Last weekend saw the World Superbike Championship resume at Portimao in Portugal after its two-month summer break but there was no change in the pecking order with Jonathan Rea picking up from where he left off with another resounding double.
It was business as usual for Rea and his Kawasaki ZX-10R with two more wins making it six in a row. It saw him extend his record total to 66 wins and also close to within one of Troy Croser’s record total of 130 podiums. It also increased his championship lead to 116 points with just three rounds remaining so it’s only a question of time before he wraps up title number four, most probably at the next round.
The amendment to this year’s rules may have had some effect at the beginning of the season but once Rea and his team adjusted, they’ve never looked back and with 12 wins for the season so far, from 20 races, it’s been another stunning year for the Ulsterman.
He seems unstoppable at present and a lot more scratching of heads will be taking place to see if, how and, when he can be beaten.
Return to form for Melandri
After taking a double victory at the opening round, Marco Melandri would have been hoping for a strong season but it hasn’t panned out that way taking only six podiums in the subsequent 18 races to sit in fifth overall some 191 points adrift of Rea.
He’s already lost his factory Ducati ride for 2019, with MotoGP rider and former 125cc World Champion Alvaro Bautista brought in alongside Chaz Davies to ride the all-new V4.
However, the veteran Italian is keen to continue his career and three successive podiums suggest he’s back on track as he looks to put himself in the shop window for a competitive mount next year.
van der Mark continues to perform
Since taking the double at Donington Park in May, Michael van der Mark has continued to perform at the highest level, adding consistency to his undoubted pace and talent. The Yamaha rider was on the podium in both races in Portugal to take his season’s tally to nine and he’s now only twenty points adrift of Chaz Davies in the Championship table.
He’s also eighty points clear of team-mate Alex Lowes having out-performed him at each of the last two rounds and he’ll be firmly aiming to take the number two plate from Davies in the final part of the season.
After claiming pole position at Portimao, Eugene Laverty would have more than fancied his chances of adding to the two back-to-back podiums he took at Laguna Seca and Misano. But racing rarely goes to plan and he came away from the Portuguese venue with just a solitary seventh place to show for his and his Milwaukee team’s efforts.
The opening race was only a few corners old when he was taken out by a wayward Xavi Fores and the aforementioned seventh place in race two wasn’t a true representation of his weekend.
Lie Melandri, he’s yet to secure a ride for 2019 as the Milwaukee team continue to consider their options so he’ll be hoping his luck will turn at the final three rounds to end the year on a high.
Honda struggles continue
After a troublesome first year with the new Honda Fireblade in 2017, more was expected from the Japanese giant in 2018 with big money backing from Red Bull and former podium finisher Leon Camier signed as the number one rider. But, sadly, it hasn’t worked out that way.
Camier had performed heroics for three seasons on the under-powered MV Agusta and had previously shone on factory Aprilia and Suzuki machinery. His reputation and development skills, along with more experienced technicians being brought into the team, were expected to help Honda move on to the next level but even he hasn’t managed to do that.
Indeed, whilst the early part of the season gave plenty of promise, that’s subsequently dwindled away and his results have been no better than what they were on the MV whilst team-mate Jake Gagne has been a huge disappointment, consistently finishing at the bottom end of the top 15.
With Honda’s focus and priority on re-aligning its Formula One programme, the World Superbike team is very much at the bottom of the pile and will be the last to have resources allocated to it so it’s hard to see their fortunes changing, for the short term at least.
Having started watching motorcycle races all over the world form childhood, Phil Wain has been a freelance motorcycle journalist for 15 years and is features writer for a number of publications including BikeSport News and Classic Racer, having also been a regular contributor to MCN and MCN Sport. He is PR officer for a number of teams and riders at both the British Superbike Championship and International road races, including Smiths Triumph, Quattro Plant Kawasaki, John McGuinness, Ryan Farquhar and Keith Amor. He is also heavily involved with the Isle of Man TT Races, writing official press releases and race reports as well as providing ITV4 with statistical information.