Monterey, California - Kawasaki lead rider and defending World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea was beaming from ear to ear after a sensational Laguna Seca double victory this weekend.
Dominating the field as only he knows how, Rea extended his championship lead to 75 points. He started the weekend with a sensational race pace, never looked back and put in stunning performances in both races.
With Rea and Davies starting on opposite sides of the front row, the race quickly became a two-man affair after Rea passed team-mate Tom Sykes under braking for Turn 1. Davies then quickly shrugged off a first attack from the defending champion in turn 11, but the warning shot had been fired. Behind them Alex Lowes on the first of the factory Yamaha R1s began to pile the pressure on Sykes in third, with Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia) crashing out after an excellent start from the lights.
Rea kept pace with Davies for another seven laps without any further attacks and, as it turned out, none was needed as Davies braked a fraction too late going into the infamous Corkscrew - a mistake Rea was all too eager to take advantage of, blitzing past the Ducati on the way down the chute.
It’s tough to match the triple world champion at the best of times; with open track ahead of him, it’s almost impossible. Rea ruled out any possibility of a comeback from Davies by keeping a consistent 1-2 second gap for the rest of the race, stretching his lead in the championship to 70 points with eleven races remaining on the calendar.
Alex Lowes quickly found his way past Sykes as the Kawasaki rider fell slowly down the leaderboard. The Yamaha rider has shown tremendous pace throughout the past three rounds, and his second World Superbike podium has made him a man to watch. Aprilia team leader Eugene Laverty equalled his best performance so far of 2018 with an excellent fourth, making it four different machines in the top four places and highlighting how far the RSV4-RF has progressed in recent races.
Marco Melandri on the second Ducati Team machine bounced back from a disappointing qualifying session to pass Ducati privateer Xavi Fores in the closing stages and finish fifth after an admirable climb from the fourth row. Fores was nonetheless pleased with his return to form, as top privateer and sixth overall, while Sykes was less pleased with having to defend seventh against a late challenge from Michael van der Mark on the second factory Yamaha.
MV Agusta rider Jordi Torres finished ninth, just ahead of local hero Jake Gagne (Honda), who finished his home race in 10th to the delight of all the American fans at Laguna Seca.
Rea wasted no time at the lights. By the end of lap one he had managed to climb from ninth on the grid to fifth; three tours around Laguna Seca later, he was already up to second and chasing race leader Laverty. Meanwhile Melandri crashed out - the third time in the past seven races that he has failed to score any points.
It didn’t take much longer for Rea to pass Laverty either, picking off the Aprilia rider with ease through Lap 8. A similar story to Race 1: two thirds of the race left, an open track ahead, and an unbeatable race pace. When Rea finds his groove and is this confident, the three-time champion is second to no one. Even Davies, who performed another brilliant climb up the ranks and passed Laverty into second with eight laps to go, couldn’t close the gap and had to settle for second.
Just as in Race 1, however, there was plenty of action for the remaining rostrum place. Laverty, now in third, was quickly hunted down by the two Pata Yamaha riders. But the pair squabbled amongst themselves just enough laps for Laverty to keep both a second away and clinch his first podium of the 2018 campaign, also a first since Sepang 2014.
The battle between Round 6 and 7’s race winners, Van der Mark and Lowes, saw Lowes finally emerge victorious with two laps to go thanks to a brave pass in the run-up to the Corkscrew. Van der Mark meanwhile couldn’t make the best of a fantastic start, which saw the Dutchman rise to second at Turn 1, and crossed the line in fifth.
Xavi Fores (Ducati) repeated his Race 1 performance with sixth at the flag, a sign that the Spaniard is building back his form after two forgettable rounds. Behind him was fellow Spaniard Jordi Torres (MV Agusta) in seventh, ahead of Sykes in eighth.
Jake Gagne (Honda) went one better than in Race 1, crossing the line ninth for his personal best result in World Superbikes. A fantastic weekend at home for the Californian, who crossed the line ahead of Loris Baz (BMW) in 10th.