WSBK Imola: Rea does the double, takes championship points lead

Pata Honda’s Jonathan Rea takes an unexpected double victory at Imola, with Ducati’s Chaz Davies finishing second in both races

Italy is famous for the quality of its food, and nothing tastes as good as victory. After scoring his first win of the season in Race Two in Assen, Jonathan Rea (Honda) proved to be rather gluttonous, so to speak, in Imola. In the fourth round of WSBK, the Ulsterman took pole position, fastest lap and a fierce double win, leading from start to finish in both races. Chaz Davies (Ducati), joined him on the podium twice in second place, while Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) and Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia) traded places on the last available step. For the first time in his career in the top class, Rea is leading the championship and ready to tackle another friendly track in Donington Park (UK) in two weeks.

"I knew I'd be strong because this track suits both my bike and riding style well," Rea said. "But I wouldn't have imagined to score a double. It's almost a shame we have to test tomorrow, as the whole team (which also dominated the Supersport race with Lorenzo Zanetti first and Michael van der Mark second), would deserve a proper celebration. Seriously though, the goal is to keep improving the electronics and the bike as a whole, and keep ball rolling in Donington."

It is worth noting that the British track – just as Imola – saw Tom Sykes score a ruthless double last year. Obviously, the reigning world champion (who is now second in the rankings, four points behind Rea), is keen to go back to his old splendor. "I knew that it would have been difficult to repeat our performance from last year, but I still feel as if I lost a good opportunity," Sykes admitted. "We had some issues with front grip, for which we paid dearly, given the several hard braking points on this track. Still, I feel our bike is much more versatile than last year, so I'm looking forward to Donington."

Ducati's Chaz Davies (7) emerged on top of fierce battles for second in both races at Imola, while Kawasaki's Loris Baz (76), Tom Sykes (hidden behind Davies), and Aprilia's Sylvain Guintoli (50) traded the spots behind.Fabrizio Porrozzi

Given Rea's strong appetite, only some crumbs were left to be taken. Davies, following a sub-par start to his season after switching to Ducati from BMW, was hungry nonetheless. Despite suffering some chatter, the Welsh brought home two solid second places, collecting 40 points, 30 more than his teammate Davide Giugliano, who seemed to have called dibs on a possible victory after showing a strong pace in both free practice and qualifiers. The Italian, however, crashed out in Race One after a poor start from third position on the grid, and faded out in the afternoon after the first few laps, hindered by vibrations.

"These were, without a doubt, our best races of the season," Davies said. "We've been fast since Friday and, despite some rear-end chattering that forced me to ride more at the edge than I would have liked to, I was able to push quite strongly. Unfortunately, Rea had the pace to pull away in both races, but we've enjoyed our best weekend so far."

Marco Melandri showed promise during practice and qualifying that he might finally break out of the struggles he's encountered adapting to the Aprilia RSV4, but both Imola races proved a disappointment. The former 250cc Grand Prix champion left the track immediately left after the races without talking to the press.Fabrizio Porrozzi

If Ducati had mixed results, Aprilia even more so. Guintoli saved the day with a third place in Race Two, while Marco Melandri, who has been struggling with the RSV4 so far, was sixth and eleventh respectively. Before the weekend, the Italian said he had "reached the bottom in Assen", but the two races proved him wrong. He then left the track straight after the technical checks, and could not be reached for comments. "It's evident Melandri's performance is below the expectations, his own at first, at the moment," said Aprilia Racing CEO Leo Francesco Mercanti. "We trust him. I think the capacity to react to days like this will make a huge difference at the end of the year."

Suzuki, however, is struggling even more. Eugene Laverty scored the first win of the year in Phillip Island, but hasn't stepped on the podium ever since. Rookie Alex Lowes was second in Holland. Both of them were well off the top five in Imola, a track that should have theoretically suited the GSX-R. The team, who is carrying out major electronics development (e.g., with the introduction of split throttle bodies), will focus on engine break strategies during tomorrow's tests (which the predicted rain threatens to disrupt).

Technical problems also hindered team EBR, whose best result was the 18th position collected by Geoff May in Race Two. Both him and Yates were unable to finish the first race, but seemingly without encountering further engine issues after the Dutch round. "I am sorry I didn’t the chance to ride in Race 1 because my intent is collect much data as possible in order to develop the bike alongside my mechanics," May said. "In race 2 we completed the race and I improved the feeling with the bike. Now I want focus on the next race in Donington, where I’m sure we will continue to make some further improvements."

