was scheduled to be his final WorldSSP race Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) finally elected not to ride today at Imola. The most successful WorldSSP rider of all time was given a warm and rousing send off after the race was completed, as he began his retirement from on-track life. His team-mate Hikari Okubo (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) secured a top ten finish at Imola, his best of the season since he joined Kawasaki, and is now 18th in the championship rankings.
A few minutes before he was due to race at Imola Sofuoglu, elected to not line up for what would have been the final contest of a long WorldSSP career. Realising he was not fit enough to truly compete in a full race, particularly starting from a front row grid position in front of almost 30 other riders, Kenan did not want to potentially affect the outcome of a championship fight he would no longer be part of.
Promising his family he would not be injured again, and not wanting to pull out mid-race in case the fans thought his retirement was caused by a technical problem, the statistically greatest-ever WorldSSP rider decided to do a sighting lap and retire in pit lane. In practice, despite his lack of race fitness, he achieved the same lap time as he had last year and decided to leave his competitive career on that note.
Sofuoglu’s career sign off, in his team’s home country of Italy, was the focus of incredible media and public attention, with even many of his old and current rivals attending a special send-off for him on Saturday the 12th of May, at the WorldSBK Paddock Show.
Kenan’s career-ending stats are untouchable by any other rider since the FIM World Championship class was instigated in the late 1990s. No other rider has come close to Sofuoglu’s five world championship crowns, three of which have been attained using Kawasaki machinery, and the two most recent with Kawasaki Puccetti Racing.
The lone official Kawasaki Puccetti rider in the race was 2018 signing Hikari Okubo, who finished tenth and scored six valuable championship points.
After some misfortune at previous rounds, Okubo rode as hard as he could while ensuring he completed the race, and the Japanese rider now heads to the next round armed with much greater understanding of his machine package over full race distance.
Donington Park, in the UK, will host the sixth round of the championship, with raceday on Sunday the 27th of May.
Kenan Sofuoglu stated: “Friday went well and on Saturday we took a front row Superpole position. It was a very great moment for me to be here. Dorna, Kawasaki and my team organised a very nice event yesterday. I felt that if I raced today what was the reason that I would start? I felt I was not really physically ready to do this race. If I crashed with some of the championship challengers, if something happened, it could be very bad. I would feel I had damaged someone’s championship. I was here for the show, not here for the goal, and I think the show was over. I came on to the grid, onto the front row, and said goodbye to everyone. I think this was the best decision to make. Honestly, this morning I did not know what I was going to do. I only decided not to race a few minutes before the start. My team were surprised but they respected what I wanted. I did not want to break a promise to my family. Thank you to everybody; thanks to Jonathan Rea, who came to my goodbye event at the Paddock Show, and my Turkish riders for the future, plus all my Turkish fans. I was happy to be here but this is not my decision to retire, my family and everyone that surrounded me persuaded me to retire. I am here to say goodbye to racing – and to say thank you to everybody.”
Hikari Okubo, stated: “I enjoy riding at this track but it was a hard race. In the previous rounds I have had some crashes and a technical problem, so I have not done a full race yet on my Kawasaki. So I did not know how the bike would feel over 17-laps. It almost feels like today was my first race of the season. I understood some things about the machine and set-up today so now I need to go to the next step. I finished inside the top ten and it was an important result today. We can do better step-by-step from now on.”
Ken Ondo, Head of Motorsport for Kawasaki Heavy Industries, stated: “It has been a great pleasure having Kenan working with us for many years and losing him is a great loss for Kawasaki.”
Steve Guttridge, Race Planning Manager, Kawasaki Motors Europe, stated: “It’s been fantastic to work with Kenan, he gives 100% every time. He has full motivation and he works with a great team; we will really miss him.”
Manuel Puccetti, Team Manager, stated: “This is a difficult moment for the team. In our very first season in 2015 we got the title. He asks 100% of the team and gives more than 100% in return.”
Fabien Foret, 2002 WorldSSP champion, stated “I have been lucky to know him well and he is a very good person. On the track, he gave me a very hard time because he never gave up. He was the best rider in Supersport for a very long time; probably the best rider ever and a very good person.”
Kenan Sofuoglu WorldSSP Statistics
World Champion 2007, 2010, 2012, 2015 & 2016
Career Race Wins: 43 (26 for Kawasaki)
Career Podiums: 85 (46 for Kawasaki)
Career Poles: 34 (22 for Kawasaki)
With Sofuoglu not riding at Imola in the race Anthony West (EAB antwest Racing Kawasaki) was the top ranked Kawasaki rider, in sixth. This was a remarkably determined performance as he had to have an operation to repair a broken right wrist, suffered in Assen just three weeks ago. He was also suffering the effect of a virus, but battled his way to his second top six of the season. He is now ninth in the championship standings, and top Kawasaki rider.
