WorldSBK Imola Debrief – A Recap from Italy

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Following his double victory at Imola, Jonathan Rea has laid the foundation for his fourth consecutive WorldSBK title.

Jonathan Rea’s 59th WorldSBK victory saw the Northern Irishman join Carl Fogarty as the most successful rider in WorldSBK history. The triple champion was however quick to point out that winning races is good, but winning championships is better.

Still trailing Foggy by one title there is now a sense of inevitability that Rea will add to his title haul. The previous two years had seen Chaz Davies do the double at Imola, but he had no answers for Rea over the weekend.

The Kawasakis were the class of the field, but it was Rea who came out on top following a tough weekend for the Ducati rider, and with a 47-point advantage the title race is now firmly in Rea’s hands.

Kawasaki Have Refined Their Package

One of the biggest questions of the winter was how long it would take Kawasaki to understand the new 2018 regulations. Not long was the emphatic answer.

The form of Rea can almost be taken for granted but Tom Sykes victory at Assen and double Italian podium shows how well rounded the package is despite a winter of change.

Class of the Field

That Ducati and Kawasaki are the best bikes on the grid isn’t news, but Imola showed just how much better their packages are than the rest of the field. The Italian circuit is very technical and tests every facet of your bike. If there is a weakness Imola will expose it.

The margins from the leading bikes to the rest of the field showed how much work still needs to be done to refine different bikes.

Donington Park should offer everyone a chance to get back on a more level playing field, and it’s worth remembering that while Kawasaki and Ducati have been doing all the winning, the start of this season saw much more competitive racing than previous years.

What Does Honda Have To Do To Catch a Break?

At Imola, Leon Camier returned to action, but the extent of his Aragon injuries meant that he was far from fully fit, and after two practice sessions he was ruled out of action.

That offered a chance for Jason O’Halloran to step into action for the weekend and the BSB racer showed strong potential by out qualifying his teammate, Jake Gagne.

Unfortunately for the Australian his weekend ended with a fractured leg following a Race 1 crash. Honda clearly still needs to make progress with their bike, but a change of luck is also needed.

The King Bows Out

Kenan Sofuoglu retired from racing on Sunday, and the Turkish star was given a tremendous reception by past rivals.

The five-times WorldSSP champion has long been the benchmark of the class, but the respect that he was held in was still surprising.

Numerous riders said that racing Sofuoglu made them a better rider. PJ Jacobsen even went so far as explaining how generous he was with rivals.

“There were so many times when Kenan would take you aside at the Paddock Show, and say something that he saw you do during a race,” explained Jacobsen.

“He could say something that would make you stronger, because for Kenan it was all about being able to have a last lap fight. He was so good at controlling a race and his race craft was second to none.”

Photo: WorldSBK

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Steve English

"Superbike Steve" is known best for his on-air hosting of the WorldSBK race feed, but when he's not looking pretty for the camera, he is busy writing stories and taking photographs for Asphalt & Rubber.