Jonathan Rea successfully defied the threat of both the weather and some stiff opposition in tricky wet conditions to take another important step towards the 2020 WorldSBK Championship title with victory race one at Magny-Cours.
As it has been almost entirely throughout the weekend, steady but persistent rain awaited the riders for what promised to be a treacherous 21 laps around the French venue, but any hopes for Scott Redding it would literally unseat Rea as it did during FP3 became unfounded as the Kawasaki man rebuffed the challenges around him for another exemplary win.
Rea had to work hard initially despite grabbing the lea d from third on the grid into Turn 1, not least because he was lucky to be just in front of a dramatic coming together into Turn 1 after both BMW riders came down in a disaster for the German marque.
With Eugene Laverty – starting from pole position for the first time since 2012 – leading a BMW 1-2 on the grid, the Irishman suffered for a ponderous start which put him on the outside of Turn 1, so when BMW team-mate Tom Sykes to his inside was swiped down by contact with Garrett Gerloff it resulted in both S 1000 RRs barrelling through the gravel just seconds into the race.
Both riders were unhurt and will get another chance to make the most of their qualifying efforts in the Superpole Race when they start 1-2 again.
Out front, Rea was defending hard as positions swapped behind him, the riders ducking in and out of the spray, fending off the attention from an in-form Gerloff initially. However, his attempt to pass at d’Eau on lap three instead resulted in the line being chopped off by the Kawasaki, thus dropping him behind Loris Baz.
Rea, Baz and Gerloff soon sprinted clear to form the lead pack, but the latter would see his hopes of a second consecutive podium ruined by a crash on lap seven at Nurburgring when he lost the rear of the GRT Yamaha and it flipped him back over into a high-side.
With Baz left to take up the fight, he stayed close to Rea for the majority of the race and it was only until the latter portions that he began to lose ground before easing off to settle for second place.
His tenth win of the year, it means Rea has extended his lead over Redding to 65 points. He needs 62 points in hand at the end of the weekend to be crowned champion for a sixth time in six years.
A third podium of the year – and a first WorldSBK podium on home soil – for Baz and Ten Kate Yamaha – he was followed by Alex Lowes who despite being a distant ten seconds off the front notched up his first podium since the Australian season opener back in February/March.
Making good gains from his ninth place starting position, Chaz Davies consolidated third overall with fourth position, ahead of Ducati team-mate Redding, whose fifth place result was a hard-fought reward for an eventful race.
Struggling initially down in a distant tenth, the confidence returned as the laps ticked off to the point where Redding was on the back of a fierce race-long battle for fifth between Toprak Razgatlioglu and Leon Haslam.
With the Yamaha and Honda pair swapping positions right up to the final lap, it was Haslam’s last attack into Imola that proved his undoing, the veteran getting the move done, only to high-side dramatically on the exit. That slowed up Razgatlioglu, allowing Redding to jump from seventh to fifth, with the Turk left in sixth.
With everyone behind jumping a late position, Michael Ruben Rinaldi was seventh, ahead of Xavi Fores – for his equal best result of the year – and Michael van der Mark, who ran fourth for much of the race before a crash at d’Eau dropped him down the order.
Leandro Mercado returned to the top ten on the Motocorsa Ducati, with Federico Caricasulo and a lacklustre Alvaro Bautista left to fly the flag for GRT Yamaha and Honda in 11th and 12th after their respective team-mates’ incidents.
Sylvain Barrier, Valentin Debise and WorldSBK debutant Xavier Pinsach – another to fall and remount – picking up the final points’ paying position.