Magny-Cours was cold and wet as Jonathan Rea set out to try to retain his title and become the first rider to ever win three World Superbike titles in a row. Rea needed to score five points more than Tom Sykes and be within ten points of Chaz Davies to hoist the trophy. A win would guarantee it.
A few riders, the Aprilias of Eugene Laverty and Tati Mercado and the Ducati of Chaz Davies, had the development rear wet tyre, but everyone else had the standard wet weather tyre, even though it had stopped raining.
Jonathan Rea led Tom Sykes into the first turn and they were joined by Chaz Davies who pushed through to third place by turn two. Davies then took second place from Sykes at Adelaide, a right hand hairpin and the slowest corner of any track in the series, but Rea was already making like a rabbit at the front.
At the end of a spray-filled first lap, Jonathan Rea had a lead of over two seconds and went on to set the fastest lap, over a second faster than anyone else. Behind fourth-placed Tati Mercado, Michael van der Mark wasn’t so lucky, powering out of the Adelaide hairpin to try to pass his teammate Alex Lowes back on the exit to regain fifth place, his rear tyre fought for grip and lost, spinning his Yamaha in the middle of the track. Xavi Fores couldn’t avoid the pirouetting blue bike and clipped the edge, launching his Ducati into the air and onto its side. Both riders were able to remount, but Fores would eventually pull into the pits with his bike unraceable. Leon Camier lost a bit of time in his newly inherited sixth place. Marco Melandri was in tenth place.
On the third lap, Tom Sykes took second place from Chaz Davies at turn five, but was looking at five seconds to his teammate in the lead. A lap later, Davies started losing time and, with his rain light off on the back of his bike, he was struggling with something technical, possibly his bike switching to a dry setting.
As the Kawasakis at the front were breaking away, Davies started falling back to the fights behind him. Alex Lowes was the first to catch him, having made quick work of Tati Mercado previously, with Leon Camier passing Mercado shortly after. Further back, Marco Melandri had found some pace and was able to charge though anyone in front, even getting past Camier before Camier caught Davies. Melandri took forth place from his teammate on lap six and third place a lap later, easily passing Lowes. He was facing a ten second gap to Tom Sykes with fourteen laps left.
As Chaz Davies dropped back, Marco Melandri went quicker. Leon Camier passed Alex Lowes and started matching Melandri on lap times, holding a two second gap behind the charging Ducati.
As the laps ticked off, Melandri and Camier closed in on Tom Sykes, Melandri setting the fastest lap three times on the way. Two laps from the end, with Jonathan Rea over seventeen seconds clear in first place, Melandri had caught Sykes. Leon Camier was too far back to join in the fight and had to hope that the two riders slowed each other enough for the MV Agusta rider to close the four second gap that Melandri had eked out.
On the penultimate lap, Marco Melandri had more grip than Tom Sykes, but Sykes on the brakes is a very hard man to pass. As Sykes had to spend less time time on his tyre edge, Melandri made a pass attempt at turn three, but Sykes took a tight exit and clipped Melandri’s front wheel with his rear, sparks flying from Melandri’s brake disk. In spite of the contact, the pair didn’t slow down and a lap later, Melandri makes the pass at the same place and held it for a corner or two before Sykes bashed into Melandri to push past him. Melandri took him back at the 180 hairpin, and Sykes lined up to pass at the Nurburgring corner, only to see a yellow flag, from Gagne having a brief off-track excursion, and cancel his pass. This allowed Melandri to hold onto second place to the flag.
However, while all this was going on, Jonathan Rea was cleanly taking his fiftieth career win and third world championship in a row. He pulled into the run-off at turn one, and Fabien Foret, playing the role of spotter for Rea’s team, charged out to give him a bottle of bubbly. While he put on a new t-shirt, chucked a load of shirts to the French crowd and put a fancy new gold helmet, his team ran up with gold-painted carbon fibre panels and did a full fairing change to a Sofuogluesque gold design. Rea took a trident with the Northern Irish flag on it and took to his victory lap.
History has been made. What’s next?
|1||1||J. REA||Kawasaki ZX-10RR|
|2||33||M. MELANDRI||Ducati Panigale R||16.316|
|3||66||T. SYKES||Kawasaki ZX-10RR||16.666|
|4||2||L. CAMIER||MV Agusta 1000 F4||22.133|
|5||22||A. LOWES||Yamaha YZF R1||41.210|
|6||50||E. LAVERTY||Aprilia RSV4 RF||1'02.101|
|7||36||L. MERCADO||Aprilia RSV4 RF||1'02.281|
|8||34||D. GIUGLIANO||Honda CBR1000RR||1'05.775|
|9||60||M. VAN DER MARK||Yamaha YZF R1||1'09.271|
|10||7||C. DAVIES||Ducati Panigale R||1'17.429|
|11||32||L. SAVADORI||Aprilia RSV4 RF||1'30.899|
|12||40||R. RAMOS||Kawasaki ZX-10RR||1'39.111|
|13||35||R. DE ROSA||BMW S 1000 RR||1'40.891|
|14||81||J. TORRES||BMW S 1000 RR||1'54.311|
|15||84||R. RUSSO||Kawasaki ZX-10RR||1 Lap|
|16||37||O. JEZEK||Kawasaki ZX-10RR||1 Lap|
|17||121||A. ANDREOZZI||Yamaha YZF R1||1 Lap|
|18||13||A. WEST||Kawasaki ZX-10RR||1 Lap|
|RET||45||J. GAGNE||Honda CBR1000RR||2 Laps|
|RET||12||X. FORÉS||Ducati Panigale R||4 Laps|