Jonathan Rea may have had a third consecutive double at the Portuguese round of WorldSBK, but that’s not to say there wasn’t plenty of action and intrigue as WorldSBK resumed following the summer break.
Rea Gets Creative
Jonathan Rea came away from Portimão with another 50 points, and moved ever closer to a historic fourth consecutive title. The Northern Irishman has enjoyed another stellar campaign, and has won 12 races already this year. He’ll be out to wrap up the crown in two weeks’ time in France and knows that following his Portimão double he has one hand on the crown.
“I can’t quite believe what’s happening right now,” said Rea afterwards. “We knew after coming to the test that we’d be strong, so we kept the bike the same as at the test. I had really good pace to catch Chaz, but he was braking like an animal, and I knew that I’d have to be creative to overtake him.”
“I made the move at Turn 10, and it stuck after that I tried to control the race. I know that my target is to win the title in Magny-Cours, because I know that at this point it’s my championship to lose.”
With 116 points in hand over Davies, the title can be secured following Race 1 in France.
Davies Digs Deep
There are few things more difficult in racing than to race injured. Riders constantly push themselves through the pain barrier and following two fourth placed finishes it was clear how much Chaz Davies was suffering.
The Welshman has twice fractured his collarbone in recent months and Porgual proved especially trying. The Portimão circuit is physically challenging when you’re in full fitness. Davies was far from that, and in stiflingly hot conditions, he had a very impressive weekend.
“Collarbone injuries are quite common in racing,” reflected Davies. “It’s not really so bad because you screw in a plate, and the bone is stable. If you damage the plate though, tear the screws out of the bone, then you’re in trouble. I had a crash on Friday, but if you’d told me before the weekend that I’d have two fourths, I’d have taken it.”
The Friday crash came as a result of a technical problem in the opening moments of Free Practice 3, and the time lost also left the Welshman facing a further challenge.
Having to take part in Superpole 1, he was only able to qualify on the fifth row of the grid, so to be able to finish fourth was an impressive feat. On Sunday, he scrapped with Rea for the lead before ultimately giving way and dropping to fourth.
No Luck for Laverty
Eugene Laverty was back on pole position for the first time in five years on Saturday. The Irishman’s Superpole success was hugely impressive because it came on the back of arguably one of the worst tests of Laverty’s career.
During the official test three weeks ago, the Milwaukee Aprilia rider struggled to get the bike stopped and turned. At a circuit that he always feels confident on this was a weekend that he suddenly feared.
Immediately up to speed on Friday morning, his nerves were settled and he built on it to show his speed on Saturday. Unfortunately for Laverty it all came to nothing with an opening-lap crash.
He was an innocent victim to a Xavi Fores mistake, but it was of small consolation as the 31-year-old was forced to line up 10th on the grid for Race 2. With rear grip issues, he lost time trying to make his way through the pack.
Plenty of 2019 Options for Shaun Muir
Shaun Muir Racing could have a very different look in 2019. The former British Superbike champions have had a difficult three years in WorldSBK, but their future could be secured as soon as the end of this week. The team had executives from Milwaukee in Portugal, and are discussing continuing their role as sponsors while Shaun Muir also chases additional backing.
With Gulf having been the team’s title sponsor they could also be a player for 2019. Muir commented that he should be able to announce his plans in the coming weeks but that “securing our budget is the most important thing for us.”
Once the budget is in place, the team can shift their focus to the bike they’ll compete with. Their link to BMW has been well-documented, but Muir was at pains to point out that nothing was secured and that he was evaluating all possible options.
Ensuring support from Munich seems to be the biggest issue for the team. Electronics have been a constant bugbear of the current version of the BMW S1000RR and SMR want to ensure that a plan is in place to develop that area of the bike.
There are plenty of rumors circulating around the WorldSBK paddock about BMW’s 2019 involvement with some discussions having taken place about a full-time test team with wild-cards at European rounds and additional teams on the grid. Whether this happens remains to be seen.
Muir also spoke about running the brand new Ducati Panigale V4, the Honda Fireblade and indeed continuing with Aprilia in 2019.
Riders being linked with the ride will be “top line riders” because they offer an easier path to success. Muir is is keen to retain Eugene Laverty, and talks are very close to being concluded with the Irishman thought to have agreed terms to remain with the team but waiting until machinery is confirmed.
Tom Sykes has also been in discussions, while the Muir confirmed that he had not held talks with Marco Melandri, but that he would be open to those discussions.
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