With Okubo tenth, ESS Rider, Rob Hartog (Team Hartog Against Cancer) was 11th, and again the best of all the riders who only compete at the European rounds. Niccola Morrentino Jr. (Renzi Corse Kawasaki) scored a point for 15th as a wildcard rider today.
Peter Sebestyen (SSP Hungary Team) was 17th today, Michael Canducci (Team GoEleven Kawasaki) 18th and Wayne Tessels (Chromeburner Wayne’s Racingteam MTM) 21st, one place ahead of Nacho Calero (Orelac Racing VerdNatura Kawasaki). Javier Ezequiel Iturrioz (Team GoEleven Kawasaki) was unable to start.
Local Hero Caricasulo Charges to the Podium in WorldSSP at Imola
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team's Federico Caricasulo secured his third podium of the season in his home race at Round 5 of the 2018 FIM Supersport World Championship in Imola. The 22-year-old Italian charged from fourth on the grid and was battling for the race win right until the chequered flag before crossing the line in second and missing out on the victory by just 0.363s. Reigning WorldSSP Champion, Lucas Mahias, started from pole and broke away in the early stages of the race before a small crash on lap 5 saw him re-join in 20th place. In a sensational fightback, he carved his way through the field to secure eighth at the line and limit the damage to his 2018 championship aspirations. European Supersport Cup rider Alfonso Coppola produced his best result of the season to finish in 19th as he continues to impress in his rookie WorldSSP season.
Caricasulo had waited all season to ride in front of the Italian fans at a hot and humid Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari with track temperatures rising to above 40°C for the race. Starting from fourth on the grid, the man from Ravenna had a good start and by lap 4 he was into second place and attempting to break away from the chasing group alongside his teammate Mahias. After Mahias' crash, he inherited the lead and had opened up a one-second gap to Jules Cluzel in second by lap 6 before a small mistake saw him run wide and drop back to fourth, almost 2 seconds behind Cluzel. Patiently he worked his way back into second as they started the final lap but try as he might, he could not find a way past Cluzel on and he crossed the line in second to record his third podium of the season, securing 20 championship points in the process. After this result, Caricasulo remains fifth in the championship standings but now has 60 points and has closed the gap to Randy Krummenacher at the top to just 12 points.
Mahias had timed it perfectly to secure his third pole position of the season on Saturday and when the lights went out for Sunday's race, he looked in ominous form, building his pace and taking Cluzel for the lead on lap 3. Showing sensational pace he set the fastest lap of the race on lap 4, a 1:52.529, to open up a gap of 1.4s over the chasing pack. Unfortunately, on the next lap he had a small crash at Turn 18 but luckily his GRT Yamaha R6 escaped unscathed and he was able to re-join the race, albeit in 20th place. Charging his way through the field, the 28-year-old French rider was able to limit the damage to his championship hopes by crossing the line in eighth and while he may have relinquished the lead in the standings to Krummenacher, he is only two points behind in second with 79 points.
For European Supersport Cup rider Alfonso Coppola, progression is the key in his rookie WorldSSP season after making the step up from the WorldSSP300 championship. Qualifying 23rd on the grid for Sunday's race, he did not have the best of starts and crossed the line in 28th at the end of the first lap. Focusing on his building his race pace, he steadily improved and showed his potential by improving to 19th position when he met the chequered flag, less than seven seconds off a points-scoring finish, highlighting the progress he has made in 2018 and he is now determined to pick up his first championship point at Donington Park.
The GRT Official Yamaha WorldSSP Team return to action for Round 6 of the 2018 WorldSSP Championship at Donington Park on the 25th-27th May.
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - 2nd - 1:53.589 +0.363s
"I am happy for the podium because a podium is always good! I am not that happy for the race, but I am happy for the championship as it is very close again - I am only 12 points behind the leader. My race was good, I pushed very hard to break away at the front with Lucas but we both made a little mistake. In the second part of the race I managed to catch back up with the leading group and was in P2, but when I tried to overtake Jules Cluzel, it was impossible because he had better speed than me out of the corners and I couldn't do anything without taking too many risks. I am very excited for Donington as I feel that I and my team are very strong now, we just need to work on our acceleration when exiting a corner. My team did an incredible job all weekend, without making a single mistake and the championship is now a lot closer and more interesting!"
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - 8th +16.200s
"The result was not perfect but I will take the positives from today. I started on pole, pushed hard at the front, opened up a big gap and set the fastest lap of the race. Sure, I crashed, but this can happen in a race. When you are pushing on the limit it is very easy to do but again, taking the positives I was able to get back and push hard and fight back to finish in eighth. This was good for the championship and despite this result, I am still second in the standings. It is not the time for negatives, we must focus on the fact I was strong and fast, I felt good on the bike and I am already focusing on the next race at Donington."
