WSBK: Rea extends title lead as Davies does double at Imola

Jonathan Rea leads his Kawasaki team-mate Tom Sykes at Imola in Italy.
Jonathan Rea leads his Kawasaki team-mate Tom Sykes at Imola in Italy.

Kawasaki rider Jonathan Rea twice finished as the runner-up at Imola in Italy but the World Superbike champion still managed to extend his title advantage.

Rea’s fierce rival Chaz Davies repeated his 2016 double on the Aruba.it Ducati, but Ulsterman Rea has opened a cushion at the top of the standings of 74 points over Davies, almost equivalent to three race wins.

The 30-year-old is right on target to win the world crown for an unprecedented third year in a row.

In Sunday’s race, Rea lost ground when he ran across the gravel at the Variante Bassa chicane, which forced him back to sixth place.

He battled through to move into second place but by that time Davies had established a lead of four seconds and he went on to win by 3.7 seconds over the Northern Ireland star, whose team-mate Tom Sykes was third.

“It was difficult at times today, especially because I made a mistake going into the Variante Bassa chicane at one point,” Rea said.

“I lost all the track positions that I gained in the first few corners and that changed my race completely. I feel that if I did not lose those I would have had something extra to - maybe not win the race - but for sure to go with Chaz.

“I got stuck behind some traffic after that but when I went through I was able to keep a consistent rhythm. I was too far back from Chaz but today we halved the winning margin compared to yesterday,” he added.

“I raced with the new soft prototype front tyre and in these temperatures I think it was maybe too soft an option for our bike. But I am generally content to have increased our championship lead, take 40 points and get on the podium twice at what is probably not our strongest track right now. It has been a really positive weekend.”

Behind the top three, Xavi Fores finished fourth on the Barni Ducati, with Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Ducati) and Alex Lowes on the Pata Yamaha the top six.

Eugene Laverty was seventh on the Milwaukee Aprilia.

On Saturday, the race was stopped on lap 12 when Laverty was involved in a spectacular crash, which resulted in his bike bursting into flames. Thankfully, the Toome man escaped unharmed.

Davies was leading the race by six seconds at the time from Rea, with Melandri in third and the result was declared.

Rea said: “In previous races I felt that if they could go faster I could go faster, that there was a little bit left in my pocket. This race I felt I was riding at the limit of my package a little bit.

“I had better front end stability for sure today after we changed the geometry to give me more confidence in hard braking and trail braking.

“This is one of the hardest stop-and-go circuits on the calendar.

“We struggled last year and it was a relatively difficult race again today. But to only lose five points to Chaz, and increase my championship lead – it was a good day.”

Fores was fifth behind Sykes, with Britain’s Leon