Belfast Telegraph

How Jonathan Rea escaped crash unhurt and used an appeal to seal World Endurance victory in Japan

 

Leading man: Jonathan Rea, riding 10 at Suzuka yesterday, instead of his usual No1
Leading man: Jonathan Rea, riding 10 at Suzuka yesterday, instead of his usual No1

By Roy Harris

Jonathan Rea and his Kawasaki Racing team-mates Leon Haslam and Toprak Razgatlioglu - the latter didn't ride any stints - were declared winners of the Coca Cola Suzuka 8-hours World Endurance Championship race in Japan yesterday amid confusion and a protest of the original result.

What had seemed a cruel and disappointing end to the world's most prestigious motorcycle race saw the Ulsterman originally denied victory in the closing two minutes when he crashed out on oil deposited on the track by a stricken SERT Suzuki, whose rider thoughtlessly continued on the racing line despite billowing smoke. That brought out the red flags.

There was total confusion after the red flags were displayed as to whether they were being waved for the oil on track or for Rea's crash (although they appeared to come out far too quickly for the crash).

Then there was utter dejection for Kawasaki as they were excluded from the final standings for not having the machine across the line within five minutes of the race ending, and elation for the Yamaha team of Alex Lowes, Michael van der Mark and Katsuyuki Nagasuga who were declared the winners - for Yamaha their fifth consecutive win.

However, the Kawasaki Racing Team, after reading the rules, then protested the original result arguing that the final standings should have been taken from the end of the last completed lap - when Rea, who is also in the driving seat in his bid for a fifth consecutive World Superbike Championship title, was 20 seconds in front.

Race Direction sided with Kawasaki, giving the manufacturer their first win in the prestigious race since 1993 when Scott Russell and Aaron Slight were the riders.

The five-minute rule used in World Superbike doesn't actually exist in World Endurance, with the actual rule being that the result went back a lap - exactly what Kawasaki had thought when they appealed.

As the red flags were for the oil spill that caused Rea to crash out, he was ahead at that time.

Half an hour earlier and with a healthy lead, Rea had a lucky break when a slower rider he was lapping crashed after hitting debris on the circuit just as the Kawasaki man was alongside him. A collision was narrowly avoided.

This is Rea's second triumph in what is the most important race for Japanese manufacturers, the first coming in 2012 when he became the first UK rider to taste victory when with Honda. For Haslam this was his third win, twice on Hondas.

Meanwhile, after a two-year absence racing returned to Oliver's Mount, Scarborough with the Barry Sheene Classic meeting, but had to be abandoned yesterday due to mist.

Lee Johnston on his Ashcourt Yamaha had earlier won both Junior races and Joey Thompson clinched both Supertwin events.

During the Dunlop Masters meeting at Mondello Park, Brian McCormack won all three Supersport races and one Superbike, while Richie Ryan won the other two Superbike races.

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