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Junior Team - 19th +46.884s
"This weekend has been good! We made a big step and I feel confident that I can go to Donington and hit the ground running to be fast from the first practice session, which is very important in WorldSSP. I am happy with the progress we have made this weekend as we closed the gap to the guys at the front and it was my first home race in WorldSSP. We also managed to get within five seconds of the points and, if I hadn't made a bad start, I would have been a lot closer. I will work on trying to improve my starts before the next round to help close the gap to the points and I am already focused on trying to be as fast as I can at Donington."
GRT Yamaha Offical WorldSSP Team Manager
"Our home round can always be difficult as there are more fans and the expectations are higher. Lucas pushed a lot after a great start and his race pace was very good. His aim was to open up a good gap and then try and manage the race until the end but he pushed a little bit too much and had a small crash. His recovery was incredible and he limited the damage to the championship standings. Federico and the whole of his team did an amazing job. It is always hard for a rider to perform at his home round, you have lots more supporters and a lot of pressure on you, especially in Italy. He managed to stay focused and he showed just how good a rider he is. Alfonso did not have a great start in the race, but he had a good pace and he will continue to work with the team to try and improve again at Donington so he can fight for the points. Thank you for the whole team as it has been a tricky weekend but they have handled everything thrown at them perfectly. Thank you to Yamaha for the support and for giving us a package that allows us to always be fighting at the front."
Top ten for Tuuli & more Championship points for Irwin at Imola
Posted on 13th May 2018
CIA Landlord Insurance Honda rider Niki Tuuli delivered a top ten finish in today’s World Supersport race at Imola in Italy.
Starting from fifteenth on the grid Tuuli made a good start and fought his way through the field to hold fifth position for most of the 17-lap race. After a coming together with West at the end of the race, Tuuli relinquished that position to Krummenacher and finished in seventh place.
Tuuli said: “First of all finally I got a good start and I think my first lap was really good I passed many riders but I still need to improve a lot in the first eight laps and use the new tyre because there I am losing most of the time. It feels like I can’t push more even with a new tyre. By the end of the race it is coming better for me, it feels that was my best race of the year still the gap to the front is big, the fifth place was there. I’m really happy but we still need to improve to get a good starting position. We still continue the fight.”
Fellow CIA Landlord Insurance Honda rider Andrew Irwin also made a good start from his grid position of twenty-second to deliver another strong points scoring performance in fourteenth.
Irwin said: “The race started good I got a decent start then on lap 3 Badovini crashed so I lost my tow to the ones in front. I had a bit of a battle for 14th/15th and I ended up 14th. Coming into the weekend I wanted points and sometimes when you get what you want you’re still not satisfied but I can’t be disappointed it’s two weekends in a row with points and the first time I’ve come to a new track and got points so I think we are starting to get some continuity, some flow. We go to Donington next which is a track I know really well and hopefully we can be in the points. It should be a much easier weekend knowing the track we can get the best set-up earlier. I’m really looking forward to it. Thanks to my crew chief Kor, my mechanic Matia and the rest of the team.”
CIA Landlord Insurance Honda Team Manager Simon Buckmaster said: “It was a really good start by both Niki and Andrew. The first few laps Niki did pass some riders and move forward again you have to say that earlier in the race he should have been faster than he was. Niki is improving but I would say the adjustment from Yamaha to Honda has taken longer than we and he would have expected but another good top ten finish so that’s a good job by the team.”
“Another points finish for Andrew. This is a really hard track to come to when you’ve never been before it’s also been really hot this weekend and dealing with the heat is probably one of the bigger things Andrew has had to adjust to compared to being in the UK last year. So that’s two top fifteen finishes in a row and we go to our home round at Donington Park now and obviously Andrew knows the track well so he really is now making big strides forward. Congratulations to Andrew and all of our team.”
WorldSSP300: Carrasco becomes new WorldSSP300 leader at Imola
Spaniard dominates from lights to flag ahead of thrilling podium tussle
Ana Carrasco (DS Junior Team) took her second victory in WorldSSP300
Ana Carrasco (DS Junior Team) has taken her first win of 2018 and second of her FIM Supersport 300 World Championship career at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola, with the most dominant display of the season so far. Incredibly fast all weekend, the Spaniard also becomes the new championship leader after three races, after Scott Deroue (Motoport Kawasaki) crashed out in the final lap.
Right from the start, Carrasco gave no option to her rivals, shooting out from the lights. The DS Junior rider had shown in yesterday’s Superpole how comfortable she is riding alone around Imola, and it showed here: by the end of lap 1 she was a whole 2 seconds ahead, and by the end had opened a 13 second gap with the rest.
