Motorsport / 30 September 2018, 3:34pm / Motoring Staff
Magny Cours, France – She’s 21 years old, barely 1.56 metres tall and weighs just 56 kilograms, but on this Sunday night Ana Carrasco from Murcia, in northern Spain is a hero to every woman in the world who rides a motorcycle.
Because this little girl with the huge smile is the first female ever to win a world motorcycle racing championship, finally taking revenge for the equally petite Taru Rinne, who was kicked out of the Finnish national karting championship in 1983 for beating golden boy Mika Hakkinen too often, and then kicked out of motorcycle Grands Prix in 1989 by Bernie Ecclestone after finishing seventh in the 1989 German 125cc Grand Prix at Hockenheim because he said she “wasn’t qualified”.
The phrase ‘ride like a girl’ will never again be an insult.
Carrasco took the 2018 World Supersport 300 title by a single point from Mika Perez in a dramatic showdown at Magny Cours, after battling through from 25th on the grid to 13th at the flag, in a race where South African hero Dorren Loureiro finished 10th to clinch fifth overall in the standings, while Dino Iozzo came home 24th out of 32 finishers and Sam Lochoff crashed out on lap three.
Fourth title for Rea
Jonathan Rea clinched his fourth World Superbike title in fine style with five races still to go - and then celebrated with another win in Race 2, for his fifth double of the season.
He left Magny Cours with a 135 point lead over his nearest rival, Ducati Team’s Chaz Davies, and only four races, each worth 25 points, still remaining; he could take the rest of the season off and still win the title by 35 points.
Rea took the 2018 World Superbike crown in style, slicing past Kawasaki Factory team-mate Tom Sykes in the early stages of the race and imperious from there on to take victory No.13 of the season. Sykes finished second from his record-breaking pole, with Ducati privateer Xavi Fores completing the podium after a three-way fight for third.
Sykes who got the hole shot from pole with a lightning start, leaving Rea to trail him in second, albeit a very close second. Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia) translated his front-row sport to third as they shot off the line, with Fores slotting into fourth.
But Rea remained threatening in second and feinted a number of moves before he pounced for the lead not long after; he then began pulling away from Sykes while Sykes opened the gap from those on the chase as Fores hustled past Savadori and took over in third. Nevertheless, Savadori stayed close as Ducati Team’s Chaz Davies began to close in on the battle for third.
Rea and Sykes came home in another impressive 1-2 for Kawasaki, while Fores was able to fight off Savadori, and both just stayed ahead of Davies by the flag. Davies needed to finish second to stop Rea taking the crown, but after a mid top 10 qualifying and still recovering from a broken collarbone, it was a tall order. Davies nevertheless put together an impressive ride in difficult circumstances - much like his races in Portugal; his team-mate Marco Melandri , after a tough qualifying, moved through from 12th on the grid to take sixth.
Seventh went to Yamaha Factory rider Michael van der Mark, up from 10th on the grid, getting past Kawasaki privateer Toprak Razgatliouglu at mid-distance and steadily pulling away. BMW’s Loris Baz had been fighting him in the latter stages but couldn’t make it stick, and just at the end was pipped to ninth by Aprilia’s Eugene Laverty.
Davies started from second on the grid and immediately grabbed the hole shot, powering away from Van der Mark and Ducati Team’s Marco Melandri, while Race 2 pole-sitter Savadori quickly fell down the order. But inside just half a lap Rea had already moved up to third and set his sights on the race lead, eventually outbraking Van der Mark at the Imola chicane on lap three for second.
With Davies leading and Rea in hot pursuit, the rivals fought as fiercely as ever. Rea chose the Adelaide hairpin as the spot to make his pass, but lap after lap the moment just didn’t come as Davies forced his Ducati in front on the exit every time, with the Rea twice running in too hot.
But then Davies opened the door into Turn 9 on lap 12 and Rea powered through into the lead. With open track ahead, he was just too strong for Davies, moving away to win by almost two seconds, as Van der Mark put his R1 onto the podium again in third.
Sykes couldn’t make the podium again after his second in Race 1, but the move he put over Melandri with one lap on the clock scored him fourth in Race 2, with Melandri folopwing him home to complete the top five.
