THE DROUGHT ENDS: Rea’s strategic masterclass ends 252-day streak without win, Bautista P12

Saturday, 29 July 2023 11:40 GMT

Six-time Champion Jonathan Rea pulled off a masterstroke at Most with an intermediate tyre gamble to end his long winning drought

Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) ended his 252-day, 23-race streak without victory in the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship as an intermediate tyre gamble paid off handsomely for the six-time Champion. He started Race 1 for the Acerbis Czech Round on intermediate tyres, and didn’t change to slicks, as he returned to the top step of the rostrum at the Autodrom Most. Meanwhile, there was another Championship twist as Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) finishing second as Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati) was 12th.

BACK ON TOP: Rea returns to P1

The opening laps proved to be beneficial for the wet tyre runners with Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) storming away from fourth on the grid to have a six second lead over Remy Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) at the end of Lap 2; the pair started from the front row on full wet tyres. The pace dropped rapidly as the track quickly dried with Bassani lapping as much as four seconds quicker than Gardner behind him, expanding his lead to more than 10 seconds by the time Lap 4 concluded.

However, on Lap 5, Bassani started haemorrhaging time to Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), with the six-time Champion starting on intermediate tyres. The gap came down from over 10 seconds to two by the end of Lap 6 before the Italian pitted on that lap; handing Rea the lead as Bassani opted for slick tyres and came ahead of all the riders who pitted before him. At the start of Lap 10, Bassani was within 58 seconds – the Pit Intervention Time – of Rea who had yet to stop. This gap continued to fall but the #47 wasn’t able to regain the time lost and finished seventh.

While Bassani was able to put in lap times in the 1’32s – around three seconds quicker than Rea – the battle out in front turned into Rea and Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) with the 2021 Champion around eight or nine tenths quicker than his rival. Although the Turkish star kept closing the gap, Rea’s pace was enough to keep Razgatlioglu behind him to end his win drought that extended since Phillip Island Race 1 in 2022.

Rea was joined on the podium by Razgatlioglu and Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) with the Italian also opting to start on the inters and not stop for slicks. Rea was able to go with the wet tyre runners in the opening laps while other intermediate riders dropped down, including Razgatlioglu, before battling back. The top three were separated by just eight seconds after 22 laps as Ulsterman claimed his 119th career victory and ensuring he now has 15 winning campaigns in WorldSBK. Razgatlioglu took his 21st podium of the year, and his 19th consecutive for the fourth-longest all-time streak as he closed the gap on Alvaro Bautista ( Racing WorldSSP Team) to 54 points. Petrucci gave Ducati a round number of podiums, with their 1050th at a venue they took their 1000th at last year.

PITLANE TO P4: Redding’s Warm Up lap gamble pays off

Scott Redding (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) also didn’t stop as he claimed fourth place despite starting from the pitlane. Redding was the first to pit as he came in at the end of the Warm Up lap to switch to the intermediate tyres and he surged up the order to finish in P4, finding off a resurgent Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) in fifth. It meant all five manufacturers finished inside the top five, while Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) completed the top six. P4 to P6 were separated by under a second as they battled and switched positions.

MISSING OUT: the wrong tyre choice hinders Bassani, Bautista

Bassani finished the race in seventh, just over 23 seconds down on Rea despite opting to stop, with the Italian the highest-placed rider in the classification who had stopped. The #47 made up three positions on the final lap as he first overtook Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) and Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) in one move to move into eighth, before he overtook Dominique Aegerter (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) to secure seventh. Aegerter ended the race in eighth, with Lowes ninth and Baz rounding out the top ten.

SCORING ON RETURN: van der Mark back in the points

Rookie Remy Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) was 11th after starting from the front row. He pitted at the end of Lap 5 to switch tyres, finishing ahead of Bautista in 12th. The reigning Champion lost 18 seconds compared to the Pit Intervention Time which dropped him behind Gardner, with the Australian coming into the pits behind him but leaving ahead. Michael van der Mark (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) scored points on his return as he took him 13th, ahead of Michael Ruben Rinaldi ( Racing – Ducati) in 14th and Tito Rabat (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) in 15th.

HOUSEKEEPING: to note from Race 1

Lorenzo Baldassarri (GMT94 Yamaha) had been running in the points but a penultimate lap crash at Turn 2 dropped him down the order to P16, with the rookie three tenths behind Rabat. Xavi Vierge (Team HRC), Isaac Vinales (TPR Team Pedercini Racing), Roberto Tamburini (Yamaha Motoxracing WorldSBK Team) and Oliver Konig (Orelac Racing MOVISIO) rounded out the classified riders.

Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW) was the first retirement when he crashed out on Lap 6 and Turn 15, while Eric Granado (PETRONAS MIE Racing Honda Team) retired after completing seven laps. Teammate Hannes Soomer crashed out at Turn 20 with just a handful of laps to go while Philipp Oettl (Team GoEleven) brought his machine into the pits to retire.

The top six from WorldSBK Race 1, full results here:

1 Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK)

2. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) +4.007s

3. Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) +7.939s

4. Scott Redding (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) +14.736s

5. Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) +14.903s

6. Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) +15.690s

Don’t miss Sunday’s Tissot Superpole Race at 11:00 Local Time (GMT+2) on Sunday using the WorldSBK VideoPass!