Portimao, Portugal – Kawasaki’s record-setting World Superbike champion extended his incredible winning streak at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve with another dominant double, taking him to seven consecutive race wins at the Portuguese rollercoaster and his 10th and 11th wins of the 2018 season.
Of the South African contingent, Dorren Loureiro finished ninth in the World SSP300 race, while Dono Iozzo and Sam Lochoff finshed second and third in a race-long eight way tussle for 22nd - all of whom finished in less than two seconds.
There was drama very early on for Superpole winner Eugene Laverty on the leading works Aprilia. He started from the front row for the first time since 2013, but a slow launch saw him swamped by the field of riders behind at Turn 1 and, a few seconds later, Xavi Fores (Ducati) misjudged the turn, collided with Laverty and took them both out.
Rea took advantage of the early chaos, flying into the lead ahead of Melandri through the exit from Turn 1, with Lorenzo Savadori on the second Aprilia close behind, while Ducati Team star Chaz Davies suddenly found the form that had evaded him since Friday, slicing through to fifth from fourteenth on the grid before the end of lap one.
Rea’s strength at Portimao is his unbelievable consistency and superb pace; he kept his lap times under 1m43s for the entire first half of the race, opening a gap of more than two seconds.
There was promise of a thrilling Italian battle for second but it lasted only half the race, as Savadori slid out at the end of the main straight on lap 12 and put an end to a miserable afternoon for the Aprilia team, after their best qualifying performance of 2018.
That left Melandri to stroll to his best result since the Brno in second, while Michael van der Mark, riding a quiet but professional race, took the remaining podium place, his eighth of the season. Davies followed with an incredibly valuable fourth that put him on pole for Race 2 after what had been up to then a very difficult weekend.
Tom Sykes on the second Kawasaki Racing Team ZX-10R made it to the checquered flag in fifth, completing a solid points-haul for the green machines, while Loris Baz (BMW) finished sixth, his best result since returning to World Superbikes in 2018.
MV Agusta star Jordi Torres celebrated his future debut in MotoGP with seventh at the Portuguese rollercoaster, putting him ahead of Honda‘s Leon Camier in the championship standings, after a mechanical failure ended Camier’s race early.
Kawasakli privateer Toprak Razgatlioglu was the best independent rider in Race1 at Portimao, coming in eighth, just ahead of fellow 2018 debutant Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Ducati, and Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha) completed the top 10 after struggling through the early stages of the race.
A brilliant start from Rea pushed him straight up to third inside lap one, with Davies and Sykes holding their grid positions in one and two. Flying past his team-mate on lap three, Rea set up another stunning duel with Davies – but the battle quickly became tougher than Rea would have preferred.
A first strike at the start of lap eight saw Davies defend his position on the exit of Turn 1; two laps later, Rea dashed into the slipstream again, this time successfully, but Davies found the space to counterattack under braking for Turn 5. Meanwhile, Melandri moved up to with a few tenths of the battling leaders, with Van der Mark also closing in.
The pressure eventually got to Davies, however; on lap 12 he went wide at Turn 10, allowing Rea to pass comfortably with no chance to respond. Melandri tried a move on his team-mate for second on the main straight, but both went into Turn 1 too hot, leaving the door open for Van der Mark to move from fourth to second in one smooth move.
He was unable to make to get close enough to Rea to mount a challenge, however, finishing a little more than a second adrift, with Melandri third, joining Rea and van der Mark on the podium for the third consecutive race. Davies’ pace faded after his mid-race battles, but he held off Sykes for fourth.
Savadori made amends for his mistake in Race 1 by working his way up to sixth, ahead of his Aprilia team-mate Laverty, top privateer Rinaldi, Baz and Lowes.
Works Yamaha rider Federico Caricasulo posted a crucial win ahead of an impressive Kyle Smith (Honda) and Raffaele De Rosa (MV Agusta), in perhaps the most extraordinary and bizarre race end in World Supersport history, after team-mate Lucas Mahias was denied the win twice in five minutes.
A lightning start from Jules Cluzel (NRT) at the lights moved him into the lead, only for Mahias to pop out of his slipstream and move back in front at the end of the main straight.
Then, disaster struck as championship leader Sandro Cortese (Yamaha) tried to pass Cluzel at Turn 5 and slid out, skittling Cluzel as he went down, Cortese was held on to his machine all the way down and was able to get going again, but Cluzel’s race was over.
With their two strongest rivals out of action, the ninth race of the season quickly turned into battle between the works Yamaha riders, separated by just a point in the standings and each looking for his second race win of 2018. Mahias quickly opened a one second gap, posting the fastest lap of the race along the way, and entered the final lap with a comfortable lead.
What happened next was almost too ludicrous to describe. As he came out onto the main straight for the last time, he slowed dramatically as his Yamaha picked up a rear-wheel puncture - but before Caricasulo could sweep past to claim the win, the red flags came out.
Rob Hartog (Kawasaki) and Borja Quero Martínez (Yamaha) had gone down together in an incident that eventually got Hartog disqualified - which meant that the results would be taken as at the end of the previous lap, when Mahias was leading, as long as Mahias made back to the pits unaided within the five-minute cut-off time.
So he set off around the circuit without a rear tyre, for perhaps the longest lap of his career, wobbling all over the place and falling twice along the way. He finally made it to parc ferme, initially thinking he was within the time limit - but the stewards said no, he was out of time.
So everybody moved up a place, with Caricasulo taking an unlikely yet incredibly valuable second consecutive win, and an exhausted Mahias was left with no points for his efforts.
British rider Kyle Smith moved up to second, taking his first podium of the season and the first for a Honda, after overtaking De Rosa for third late in the race. Randy Krummenacher (Yamaha) took fourth while, amid all the drama, Cortese was classified fifth despite his lap two crash and increased his championship lead against all the odds.
Hannes Soomer (Honda) concluded a fantastic weekend with sixth, ahead of Ayrton Badovini (MV Agusta), Thomas Gradinger (NRT), Hikari Okubo (Kawasaki) and Hector Barberà (Kawasaki), 10 in his World Supersport debut.
WORLD SUPERSPORT 300
Scott Deroue (Kawasaki) took his first race win since Assen in 2017 and moved to just 10 points behind championship leader Ana Carrasco (Kawasaki), who couldn’t finish higher than 10th, while Mika Pérez (Kawasaki) and Manuel González (Yamaha) completed the podium in second and third respectively.
Deroue picked his way through to the front after a slow start, taking a controlled lead but never quite pulling away, while an army of Spanish riders jostled behind him, including Pérez, González and Yamaha team-mates Daniel Valle and Maria Herrera, who was close to securing her first WorldSSP300 podium before a technical gremlin forced her out with one lap remaining.
But Carrasco struggled at Portimao a year on from her famous first race win, falling back to 17th at the start and making up only six places by the flag, only to be promoted to 10th after Borja Sánchez (Kawasaki) was handed a post-race penalty of eight places for irresponsible riding on at least three occasions during the race.
Robert Schotman (Kawasaki) finished an impressive fourth at Portimao on his return from injury, ahead of Enzo De La Vega (Kawasaki) and the pole-sitter Tom Edwards (Kawasaki) – Edwards’ best WorldSSP300 result yet. Valle was seventh, ahead of wildcard Ferran Hernandez Moyano (Kawasaki), Dorren Loureiro (Kawasaki) and Carrasco.