World Superbike is back racing in Europe, with an interesting qualifying session bringing back memories of the ineffective reversed grid. Eighteen laps of Aragon in windy but dry conditions would give us an exciting race.
As Alvaro Bautista once again got a good start from pole position, his nearest rival Jonathan Rea got an even better one from tenth place, so good that a distracted Markus Reiterberger, having rolled his BMW back to behind the line on the grid before the lights flipped, clipped Rea's Kawasaki with his handlebar and smacked his bike onto the tarmac. Rea hit turn one in sixth place, just like he did in most race two starts last year.
Tom Sykes, Alex Lowes, Sandro Cortese and Chaz Davies sat behind Alvaro Bautista as Rea closed up the top six, with Sykes looking to get past Bautista until they arrived at the long back straight and Bautista made use of his speed advantage to distance himself from the fight behind him.
On lap two, Bautista set a new lap record of 1'49.755 and cleared off into the sunset. The race was now for second place.
Alex Lowes led Tom Sykes and Chaz Davies with Jonathan Rea taking fifth of Sandro Cortese and bringing Michael van Der Mark with him. On lap three, with Bautista almost two seconds clear, Rea and Davies started to fight, with Rea taking and holding fourth place at turn three as the fight for second place extended to a seven-bike gaggle with Eugene Laverty joining in, passing Cortese and making quick work of van Der Mark a lap later. At the end of lap four, over four seconds behind Bautista, Alex Lowes went wide at the last corner, carrying a little bit too much speed from the straight, letting the fight between Rea and Sykes get underneath him through turns sixteen and seventeen, with Davies glued to the back of Rea.
Lap five, almost five seconds behind Bautista, Rea led Davies, Sykes and Lowes with van Der Mark and Laverty closed up behind them. Alex Lowes saw a gap underneath Tom Sykes and made the sort of pass you have to make to get past Sykes, and put him off enough for van Der Mark to follow his teammate past the BMW and the gang reached the straight.
Chaz Davies used the Ducati Panigale's new-this-year power to blast past Jonathan Rea to take second place, over six seconds behind his teammate, down the straight and held the position through the last two turns. Davies and Rea swapped positions for second place several times on laps six, seven and eight, until Rea finally made a pass stick halfway through lap eight only for Davies to take it back into turn one of lap nine.
While Davies and Rea were swapping places, Alex Lowes, Michael van Der Mark and Eugene Laverty were right behind them just not finding anywhere to pass as the Red v Green battles of 2017 and 2018 were reenacted in front of them. A lap later, Davies went deep into turn one and Rea pounced on the advantage, closing up enough and carrying the power until turn three where he took second place back.
This was all happening ten seconds behind Alvaro Bautista.
Alex Lowes started hounding Chaz Davies for third place, making a definitive block pass at turn seven of lap eleven. The group behind Bautista was five bikes, with Eugene Laverty bringing up the rear behind Michael van der Mark while Lowes closed on Rea to have a go at second place. On lap twelve, Lowes sneaked under Rea in turn eight, and Rea tried to fight back, but didn't have the tyres under him to power round the outside, but as they hit the straight, Rea took second place back on the power and, in spite of Lowes being better around turn sixteen, held it through the corners leading tot he starting line. Michael van Der Mark tried to pass Chaz Davies but after passing him, he had a bit of a twitch and Davies took fourth place back without too much effort.
At the end of lap thirteen, Alex Lowes once again took second place on the long straight, only for Chaz Davies to do the same to him, after passing Jonathan Rea, a lap later. Another lap and Lowes was back in fourth place when Rea blasted past him and ploughed through turn sixteen on Davies's tail a lap later. Rea went wide, however, letting Lowes use his superior corner speed through turns sixteen and seventeen to take back third place.
Race leader Alvaro Bautista was fifteen seconds clear at this point.
Jonathan Rea, however, was able to pass Lowes into turn one of lap sixteen, leaving Lowes to deal with a fast Eugene Laverty who hadn't been spending his tyres in as many fights as the three bikes in front of him and, by turn twelve, Laverty made his moves pay off and took fourth place from Lowes.
On the penultimate lap, Jonathan Rea saw Chaz Davies go a bit deep into turn one and carry the line to turn two and he started to close the gap, having a higher exit speed from turn two, and into turn five, Rea stabbed. He held the tighter line and passed the Ducati with enough speed to be clear of a counter attack over the next range of corners, but he went wide into a corner before the straight and Davies was able to close up the gap and start the last lap in the Kawasaki's wake. Davies set about trying to take second from Rea, with a good try at turn one, but very quickly, he came under fire from Eugene Laverty who snapped at his heels all the way to turn fourteen.
As Laverty, smelling his first podium chance of the year, closed onto Davies, he entered turn fourteen on the tail of Davies on a line so tight that he touched Davies' rear tyre with one of his aerodynamic wings, snapping the blade off and throwing parts into the air. Laverty lost the front and crashed into the gravel trap. Davies, having to deal with Laverty wasn't able to close the gap on Rea.
Alvaro Bautista won the race by over fifteen seconds, almost a second a lap quicker than everyone else. Jonathan Rea once again finished second with Chaz Davies rounding out the podium with his first visit of the year to Parc Fermé. Alex Lowes was fourth, ahead of Tom Sykes and Michael van Der Mark.
Alvaro Bautista and Jonathan Rea, first and second in every race this year, are predictable first and second in the championship, with third placed Alex Lowes increasing his lead over his teammate Michael van Der Mark. Chaz Davies, finally getting a result worthy of his talent, crawled up to eighth place, behind Leon Haslam, Marco Melandri and rookie Sandro Cortese.
|1||19||A. BAUTISTA||Ducati Panigale V4 R|
|2||1||J. REA||Kawasaki ZX-10RR||15.170|
|3||7||C. DAVIES||Ducati Panigale V4 R||15.650|
|4||22||A. LOWES||Yamaha YZF R1||18.204|
|5||66||T. SYKES||BMW S1000 RR||20.165|
|6||60||M. VAN DER MARK||Yamaha YZF R1||22.419|
|7||11||S. CORTESE||Yamaha YZF R1||23.333|
|8||54||T. RAZGATLIOGLU||Kawasaki ZX-10RR||27.929|
|9||91||L. HASLAM||Kawasaki ZX-10RR||28.243|
|10||81||J. TORRES||Kawasaki ZX-10RR||28.411|
|11||2||L. CAMIER||Honda CBR1000RR||39.126|
|12||33||M. MELANDRI||Yamaha YZF R1||39.240|
|13||21||M. RINALDI||Ducati Panigale V4 R||47.782|
|14||23||R. KIYONARI||Honda CBR1000RR||59.879|
|15||50||E. LAVERTY||Ducati Panigale V4 R||1'37.121|
|RET||52||A. DELBIANCO||Honda CBR1000RR|
|RET||36||L. MERCADO||Kawasaki ZX-10RR|
|RET||28||M. REITERBERGER||BMW S1000 RR|