Savadori managed to steady his pace and took sixth to sign off on his best weekend of the season, while Yamaha Factory rider Alex Lowes finished seventh to slavage some points from a mostly disappointing weekend. Fores was the top independent rider in eighth, while Leon Camier (Honda) returned to the top 10 for the first time since his injury in July with ninth, just ahead of hometown boy Loris Baz.
Jules Cluzel (NRT) secured his fourth win of the season, an emphatic two seconds clear championship rival, Yamaha privateer Sandro Cortese, with fellow countryman Lucas Mahias on the rostrum as Yamaha factory team-mate and pole man Federico Caricasulo crashed out on the final lap.
Mahias who grabbed the holeshot from second on the grid as he and Cluzel made it an immediate French 1-2 at the front, before the latter took the lead heading into Turn 5 on the opening lap. Further back, championship leader Cortese didn’t get the best of starts but soon found his rhythm to reel in the leaders a couple of laps later, making his way up to second after clean passes on Mahias and Caricasulo at the Adelaide hairpin on consecutive laps.
The four leaders had broken clear from local hero Corentin Perolari (Yamaha) by mid-race, with Cluzel holding the lead from Cortese before the German made a move down into Turn 5, but couldn’t make it stick. That didn’t stop him trying it again a lap later, but the same happened, with Cluzel getting the better exit to hold onto the lead.
Heading into the final lap, Cluzel had managed to get his head down to edge out a 0.7 advantage at the front, with Cortese suffering from front tyre wear that left him in the clutches of the two Yamahas. Then fourth-placed Mahias went for a pass into Turn 14 on team-mate Caricasulo, who took a slightly wider line to defend his position and lost the front, putting a huge dent in his title aspirations, although he remounted to finish 13th.
That left Cluzel to claim his fourth win of the season, while Mahias posted a home podium, his first since Thailand. Thomas Gradinger (NRT) was fourth as he continued to impress in his rookie World Supersport, with Randy Krummenacher (Yamaha) completing the top five after a difficult race.
Sixth was local rider Perolari, with Raffaele De Rosa (MV Agusta) seventh and losing ground in the championship. After his podium in Portugal, Kyle Smith (Honda) could only manage eighth in France, with Hikari Okubo getting the better of privateer Kawasaki team-mate Hector Barbera for ninth and 10th respectively.
In an unbelievable race Carrasco (Kawasaki) clawed her way back from 25th on the grid to finish 13th, just enough to beat Mika Perez (Kawasaki) to the title by a single point, after Perez lost out on a championship-winning lead to eventual race winner Daniel Valle (Yamaha) at Turn 15 on the final lap.
Tom Edwards (Kawasaki) got the holeshot from third on the grid to lead the field on the opening lap, with title contenders Scott Deroue (Kawasaki) and Perez slotting into second and third, while Carrasco remained outside the top 20 with the title looking increasingly out of reach. Then disaster struck for Deroue, second in the standings to Carrasco, as he battled for the race lead with 8 laps to go, when a mechanical failure forced him into pit lane and out of contention.
That left Perez and KTM’s Luca Grunwald as the only two who could beat Carrasco for the championship, both of whom were in at the front of the leading pack. The battle for first kept changing in classic WorldSSP300 style, with the championship standings adjusting corner by corner as Perez kept threatening to take the lead.
But with three laps to go Carrasco was up to 15th and in the points.
Heading onto the final lap, Perez needed the race win to claim the title. He started the lap fourth but soon carved his way to the front halfway round, while Carrasco moved up to 13th. Perez kept his cool, leading into Turn 15, but than Valle then made his move – and made it stick, Perez no time to respond.
Valle took his maiden victory, Perez was a distraught second as Carrasco came over the line 13th to create history by a single point.
Rounding out the all-Spanish podium was Manuel Gonzalez (Yamaha), after recovering from a mistake midway through the race, with Maria Herrera (Yamaha) producing a great ride for fourth.
Fifth was Luca Bernardi (Yamaha) with sixth going to Grunwald who finished fourth in the points standings. Nick Kalinin (Kawasaki) took seventh, ahead of Glenn Van Straalen (KTM) and Enzo De La Vega (Kawasaki), who led his home race at stages, South African Dorren Loureiro (Kawasaki) completing the top ten and clinching fifth in the championship in his rookie year.