Last gasp Rea seals maiden WSBK victory
21 June 2009
Jonathan Rea has become only the fourth different World Superbike Championship winner in 2009 after a daring last lap manoeuvre saw him snatch a maiden victory in the second race at Misano.
The Northern Irishman was embroiled in a thrilling race-long exchange with Ducati Xerox duo Michel Fabrizio and Noriyuki Haga, but while the Italian looked to have stolen the initiative when he moved ahead with only a handful of laps remaining, Rea did not let his rival pull away.
Primed for attack, Rea launched his assault at the beginning of the final lap, succeeding in passing Fabrizio at the right-hander before resisting pressure from his rival to the chequered flag.
Prior to that, Rea had led the way for the majority of the race, the Ten Kate Honda man getting away in a leading pack that initially consisted of early leader Haga, Fabrizio and Carlos Checa.
Race one winner Ben Spies, however, looked down and out at the end of the opening lap when, arm aloft, he appeared to be slowing down to retire. Dropping to the back of the field with a slipping clutch, the American did his best get it working again, but was left with plenty of work to do to salvage points back from Haga.
His cause wasn't being aided by Haga's lead, the Japanese rider surging up from sixth position on the grid to move ahead into the opening turns, followed by Rea. However, the Ten Kate Honda – resplendent with its distinctive new Ohlins suspension – was proving a match for Haga, Rea duly snatching the lead for the first time this season on lap four.
Despite his attempts to respond, Haga instead found himself down to third on lap six when Fabrizio pulled a move on him too. With the pair swapping positions twice on lap ten and then lap 15, Rea was working hard to put some air between himself and the feuding team-mates.
However, Fabrizio, now safe in second position again, was now proving to be a significant threat to Rea, quickly latching onto the back of the Honda before diving beneath him at the tight second turn on lap 17.
Fabrizio's hopes of disappearing into the distance for a second-career victory, however, wouldn't materialise as both Rea and Haga kept him under intense pressure, so much so that Rea momentarily re-passed the Italian with just four laps remaining, only for Fabrizio to squeeze his Ducati back through.
With just one lap remaining, Fabrizio led with Rea and Haga in close company. Getting a good slipstream down the home straight, Rea tucked beneath Fabrizio before backing the bike up the inside and holding his line into the ensuing left-hander. While Fabrizio attempted to respond over the remaining corners, Rea was able to hold him off to cross the line for a famous first win.
Joining Spies, Haga and Fabrizio on the winner's list this season, victory also marks a first for Honda since Ryuichi Kiyonari's triumph at Donington Park last season.
Although disheartened to miss out on victory, second still marks Fabrizio's eighth consecutive podium finish to keep him in the hunt for overall honours.
Haga, meanwhile, crossed the line just behind to finish third, ending a day in which he'll be satisfied, rather than happy, with his results having been out paced by his team-mate throughout the weekend.
Nonetheless, with Spies only able to claw his way back to ninth position, the American was only able to reduce his gap to Haga by five points overall. The margin now stands at 48 points, with the ever-present Fabrizio just seven points further back now.
Although not quite the podium he was targeting from pole position, two fourth place finishes marks Jakub Smrz's best weekend at WSBK level. The Czech rider had slipped to seventh at one stage after a mistake on lap eight, but overtook Shane Byrne and Carlos Checa in the latter stages to for another good haul of points.
Checa finished a solid fifth on the second Ten Kate Honda, with race one podium winner Byrne completing a strong weekend for himself and the Sterilgarda Ducati team in sixth.
Tom Sykes and Leon Haslam made it four British riders inside the top eight in seventh and eighth, with Spies and Max Biaggi rounding out the top ten, the latter enduring a difficult weekend on the Aprilia.
Elsewhere, Suzuki pair Yukio Kagayama and Fonsi Nieto kept their points ticking over in 11th and 12th, ahead of Shinya Nakano, Ryuichi Kiyonari and Gregorio Lavilla.
Attention now turns to the next round, to be held next on British shores at Donington Park.