Race 1 results:

Pos. Rider Country Machine
1. Jonathan Rea (GBR) Honda
2. Chaz Davies (GBR) Ducati
3. Tom Sykes (GBR) Kawasaki
4. Loris Baz (FRA) Kawasaki
5. Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) Aprilia
6. Marco Melandri (ITA) Aprilia
7. Eugene Laverty (IRL) Suzuki
8. Alex Lowes (GBR) Suzuki
9. Toni Elias (SPA) Aprilia
10. Leon Haslam (GBR) Honda
11. Leon Camier (GBR) BMW EVO
12. David Salom (SPA) Kawasaki EVO
13. Luca Scassa (ITA) Kawasaki EVO
14. Jeremy Guarnoni (FRA) Kawasaki EVO
15. Alessandro Andreozzi (ITA) Kawasaki EVO
16. Fabian Foret (SPA) Kawaski EVO
17. Sheridan Morias (RSA) Kawasaki EVO
18. Claudio Corti (ITA) MV Agusta
19. Peter Sebestyen (HUN) BMW EVO
20. Imre Toth (HUN) BMW EVO
DNF Davide Giugliano (ITA) Ducati
DNF Michel Fabrizio (ITA) Kawasaki EVO
DNF Aaron Yates (USA) EBR
DNF Niccolo Canepa (ITA) Ducati
DNF Ivan Goi (ITA) Ducati EVO
DNF Geoff May (USA) EBR
NC Ayrton Badovini (ITA) Bimota EVO
NC Christian Iddon (GBR) Bimota EVO

Race 2 results:

Pos. Rider Country Machine
1. Jonathan Rea (GBR) Honda
2. Chaz Davies (GBR) Ducati
3. Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) Aprilia
4. Loris Baz (FRA) Kawasaki
5. Tom Sykes (GBR) Kawasaki
6. Davide Giugliano (ITA) Ducati
7. Toni Elias (SPA) Aprilia
8. Leon Haslam (GBR) Honda
9. Eugene Laverty (IRL) Suzuki
10. Alex Lowes (GBR) Suzuki
11. Marco Melandri (ITA) Aprilia
12. Leon Camier (GBR) BMW EVO
13. David Salom (SPA) Kawasaki EVO
14. Luca Scassa (ITA) Kawasaki EVO
15. Fabian Foret (SPA) Kawaski EVO
16. Jeremy Guarnoni (FRA) Kawasaki EVO
17. Alessandro Andreozzi (ITA) Kawasaki EVO
18. Geoff May (USA) EBR
19. Imre Toth (HUN) BMW EVO
DNF Niccolo Canepa (ITA) Ducati
DNF Sheridan Morias (RSA) Kawasaki EVO
DNF Michel Fabrizio (ITA) Kawasaki EVO
DNF Peter Sebestyen (HUN) BMW EVO
DNF Aaron Yates (USA) EBR
DNF Claudio Corti (ITA) MV Agusta
NS Ivan Goi (ITA) Ducati EVO
NC Ayrton Badovini (ITA) Bimota EVO
NC Christian Iddon (GBR) Bimota EVO

Championship points (after 4 events):

Pos. Rider Country Machine Points
1. Jonathan Rea (GBR) Honda 139
2. Tom Sykes (GBR) Kawasaki 135
3. Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) Aprilia 123
4. Loris Baz (FRA) Kawasaki 119
5. Chaz Davies (GBR) Ducati 87
6. Marco Melandri (ITA) Aprilia 84
7. Davide Giugliano (ITA) Ducati 69
8. Eugene Laverty (IRL) Suzuki 62
9. Leon Haslam (GBR) Honda 58
10. Alex Lowes (GBR) Suzuki 50
11. Toni Elias (SPA) Aprilia 50
12. David Salom (SPA) Kawasaki EVO 34
13. Niccolo Canepa (ITA) Ducati 28
14. Leon Camier (GBR) BMW EVO 20
15. Luca Scassa (ITA) Kawasaki EVO 16
16. Fabian Foret (SPA) Kawaski EVO 10
17. Sheridan Morias (RSA) Kawasaki EVO 10
18. Jeremy Guarnoni (FRA) Kawasaki EVO 7
19. Glenn Allerton (AUS) BMW EVO 6
20. Kervin Bos (NED) Honda 5
21. Claudio Corti (ITA) MV Agusta 5
22. Michel Fabrizio (ITA) Kawasaki EVO 2
23. Alessandro Andreozzi (ITA) Kawasaki EVO 1