Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) took his first ever MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship race win at the Acerbis Czech Round, in an astonishing Race two which saw championship leader Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) crash out early on. The thousands of Czech fans present at the Automotodrom Brno witnessed a wild, unpredictable affair, ending in a Yamaha one two and a sixth race winner in 2018.
The front row all kept their positions at the start, with van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) holding off his teammate through the first corners. Lowes would make his move into the race lead the following lap however, gaining the inside line through the first corner. Meanwhile, Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) climbed all the way from eighth on the grid to third by lap two, and past van der Mark a few corners later.
The next couple of laps saw three dramatic, almost unbelievable twists. First, championship leader Jonathan Rea went down at turn 12, apparently after coming in contact with teammate Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK). The Northern Irish rider couldn’t make it back on track, retiring for the first time this season. If yesterday his lead seemed almost unsurmountable, after Sunday there was more than a glimmer of hope.
Next, Marco Melandri, having just passed Lowes for the race lead, lost control of his Ducati and rode through the gravel, immediately dropping the Italian to the back of the field and denying Melandri a return to the top of the rostrum when he was the fastest man on track. And then Sykes slipped in lap 6, leaving all of yesterday’s podium men off the rostrum in Race two. In four seasons together, never had both British KRT riders left a race empty-handed. Melandri was able to salvage a point, putting him in 15th.
With a dozen laps left, the stage was thus set for a Yamaha battle to the end, as Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), in third, was unable to match the pair’s pace. But this time, unlike when he led at Donington, Lowes’ YZF-R1 did not drop off in the final third: a smart, consistent and overall flawless ride by the Brit kept him ahead of his Dutch teammate all the way to the checkered flag with two seconds to spare. The man from Lincolnshire made his debut at Brno in 2011 – seven years on, he can finally call himself a WorldSBK winner.
With van der Mark claiming another podium finish in second, the Dutchman moves into third in the championship standings, above Sykes; while for Davies, who took an excellent third at Brno considering the issues that have plagued his weekend on the Panigale, cut Rea’s lead to 65 points.
Behind the rostrum riders, Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) took fourth, his best result of the season, with his teammate Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) also a season-best in fifth. Brno welcomed more good results for the Italian manufacturer, adding their bikes to the long list of podium contenders this season.
Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Junior Team) had a career-best of sixth at Brno, rising from eleventh on the grid in just his tenth WorldSBK race. He finishes above Leon Camier (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team), in seventh. Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team) returned to the top-ten in eighth, with Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) in ninth, and Roman Ramos (Team GoEleven Kawasaki) tenth.
WorldSBK is back in two weeks from Laguna Seca, a special circuit with some of the best sections of the championship. Join us there on Saturday 23rd of June.
Jules Cluzel (NRT) and Sandro Cortese (Kallio Racing) continued their sensational tussle as an intense rivalry is developing between the pair, putting on a strong show here in Brno. After a first promising tussle at Donington Park, the pair put an even more thrilling battle at the Automotodrom Brno to heat up the FIM Supersport World Championship even further, with the Frenchman managing to beat his championship rival this time around, and reducing the gap to the top of the championship to only two points.
Cluzel struck first at the lights, taking advantage of a slow start from Cortese to move into first by the first corner. Randy Krummenacher (BARDAHL Evan Bros. WorldSSP Team) also made his way into second, a position he would lose back to Cortese however by the end of lap one, with Raffaele De Rosa (MV Agusta Reparto Corse by Vamag) also moving into third above the Swiss rider a few turns later. Meanwhile, Federico Caricasulo (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) suffered his second retirement of the season, going down at Turn eight.
The two frontrunners had battled on the timesheets throughout the weekend, and that rivalry translated to the track, with a thrilling sequence at the tail end of lap four leaving an early highlight: Cortese cut ahead of Cluzel at Turn 11, but the Frenchman shot back two bends later, both riders nearly coming together in a flashback of Cortese’s winning move at Donington Park. In the midst of that action, the shadow of De Rosa’s MV Agusta crept up behind.
By lap 10, Cluzel was facing mind blowing pressure in the lead, with Cortese not even a tenth of a second behind. But two, three, four laps went by, and the championship leader, with better pace, couldn’t find his moment to attack – or chose not to. His moment came in the final lap: turn three saw the German move in front, but a wide line allowed Cluzel to push in around the outside of turn four. Again the pair clashed, with Cluzel managing to just squeeze out in front, and hold his lead until the checkered flag. A third win of the season for Cluzel, who emerges from the Czech round as the clear contender to Cortese’s championship lead.
With De Rosa drifting behind in the final laps, and managing his fourth consecutive podium, there was more action at the back. With Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) claiming fourth place over Krummenacher at the end, as well as the fastest lap of the race.
Thomas Gradinger (NRT) completed an excellent Sunday for the NRT team with his best result of the campaign in sixth. Another frantic battle in the middle of the pack between Anthony West (EAB antwest Racing) and Kyle Smith (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda), with the veteran Australian edging ahead of the new CIA Landlord rider for seventh place. Behind, Eerneli Lahti (Sterkman Motorsport by HRP) took his first top-10 finish of the campaign in ninth, scoring vital points for the FIM Europe Supersport Cup.
Can the championship battle get any closer? There’s four weeks until the WorldSSP riders go back on track at Misano, and it’s set to be electrifying.
Galang Hendra Pratama (BIBLION YAMAHA MOTOXRACING) was phenomenal for a third day in a row at the Automotodrom Brno, flying away from pole at the start and securing his second race win in the FIM Supersport 300 World Championship, after winning at Jerez last season. Walid Khan (Nutec- Benjan – Kawasaki) took his first WorldSSP300 podium in second with Borja Sánchez (ETG Racing) in third, in a race that ended early due to a red flag.
The Indonesian lost his pole lead momentarily to Ana Carrasco (DS Junior Team) at turn one, but two corners later the 19 year old was back out in front, quickly making space between himself and the near 40 riders behind. With Hendra Pratama running away at the front, the fight for second turned into a vintage WorldSSP300 scuffle to the line, with Carrasco defending her place from attacks by Scott Deroue (Motoport Kawasaki) and the surprising Maria Herrera (BCD Yamaha MS Racing), up from 17th on the grid.
A mistake by Carrasco put her at the back of a ten rider strong group of riders, with several more incredibly close behind. And with the riders gearing up for a thrilling race finish, it was suddenly all over: a crash in the back group forced a red flag, and with seven laps out of 10 having been completed (over two thirds of the full race distance) the race end was declared.
As things stood, Khan and Sanchez completed the podium, with Koen Meuffels (KTM Fortron Junior Team) in fourth, Glenn van Straalen (KTM Fortron Racing Team) in fifth and the returning Nick Kalinin (GP Project Team) in sixth. The red flag came at the worst moment possible for Carrasco, back in eleventh and out of the top 10 for the first time this year; she remains the championship leader, however, with Sanchez now second 20 points behind, and Luca Grunwald (Freudenberg KTM WorldSSP Team), tenth at Brno, falling to third one point below the ETG Racing rider.
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