With the Murcian so far ahead, the usual scrap to the line continued for second, with eight riders fighting for two podium places down to the end. Deroue was the only rider to bow out before the end, losing his front end at Acque Minerali when he was second.
The Dutchman out of the fight, it was Borja Sánchez (ETG Racing) making it a Spanish one-two with his first podium finish of the campaign. Sánchez had come in just behind wildcard Kevin Sabatucci (PROGP Racing), but in a twist of fate, the Italian was sanctioned with one position by Race Direction (last year Sánchez had his third place demoted to fourth after the flag). Still, the Italian managed a fantastic third on his WorldSSP300 debut.
Behind them, Luca Grunwald (Frendenberg KTM WorldSSP Team) continued his good form with fourth place, with Galanig Hendra Pratama (BIBLION YAMAHA MOTOXRACING) taking fifth. Jan-Ole Jähnig (Freudenberg KTM Junior Team) finished in sixth position, with Maria Herrera (BCD Yamaha MS Racing) scoring her best finish in WorldSSP300, climbing up from 19th on the grid to seventh.
P1 - Ana Carrasco (DS Junior Team)
"Its incredible, we did a great job this weekend. We were really strong in all the practices and race, I just tried to focus on the lap times and thought it was possible to go alone, but this was not as easy as I thought! The team did a perfect job, so thanks to them an I want to thank all my sponsors, family and friends."
#ImolaWorldSBK WorldSSP300 at Autodromo Internazionale Enzo d Dino Ferrari di Imola- Race
1. Ana Carrasco (DS Junior Team)
2. Borja Sanchez (ETG Racing) +13.835
3. Kevin Sabatucci (PROGP Racing) +13.866
Carrasco Wins As Deroue Crashes Out
Ana Carrasco (DS Junior Team Kawasaki) won the second WorldSSP300 race of her career after putting in a pole-to-chequered-flag win at the Imola circuit in Italy today. Recent championship leader Scott Deroue (Motoport Kawasaki) was unfortunate to fall in the final sector of the race, but is still only 12 points off the championship lead, in third place.
After posting the best lap in Superpole qualifying Carrasco simply let loose in the race itself, piling on the pace to ease away from the chasing bunch in a class that is known for close competition between younger riders, all desperate to make their mark in the newest form of full FIM World Championship racing there is.
Ana’s final margin of victory was over 13 seconds, after only 11 laps of the 4.936km long Imola circuit.
On the awesome new Kawasaki Ninja 400 the uncatchable 21-year-old Spaniard Carrasco made good use of her strong pre-race preparations to follow up her race win for Kawasaki in Portugal last year.
After qualifying second but being penalised for slow riding in a practice session – like many of his competitors - Deroue was put back to sixth on the final grid. He was on course for a podium finish until he almost lost the rear exiting the Tosa hairpin, also dropping track position for a short time.
He regrettably crashed after losing the front on the very last lap, but his misfortune allowed another Kawasaki rider, Borja Sanchez, from the ETG squad, to take second place, at the head of a pack of six battling competitors. Sanchez had originally been classified third but was promoted after another rider was penalised for going over the limits of the track.
Mika Perez (Kawasaki ParkinGO Team) placed eighth, one second behind the second group, but Tom Edwards (Nutec - Benjan Kawasaki) crashed out early. His team-mate Walid Khan was tenth today and Darren Loureiro (DS Junior Team Kawasaki) 11th. Robert Schotman (Motoport Kawasaki) crashed heavily and was taken to hospital for checks.
In the championship fight, Carrasco leads with 48 points, Luca Grunwald has 45 and Deroue 36. The next round will take place at Donington Park in the UK on the 27th of May.
Ana Carrasco, stated: “Incredible! I think we had a perfect weekend because we were really strong in all the practice sessions and the whole race. I did not push, push, push to go alone but it was easier than I thought. I feel really happy and the team did a perfect job.”
Scott Deroue, stated: “I'm really disappointed about this DNF, because I rode a pretty good race. In the sighting lap I noticed a problem with my quick shifter. An hour before the race the external company who's responsible for the quick shifter visited us. In the warm-up on Sunday morning everything still was fine, but during the race the reaction of the quick shifter was really slow. It affected my race a lot, so I'm pretty upset that it gave me a harder challenge to get a good result. I tried to gap my opponents, but it wasn't possible with this quick shifter problem. I pushed a lot in the last lap and unfortunately a little bit too much. Of course, it's my own mistake, so I'm really disappointed in myself. I needed to be smart, but tell a racer to be calm if he sees the podium. I'm really fired up to go to Donington Park and set this DNF all straight. I also hope that my teammate Robert Schotman has a speedy recovery, so he will be able to show his speed in the UK-round.”