Fellow British Kawasaki ace Alex Lowes is ranked second overall in the series standings after two more strong podium rides, finishing in second and third at the weekend.
After two dry days at Motorland, rains appeared on Sunday morning, making the warm-up session fully wet.
The 10-lap Tissot Superpole ‘sprint’ race and then the second 18-lap race were held in slightly different, if changeable conditions, where tyre choice proved to be even more important to the final results than normal.
In the 10-lap Superpole race in the morning, six-time WSBK champion Rea used his pole position starting place to full effect, only being demoted for a short time before taking back a lead that would grow to 3.5 seconds over Lowes at the flag.
Lowes was again on good form in the sprint, with both KRT riders opting for what proved to be the correct choice of intermediate fronts and rears in the sprint race.
Race two proved to be more or less dry on the racing line after the sighting lap, which saw Britain’s Scott Redding (Ducati) and his slick tyres take his first win of the year.
Rea was a clear second despite being pushed off track when another rider ran in too hot during the approach to a corner.
Fortunate not to fall, Rea got going again from fifth place to work his way into a final second place and finish off a superb weekend – highlighted by reaching an unprecedented career total of 100 race wins on Saturday. He now has 101 race wins in total after his subsequent Superpole race win on Sunday.
Lowes was in combative and controlled form in the long race two, using his intermediate tyres to their best effect to finish on the podium in third place after his two runner-up showings earlier in the weekend.
After a very strong start to the season with the new Ninja ZX-10RR the KRT riders are 1-2 in the championship standings. Rea leads with an almost perfect 57 points, Lowes has 45 and Redding 40.
The weekend’s season opener at Aragon will be followed by the Estoril Round in Portugal, this coming weekend, May 28-30.
“I am really content with the weekend because to win the first race of the season was 100 times better than last year, and also to claim my 100th victory was a real target of mine,” said Rea afterwards.
“Today, I never experienced conditions like this in my whole career, where it really is a big tyre choice by the minute. Every minute it changes. With three minutes to go in race two I was asking Pere if they still had slicks on the grid!
“The Superpole race was the first time I had ever raced the intermediate tyres so huge kudos to Pirelli. I decided after that experience to use that tyre choice in the final race as well. It was the safest option. It wasn’t the right one, but it was the safest one, for sure. The majority of the grid had that combination.
“I realised that I was going to race for second but second feels like a win. The only way we could have been more competitive is with the right tyre choice. From that point of view I am really happy and excited for Estoril next week.”
Photo courtesy Kawasaki Europe
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The top six in race 1:
- Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK);
- Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +3.965s;
- Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with BRIXX WorldSBK) +4.008s;
- Scott Redding (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) +4.242s;
- Chaz Davies (Team GoEleven) +4.615s;
- Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) +6.784s.
The top six in race 2:
- Scott Redding (Aruba.It Racing – Ducati)
- Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +9.856s;
- Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +10.434s;
- Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) +12.094s;
- Michael van der Mark (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) +16.234s;
- Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with BRIXX WorldSBK) +20.1912