Rea and Bassani fought hard over second place with six-time Champion Rea coming out on top in the final few laps of an Argentinean thriller
The battle for second in Race 1 for the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship was a thrilling fight at the Circuito San Juan Villicum and the outcome was decided towards the end of the race during the Motul Argentinean Round. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) and Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) were practically inseparable during the 21-lap encounter as they looked to take second place and the extra points that come with it.
Bassani took the lead of the race from Rea on Lap 2 of 21 and he was able to lead the race between Laps 2 and 7 as he continued to impress in just his second WorldSBK campaign. While he was overtaking by Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) and Rea on Lap 8, the Italian did not allow Rea to escape although neither were able to match the pace of Bautista as he won by five seconds ahead of the duelling pair.
Rea first got ahead of Bassani on Lap 8 with an aggressive move towards the end of sector three but Bassani remained close by and responded immediately down the long back straight to move back into second place. Two laps later, Rea made another move on Bassani and, throughout the final sector, the pair were almost side-by-side, but it was Bassani who came out on top as he continued to go in search of second place.
The crucial and position-deciding battle came on Laps 18 and 19. Rea went up the inside of Bassani at Turn 15, the third-last corner on the track, with Bassani responding into Turn 16. The pair went side-by-side through the final corner, the right-hand kink of Turn 17, with Bassani initially able to pull away down the straight but six-time Champion Rea was able to pass Bassani on the brakes heading into Turn 1. Bassani tried to stay close to Rea into Turns 6 and 7 so he could get the run down the back straight, but Rea fended off the challenge before pulling out a gap of over a second to Bassani over the final few laps.
Rea, who took second place but lost a further five points to Bautista in the Championship standings, said: “Axel started really well, his rhythm was quite strong in the beginning. When Alvaro came past, he capitalised on being able to pass Bassani quite easily. I was stronger in some areas of the track and Axel was stronger in other areas. It was like a concertina effect. I tried a couple of times into the long chicane, but it didn’t really work. Axel would get the cut back. I put another move in the penultimate corner and it kind of worked. He came back and went wide and into Turn 1, from there, it was about doing my rhythm.”
Reacting to the fight, Bassani added: “It was an incredible race! I tried to stay at the front of the race. When Alvaro overtook me, I tried to stay with him but it wasn’t possible. I stayed with Jonny, but he’s a really good rider and has six World Championships. For me, it was incredible to battle with him. I tried to follow him. Today, it wasn’t possible for me because in the last laps I had a problem with the front tyre. I understood a lot of things because I’m young and Jonny, for me, is the king of WorldSBK. Battling with him is like a dream for me. But now I want to beat him!”
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