Jonathan Rea maintains his controversial collision with Alex Lowes on the last corner of the opening World Superbike Championship race in Jerez was a ‘racing accident’ after being belatedly punished by stewards for his part in it.

The defending champion was enduring a ‘horrible’ race after the rapid form that took him to his first pole position since the Phillip Island opener deserted him in race conditions as he slipped into a fierce battle for third instead with Alex Lowes.

Struggling for grip in the exceedingly warm temperatures, Rea was nonetheless able to wrestle the Kawasaki ZX-10RR into battle with Lowes, the pair swapping position on numerous occasions leading up to their final corner contact.

A bend notorious for such last lap showdowns [see below], Rea admits he was always priming for a pass into the corner and felt Lowes had run wide to allow a gap for him to strike. However, the pair instead clashed, with Lowes coming down and sliding into the gravel into an effective retirement (he’d remount to finish but in 16th).

A contrite Rea was emotional in the immediate aftermath of the accident, telling Eurosport ‘my race was horrible, but I am so, so, so, so sorry that he went down, it was really not my intention. It’s the last corner, Jerez… I didn’t mean to make contact.’

Originally classified as retaining third on the declared timesheets, Rea would however go on to be punished several hours later instead by being dropped to fourth behind Marco Melandri. He also loses his pole position for the Superpole Race and will be forced to start from the back of the grid.

Though he doesn’t reference the penalty directly, Rea maintains a view that the incident was merely an unfortunate racing incident.

“On the last lap I tried to be as close as possible to do something in the last corner,” he explained. “I saw him [Alex] going wide on the racing line so I decided to do a cutback and go to the inside.

“Unfortunately, at that point he was fully committed to the corner, I did not got through far enough, we had contact and he went down. I am really sorry for ending his race, but it was a real racing accident; last lap, last corner battle.”

Having lost ground to winner Alvaro Bautista in the title race as a consequence of the penalty, Rea will get only 10 laps to make a difference in the Superpole Race, which also decides grid positions for race three.