Motorland Aragon, Spain – Defending world champion Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) and Ducati’s Chaz Davies took a win apiece in a weekend that delivered ultra-close racing, a multiple crash and a red flag at the third round of the World Superbike series.
Veteran Sheridan Morais kept the South African flag flying with a hard-fought seventh in his return to World Supersports, while youngsters Dorren Loureiro, Dino Iozzo and Sam Lochoff did us proud with eighth, 22nd and 29th respectively in the Supersport 300 race.
A wild start turned the grid on its ear as Rea grabbed the hole shot, Yamaha factory rider Alex Lowes came up from fifth to slot into second ahead of Tom Sykes on the second factory Kawasaki and Chaz Davies pulled an extraordinary start to come through from 11th and pass his Ducati Team-mate, Superpole winner Marco Melandri, for fourth in just one lap, and Sykes for third on lap 2.
But on lap four factory Honda rider Leon Camier went down in Turn 10, just in front of Jordi Torres (MV Agusta) and Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia), neither of who was able to avoid him. The multiple pile-up left bikes and riders all over the track and brought out the red flags. Torres and Savadori walked away, although Torres didn’t make it back to the grid for the restart, but Camier was stretchered to the medical centre for a full check-up, where it turned out he had three broken ribs.
Rea grabbed the lead again at the re-start, chased hard by Lowes in the first half of the race - the Yamaha rider actually took the lead for a lap at one point – but as his challenge faded local hero Xavi Fores, on a privately-entered Ducati, made his move, taking the lead with nine laps to go.
That didn’t last long either; two laps later Rea found his moment, dived past the Ducati and pulled away to win by 1.45 seconds. Behind him, however, there was a three way all-Ducati fight for the remaining podium positions between Fores and the two works machines of Melandri and Davies.
Melandri ran wide and out of it with two laps to go, so it came down to a duel between Davies and Fores, swopping places throughout the final lap, with Davies ahead by just 0.023s at the flag.
Melandri came home fourth, ahead of Michael van der Mark on the second factory Yamaha, with Sykes and Lowes in sixth and seventh and Ducati privateer Michael Ruben Rinaldi taking a promising eighth on his World Superbike debut.
A four-way battle for ninth saw Kawasaki privateers Toprak Razgatlioglu and Roman Ramos, BMW works rider Lorenzo Baz, and Jake Gagne on the second factory Honda finish in that order, covered by less than a second
The start was similar race to Race 1 with Rea battling the Ducatis at the front. Fores and Melandri took the early lead with Rea ready to pounce in third - and pounce he did, taking second when Melandri got a big wobble (not his first of the weekend) and inheriting the lead on lap nine when Fores’ front end tucked and dumped him on the floor.
Davies, meanwhile, unable to match his lightning start in Race 1, had quietly worked his past the two factory Yamahas to come up behind Melandri. And with five laps to go, having already passed his Ducati Team-mate, he dived past Rea for the lead.
He was unable to break away, however, and it looked like a photo finish until Rea ran wide in the middle sector on the final lap, handing Davies a phenomenal win by little more than a second.
Lowes and Van der Mark came in fourth and fifth, with Sykes getting shoved down from third to eighth in Turn 1, and relegated another spot by Davies shortly after. He fought back to sixth by the end, just ahead of World Superbike debutant Rinaldi, with Torres, Razgatlioglu and Savadori completing the top 10.
Former Grand Prix rider Sandro Cortese, on a privately entered Yamaha, converted pole position into a win in only his third World Supersport race, dominating the second half of the race with only factory Yamaha rider Federico Caricasulo to keep him honest.
At one point Caricasulo got within two tenths of the leader but couldn’t get close enough to try for a pass, and eventually found himself defending second from a late-charging Jules Cluzel on another privateer Yamaha. Works Factory team and championship leader Lucas Mahias could only manage a distant fourth.
Nine seconds later, Honda rider Kyle Smith got the best of a three-way battle for fifth, just ahead of Luke Stapleford (Triumph Daytona 675) and Sheridan Morais (Kawasaki), all three finishing within half a second.
Niki Tuuli (Honda) beat veteran Anthony West (Kawasaki) for eighth by 0.083s, with Rob Hartog (Kawasaki against Cancer) rounding out the top 10.
MV Agusta star Raffaele de Rosa got a fantastic start off the second row to grab the lead and was dicing with the leading Yamahas for the lead at half-distance when his bike went sick; team-mate Ayrton Badovini crashed out at Turn 1 on the same lap, to complete a disastrous race for the MV Agustas.
Buriram race-winner Randy Krummenacher (Yamaha) crashed on lap four, rejoined 27th and stone last, and fought his way back to l1th to salvage some vital points.
WORLD SUPERSPORT 300
Koen Meuffels (KTM RC390 R) made his debut World Supersport 300 race one to remember, with a photo-finish win from fellow Dutch rider Scott Deroue (Kawasaki Ninja 400), while Mika Pérez (Kawasaki Ninja 400) repeated his 2017 performance in third after leading six of the eleven laps.
Halfway through the race, a nine-strong group had formed at the front, with just about every rider taking the lead at some point as the gap from first to ninth remained less than a second.
That group stayed together all the way, except for 16-year-old Tom Edwards (Kawasaki Ninja 400) who crashed out with less than two laps to go. It ended up being a drag race finish to the line, with Meuffels edging out last year’s winner Deroue by 0.031s.
Next were Mykyta Kalinin (Kawasaki Ninja 400) in fourth, Robert Schotman (Kawasaki Ninja 400) in fifth, Ana Carrasco (Kawasaki Ninja 400) - who led laps three and eight – Meuffels’ team-mate Glenn van Straalen and South African Dorren Loureiro (DS Junior Team), who finished 0.819s behind the winner in eighth.