2016 FIM WorldSBK waited an age to resume duty after an extended summer break and was faced with mixed – and unkind – conditions within the speedbowl setting of the Lausitzring in Germany last weekend for the tenth fixture of thirteen on the current slate. It was a tense weekend of reversals for reigning world champion Jonathan Rea: the Kawasaki Racing Team rider making up for a crash in the first race on Saturday with a brave victory through the deluge of rain on Sunday.
61st WorldSBK race to watch the lights go out in Germany and the first in nine years to circle the tight Lausitzring layout saw the majority of the Superbike field itching to get back into race mode. It was Ducati’s Chaz Davies who conquered the first sprint on Saturday and on dry asphalt as Tom Sykes posted his seventh podium finish in a row with second place and through holding off former MotoGP Champ Nicky Hayden.
“For sure not perfect but second position compared to many others is fairly good,” Sykes said afterwards. “We had no previous data reference here and we were able to make a good race. We had to experiment a lot and I think we found an acceptable set-up. There is a lot of pressure at this time of the season and we have seemed to find some kind of momentum, so we have to build on that.”
Rea hit the ground and out of race action for the first time this year. The mishap on lap 8 meant his advantage at the top of the standings shrunk to a difference of 26. At round nine the Brit suffered a technical problem at Laguna Seca that caused just a second DNF in two years and had seen Sykes chunk a section of Rea’s hard-earned championship lead. The first outing and misfortune in Germany created further consternation for Rea and his ‘Team65’ crew, therefore making his error-free run in the second race through the Lausitzring damp even more incisive.
Sunday’s proceedings got off to an edgy start. Excessive rainfall caused the riders to delay the second race when they formed up on the grid after the warm-up lap. The showers eventually eased but Sykes was a victim of the treacherous conditions as he fell on the first lap. The Englishman remounted and bagged four points by being able to continue to twelfth spot. Rea produced one of his best performances of the season for his ninth win (from twenty races) and to re-stretch his points margin back to 47 with just six outings left in 2016.
“It feels like probably the most important win of my career so far,” Rea underlined. “I felt that after yesterday and Laguna our backs were against the wall. In morning warm-up I began to feel good with the bike again after we had made some positive set-up changes. When we saw the rain coming on the grid we had to completely change to a wet set-up. It was one of those positions that with me leading the championship I had a lot to lose - but a lot to gain as well. I took my chance and put my head down from the start. I really felt good with the bike so I have to thank all my crew because last night my bike was not in a great way.”
“In racing everything is possible and everything turns on its head so fast,” reflected Sykes and with a view on the bigger picture. “Yesterday I was 26 points from the lead and today 47. The positive is that over the last three races the points gap is now at 47 but three races ago it was at 71. We still have three rounds remaining.”
Pata Yamaha’s Alex Lowes, back on WorldSBK duty after his recent adventures in MotoGP and at the Suzuka 8 Hour, posted an eighth place in the dry but was a faller in the wet.
WorldSBK gathers again around the curves of Magny Cours in France on October 1-2 and with the series set for conclusion that same month with events in Spain (Jerez) and Qatar (Losail) to come.