A disappointed Jonathan Rea has vowed to fight back in today’s World Superbike races at Donington Park after the reigning champion’s lead at the top was cut to 15 points yesterday.
Rea finished as the runner-up in race one in the damp and drying conditions, with closest rival Toprak Razgatlioglu taking his second win of the year to reduce the deficit to the Northern Ireland rider at round four of the series.
In wet conditions in the morning, Rea splashed his way to his first pole position at his home race and his fourth in a row this year, while Razgatlioglu was left languishing in 13th place on the Pata Yamaha.
Incredibly, Razgatlioglu powered through the field and was into second place by the end of the first lap.
He set his sights on race leader Rea and made his move to seize the lead on the second lap.
As Rea tried to battle back, he had a massive slide at the top of Craner Curves, but somehow managed to hold on.
However, another mistake at Redgate proved a step too far, giving Razgatlioglu more breathing space at the front. The Yamaha contender closed out victory by over two seconds from Rea, whose Kawasaki team-mate Alex Lowes was safe in third, nearly nine seconds further adrift.
A frustrated Rea said: “The gap stayed stagnant for some time and then I got into trouble again at the end, so I’m frustrated a little with my race because I don’t feel great, and I don’t feel I rode well either.
“We’ve made a bit of a compromise with the bike, knowing the conditions, and it really didn’t work and I was struggling, fighting the bike all the time.
“I was struggling to turn the bike and I was having a lot of bother in turn one because the line was so small, and trying to turn onto the line and get there – I just couldn’t get there.
“Then I was on the dirty stuff and I had a big moment at the top of Craner Curves, but I didn’t lose too much time.
“Toprak did a really good job and it was frustrating watching him ride away from me, so congratulations to him, but two Kawasakis in parc ferme is good news and I’ll look forward to tomorrow now – I’m sure we can try and make a step.”
Donington crowd favourite Tom Sykes clinched fourth place ahead of his BMW Motorrad team-mate Michael van der Mark, with Leon Haslam taking sixth on the Team HRC Fireblade.
Garrett Gerloff, who crashed out of third on the GRT Yamaha before rejoining the race, came home in seventh.
Co Antrim’s Eugene Laverty was inside the points as he took the chequered flag in 13th on the RC Squadra Corse BMW.
Last year’s Championship runner-up, Scott Redding, crashed out early on the Aruba.it Ducati.
Going into today’s Superpole (11am) and second full-distance (2pm) races, Rea has 169 points, with Razgatlioglu on 154. Redding is tied in third with Lowes on 104 points.
A total of 4,000 spectators are permitted this weekend at Donington Park.
Meanwhile, there was disappointment for young Northern Ireland rider Eugene McManus, who crashed out of the opening National Junior Superstock race shortly after taking the lead on the Affinity Sports Kawasaki.
Co Down’s Simon Reid also registered a DNF, while Sam Laffins finished outside the points in 16th.
Next weekend, the British Superbike Championship returns for round two at Knockhill, where Glenn and Andrew Irwin will be targeting the rostrum.
Kirkistown will host the first Ulster Superbike meeting of the season on Saturday.