Portimao, Portugal – Honda star Jonathan Rea shared the World Superbike honours with Kawasaki’s defending champion and championship leader Tom Sykes at a grey and cloudy Autódromo Internacional do Algarve that got wetter as the day went on.
The South African contingent once again had mixed fortunes, with Evo Kawasaki rider Sheridan Morais forced out of Race 1 on lap seven by mechanical gremlins and finishing a hard-earned 12th in Race 2, while World Superstock rider David ‘McFlash’ McFadden- also on a Kawasaki - qualified fifth, and then covered himself in glory by posting the fastest lap on a drying circuit and finishing third, for his first Superstock 1000 podium.
Rea took the hole-shot, leading for the first three laps before Sykes and Marco Melandri (Aprilia Racing Team) overtook him into Turn 1 at the start of lap four.
Behind them a tight group of five - Loris Baz (Kawasaki), Chaz Davies (Ducati), Sylvain Guintoli on the second Factory Aprilia and Rea’s team-mate Leon Haslam – slowly closed the gap to Rea to make it a six-way fight for third.
By half distance the constant swapping of positions had allowed reigning champion Sykes to stretch his lead to three seconds, just before the white flag was waved to indicate that rain was beginning to fall.
Out on ‘wet’ tyres, Guintoli elevated himself to second and quickly began to reduce the gap to Sykes, only for the Kawasaki man to kick it up a gear and hold a two-second lead all the way to the flag, he responded to retain a lead of 2 seconds until the flag.
Baz came home third, with Marco Melandri fourth ahead of Rea, who’d faded to a lonely ride, well ahead of Alex Lowes (Suzuki) who passed Ducati’s Davide Giugliano and Eugene Laverty on the second Suzuki on the final lap to finish sixth.
Evo riders Sylvain Barrier (BMW) and David Salom (Kawasaki) were never more than a tenth apart for the entire race with Salom eventually claiming Evo line honours by just 0.014sec.
The second race was held in tricky conditions as the rain which began during the Supersport race continued to fall. Rea romped home after a reduced race distance of 18 laps as the winner after Guintoli and his Factory Aprilia team-mate Melandri collided at Turn 5 in the closing stages.
Guintoli was able to remount, and began battling his way back into the points.
Behind Rea, Davide Giugliano came home a lonely second with works Ducati team-mate Chaz Davies snatching the final podium spot from Lowes and Haslam after an enthralling final few laps in which third position changed several times.
Baz finished sixth, while Sykes dropped back through the pack, coming home a eighth after being passed on the penultimate lap by the recovering Guintoli.
Barrier finished 11th overall to take the Evo honours away from class leader Salom.
Michael Van Der Mark (Honda) took the win – his fourth of the year – despite immense pressure from Jack Kennedy (Honda) and former champion Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki).
The first half of the race gave the fans a real treat with some of the closest racing of the season before championship leader Van Der Mark edged clear, only for rain to bring out the red flags on lap 13.
Today’s result means that the young Dutch rider has never finished lower than second all season, with the exception of his Phillip Island crash, while for Kennedy it was his first podium finish after moving into World Supersport.
Misano race winner Jules Cluzel (MV Agusta) looked like making it a four-way fight before he overshot at Turn 3 before eventually retiring.
Raffaele de Rosa rode well to bring his Honda home fourth ahead of PJ Jacobsen (Kawasaki) and Van Der Mark’s team-mate Lorenzo Zanetti.
Lorenzo Savadori (Kawasaki) took his second victory of the series, easing away to from the similar ZX-10Rs of Matthieu Lussiana and McFadden, who held held off a determined challenge from Honda-mounted Kyle Smith for his first podium finish in a world championship race.
Smith’s American team-mate came home a lonely fifth, well clear of Fabio Massei’s Ducati.
Ducati rider Leandro Mercado came to the Algarve as series leader but could manage no better than ninth at Portimao and headed to the penultimate round across the Spanish border at Jerez second in the standings behind Savadori, while McFadden moved up to sixth behind Lussiana, Mercado’s team-mate Ondrej Jezek and Massei.