The hammer was down right from the start, but it was a stunning flurry of action that brought a very special achievement
Overcast weather conditions welcomed the 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship field out to the Circuito de Navarra track for Tissot Superpole. The Pirelli Navarra Round had so far seen three different riders top the three different sessions, and the Superpole session was once again as unpredictable as those that came before it. In an electric end, it was Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) who made it seven straight pole positions, although a whole host of riders took turns at the head of the field.
FROM THE START: strategy was key
The session got underway and straight away, strategy was key. Numerous riders went out on the Superpole Q tyre, whilst other opted for race tyres for their first runs. Riders such as Scott Redding (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) opted to stay in the box, just as he did at Most, in order to have a clear track. As the first laps came to a close, Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) became the first rider to set a lap time in the 1’36 bracket, before he went two tenths quicker on his second lap. Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) was up in second after the first run, whilst Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) was provisionally third. Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) was a surprise in fourth whilst Kohta Nozane (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) was ninth coming into the closing stages, with four Yamahas inside the top ten.
SHAKING UP THE ORDER: all-change with 5 minutes left
As the last five minutes beckoned, Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) was a big improver, from outside the top ten into second and setting a sub-1’37 lap to back-up his teammate’s efforts. Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) was also a vast improver, from 14th to fifth whilst fellow Independent Ducati runner was also in the ballpark, as he went provisional pole with a sublime lap to put his Ducati on top. However, that would be just the start of what was a frantic final push for a lap time.
THE FRONT ROW: seventh heaven for the pole-sitter
Tom Sykes originally went to the top of the timesheets, but he was then pipped by Scott Redding, who put in a superb lap but it wasn’t enough as pole-hound Jonathan Rea pipped both of them to take a magical seventh pole, and his 30th for Kawasaki, whilst it is the manufacturer’s 99th pole too. Redding held on for second and his tenth front row of his career, whilst Tom Sykes took his third front row of the season to make it three manufacturers on the front row. Rea becomes the second rider in WorldSBK history to take seven consecutive poles, equalling Ben Spies’ record from 2009 – back when Rea himself was a rookie.
THE REST OF THE TOP 10: revelations and deflations
Heading up row two after a stunning Superpole session is Andrea Locatelli, with the Italian securing his best ever Superpole result since graduating to the WorldSBK class. The Italian just pipped Chaz Davies to the head of the second row, with the Welshman in the middle of row two and taking a joint-best grid slot of the year in fifth – equal with Aragon. Completing the second row is Lucas Mahias, with the Frenchman taking his best WorldSBK Superpole result. With two Independent riders on row two, an upset could be had throughout the races.
Despite Alex Lowes’ vast improvements that initially put him into second, he dropped back to seventh, although it was a disaster for Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK), who was dropped to eighth as he couldn’t break into the top six, being outqualified by his teammate in the dry for the first time in 2021. Nonetheless, Razgatlioglu’s renowned fast starts could well bring him right back into contention. Garrett Gerloff was ninth come the conclusion of the session, whilst Michael van der Mark (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) made it two BMWs inside the top ten, just edging out Axel Bassani who was 11th.
ELSEWHERE ON THE GRID: Honda nightmare…
Notable names outside the top ten include Alvaro Bautista (Team HRC) and teammate Leon Haslam, as the Honda pair could only manage 12th and 17th respectively, with Haslam one place behind Leandro Mercado (MIE Racing Honda Team). Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) struggled down in 13th, whilst Suzuki’s return to WorldSBK saw them in 20th with Naomichi Uramoto (JEG Racing).
Top six after WorldSBK Superpole, full results here:
1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) 1’36.122
2. Scott Redding (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) +0.093s
3. Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) +0.424s
4. Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) +0.458s
5. Chaz Davies (Team GoEleven) +0.571s
6. Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) +0.667s
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