Donington Park, Leicestershire – Kawasaki stars Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea took a win apiece in a dramatic weekend at the British round of the World Superbike series, with Rea coming back from a huge high-speed tumble in Race 1 to win the second outing.
Among the South Africans, Sheridan Morais battled to a hard-earned sixth in a two-part Supersport race to retain his third place in the championship standings, while Dorren Loureiro scored more valuable points for 13th in the World Supersport 300 race, and Capetonian Jared Schultz, improving with every outing, qualified 27th out of 36 entries and finished 22nd.
Sykes took a brilliant win in a dramatic race that brought crashes for team-mate Rea and Ducati Team leader Chaz Davies. Wildcard Leon Haslam, on a privateer Kawasaki and Yamaha factory rider Alex Lowes made it an all-British podium, as Sykes took an amazing ninth consecutive win in his home race at Donington Park.
An incident-packed race saw provisional leader Davies lose the front end in the early stages at Turn 12 – the same place where he crashed in last year’s Race 1. He picked his Ducati up and rejoined, eventually finishing eighth, having put a big dent in his world title aspirations.
With six laps to go Sykes got by team-mate Rea to grab the lead; within little more than a lap he'd opened up a two second gap on his team-mate. Rea then had a big high-speed tumble Turn 3 but was soon back on his feet and was taken back to the pits on a scooter.
A superb ride by Haslam on his return to the series saw him finish a highly creditable second, while Lowes took third thanks to a late move on Ducati Team’s Marco Melandri.
Michael van der Mark on the works Yamaha rounded out the top five, with Leon Camier (MV Agusta) making it four Brits in the top six to delight the home crowd. Aprilia’s Leandro Mercado came home a couple of seconds ahead of Davies, with Jordi Torres (BMW) and Ducati privateer Xavi Fores completing the top 10.
The riders and many of the fans in attendance carried stickers and flags in tribute to the late Nicky Hayden who tragically passed away earlier in the week after a cycling accident in Italy, with Sykes quick to pay his condolences to the Hayden family after the race in parc ferme.
The podium finishers all wore t-shirts carrying Hayden’s famous number 69 in honour of the Kentucky Kid.
Rea bounced back from his earlier crash to take a dramatic win by just 1.6s, with team-mate Sykes and Ducati’s Davies sharing the podium. Van der Mark had looked good for a podium result but was caught for third in the final stages by a determined Davies.
Lowes completed the top five, with Camier making it five Britons in the top six, crossing the line five seconds behind Lowes. Fores was seventh, with Roman Ramos (Kawasaki), Jake Dixon (whose Kawasaki is sponsored by the Royal Air Force) and Raffaele de Rosa (BMW) completing the top 10.
Only 14 riders finished after a number of high profile riders crashed out, including Haslam and his Puccetti Racing team-mate Randy Krummenacher, Torres, Eugene Laverty (Aprilia), Mercado and veteran Alex De Angelis (Kawasaki).
Rea’s eighth win of 2017 extended his lead in the standings to 55 points after six rounds; it also brought an end to Sykes’ remarkable run of nine consecutive wins at Donington; Sykes was among the first to congratulate him, as Rea dedicated his win to Hayden in parc ferme after the race.
Kawasaki factory star Kenan Sofuoglu made another big statement of intent in the 2017 championship fight with a third consecutive win, joined on the podium by championship leader Lucas Mahias on the works Yamaha and Honda privateer Jules Cluzel.
Sofuoglu and Cluzel were banging elbows for the lead only three laps into the race when Cardelus Garcia (MV Agusta) crashed in turn 12, bringing out the red flags and and the cleaning crews.
The restart was shortened to 13 laps, with Sofuoglu dominating the race from pole to win by 2.45s. It was also Mahias’s third consecutive second-place finish behind Sofuoglu, meaning that he retained a championship lead of 30 points, albeit with the defending multiple title-holder breathing down his neck.
Sofuoglu, having missed the opening two rounds of the season due to a training injury and crashed out of his comeback race, had now clawed his way back to second in the championship after six races courtesy of an unbeaten record in the second three rounds.
A good performance by Cluzel saw him bring it home third, for his second podium of the season. He pushed Mahias hard for second but just could not make a move stick over the final corners.
Triumph rider Luke Stapleford was the top British rider in fourth, with Profile Racing team-mate Jack Kennedy fifth, followed by Morais (Yamaha), Anthony West (Yamaha), Kyle Smith (Honda) and Hikari Okubo (Honda) with Joe Francis (Yamaha)P rounding out the top 10.
WORLD SUPERSPORT 300
Alfonso Coppola (Yamaha) took his debut victory from pole in a stunning final -lap battle.
Mika Perez (Honda) got the holeshot into the first corner but had Borja Sanchez (Yamaha) hot on his tail, while local hero Chris Taylor (Kawasaki) was taking no chances and moved up for the fight in the opening laps in front of his home crowd.
As the pack began to settle after five laps, a front group of Perez, Coppola and Marc Garcia (Yamaha) began to break away, battling it out between them for the lead, with the Honda of Perez and Yamaha of Coppola swapping places on every lap.
But with a strong move coming out of the Melbourne Hairpin for the last time gave Coppola the win by just 0.1s from Perez, with Garcia third. Championship leader Scott Deroue (Kawasaki) spent the race down in fourth position, and was chasing the front group down at the end; his fourth-place finish kept him at the top of the standings, but only by two points. Armando Pontone (Yamaha) rounded out the top five, narrowly ahead of Robert Schotman on the first of the two ‘official’ Yamahas.