Aruba Ducati’s Alvaro Bautista dominated the opening Jerez WorldSBK race at Jerez, crossing the line with a seven-second lead over Michael van der Mark.
But there was high drama at the last corner as a lunge from reigning champion Jonathan Rea saw Yamaha’s Alex Lowes end in the gravel.
The pair had been swapping paint on the limit for most of the race but an error from Rea at Lorenzo saw him clip Lowes who went down. Stewards investigated the incident but no action was taken.
“I am so sorry, he went down, it was not my intention,” said a tearful Rea, who got what for from Lowes’ wife Corinne in pitlane.“I stopped at the garage but it fell on deaf ears. I hope I can go later and apologise.”
Rea is clearly mortified in parc ferme
On the opening lap, it was a frantic start as Rea grabbed the holeshot and kept his advantage, despite Bautista trying to get around the outside.
However, on the short burst between Turn 4 and 5, the Spaniard was able to get ahead of Rea with a well-executed move.
At the end of the first lap, Lowes was a solid third, whilst teammate Michael van der Mark had fought his way ahead of Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) and was fourth.
Soon, the battle over third began to take place, with van der Mark right on the tail of Lowes as the third lap started. Half way round the lap however, it was an unconventional pass at Turn 8 that saw the Dutchman get ahead of his teammate and lead the pursuit to Rea, who was losing time to Bautista ahead and the Yamahas behind – even though they were duelling.
It wasn’t long before the Yamahas began to rapidly close down the four-time WorldSBK Champion. The Northern Irishman had no answer for a rampant van der Mark, who passed him with ease at Turn 6 with 12 laps to go. Soon, it was Lowes’ turn to get ahead of Rea, this time at Turn 2 as Rea made a rare mistake. However, Lowes made a similar mistake at Turn 5, allowing Rea to go back ahead at Turn 6 before a battle throughout the rest of the race ensued.
There were further battles down the field, with Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) making a blazing start to the race, up to fifth from 11th. Despite this, Melandri was making his presence felt, with a strong block pass at Turn 6 in the middle of the race, whilst Razgatlioglu got the Italian back a lap later at Turn 1. The battle raged for the rest of the race, with Melandri taking his top five in the end since he was third in Race 1 at Phillip Island.
With van der Mark clearing off and Bautista on the horizon, Rea and Lowes were left to battle it out right the way until the end of the race. With multiple clean passes as the two swapped positions, the last lap was the perfect opportunity for a desperate move from Rea, who needs as many damage limitation points as possible. With Bautista winning and van der Mark second, there were shenanigans behind as Rea’s desperate pass knocked off Lowes. Rea’s wave of apology was no consolation as Lowes’ left hand glove had been ripped off in the accident. He suffered hand and shoulder brusing in the crash.
Melandri took fourth ahead of Razgatlioglu, whilst Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) concluded the race in sixth. Chaz Davies (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) recovered to seventh with Sandro Cortese (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK), Leon Haslam (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) and Michael Ruben Rinaldi (BARNI Racing Team) completed the top ten.