The Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola will host round five of the Motul FIM Superbike World Championship this weekend, with defending champion Jonathan Rea enjoying a 30-point lead over the rest of the field.
Rea claimed victory in race one and second in race two last time out at Assen, with nearest rival Chaz Davies on the factory Ducati claiming third and fifth. Rea’s team-mate Tom Sykes had a welcome return to form at Assen, claiming victory in race two — it was the ex-world champion’s first podium since the opening race of the season, a run of six races without a top three finish.
The podium was Sykes’ 101st for Kawasaki, eclipsing the previous record for most podiums for a rider with a single manufacturer, which was previously held by Carl Fogarty with Ducati, a record which had stood for more than 18 years. Kawasaki’s Sykes and Rea are the only riders with 10 podiums at the Italian circuit.
Amazingly, since 2012 riders have always claimed victory in both races at Imola; Carlos Checa in 2012, Sykes in 2013, Rea in 2014 and 2015 and Davies for the past two years.
This also means that the last 10 races at the circuit have been won by British riders. Davies has been the dominant force in recent years on the Ducati Panigale R. As well as winning the last four races, the Welshman also holds the pole-setting, race and lap records at the circuit.
This weekend could see Rea equal the record for total race wins in the series should he claim the double (although, if not this weekend, it is only a matter of time before he equals and surpasses the current record).
The team-mate of Davies, Marco Melandri, will be looking for improved results in front of his home fans; after his double win at the opening round the Italian has taken only one podium finish, third in race two at Aragon. Sitting in third place in the championship, he now finds himself 14 points adrift of Davies and 44 behind Rea.
Eugene Laverty is hoping to make a return to racing this weekend if passed fit by the medical team. It’s just seven weeks since he broke his pelvis in Thailand.
Dutchman Michael van der Mark heads to Imola full of confidence after a double podium at his home round in Assen in the previous round. It was van der Mark’s best weekend so far in 2018 and further reinforced him as number one Yamaha rider.
He is now in fourth place in the series, 12 points behind Melandri and, crucially, 27points ahead of his team-mate Alex Lowes, who currently sits in seventh place. Van der Mark’s previous best finish at Imola is seventh.
2018 World Superbike Championship standings
1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) 159 points
2. Chaz Davies (Ducati) 129
3. Marco Melandri (Ducati) 115
4. Michael van der Mark (Yamaha) 103
5. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 101
6. Xavi Fores (Ducati) 100