The big news from the Aragon round of the FIM Superbike World Championship is this: Ducati has returned to victory in Superbike after more than two years. Chaz Davies, on his Ducati Panigale R, was able to beat the Kawasaki ZX-10Rs of Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes to the first corner of Race 2 and then gradually increase his lead. This performance by Davies underscores two points: the newfound competitiveness of the Panigale 1199R, and his personal familiarity with the bike.
Davies rode a great race. He never missed a beat, and he showed great confidence in the handling and braking qualities of the Ducati, which seems to have filled the power gap to the mighty Aprilia and Kawasaki four-cylinder bikes. Its top-speed performance on the long straight of the Motorland Aragon Circuit was on par with both of those bikes. Indeed, the new rules, particularly the one regarding the removal of the 50mm restrictor at the airbox, seem to benefit the Ducati twin better than any other bike.
While Davies was in the lead, Tom Sykes crashed on lap five while battling with teammate Rea and Aprilia’s Leon Haslam. The crash looked pretty bad for Sykes, who high-sided and landed hard on his left side and was also hit by the bike. But he was able to limp away, refusing the stretcher. At the end, Davies crossed the line 3.190 seconds ahead of Rea, who fended off Leon Haslam by a half second. Fourth was Jordi Torres on the second Aprilia RSV4R, and fifth was Xavi Fores on the second Panigale R campaigned by the Aruba.it racing team.
Race 1 was held under much cooler conditions, and the tires gave more problems than in the warmer second race. Sykes set the fastest lap of the day (a 1:50.890), but after mid race his rear tire slowly degraded and he had to give way first to teammate Rea and then to Davies, who was showing how competitive he and his Panigale R were at Aragon.
In fact, Davies was able to pass Sykes, and in the last two laps he raced neck and neck with Rea, who led him across the line by a very tight 0.051 seconds. Third was Sykes, 4.977 seconds behind, while the two Aprilias of Haslam and Jordi Torres were some 16 seconds back, in a battle with the Ducati of newcomer Fores and Nico Terol, who all finished in that order.
Rea is solidly in the lead of the FIM Superbike World Championship with 140 points, ahead of Haslam with 114 points, Davies with 83 points and Sykes with 66. Ernesto Marinelli, Director of Ducati’s SBK Project commented: “Today is a really important day for us. The first win for the Panigale in World Superbike is a significant milestone that goes a long way toward repaying the great work carried out by all of the guys in Borgo Panigale who, with dedication, passion, and commitment, have worked tirelessly over these last two years without a victory. The first thank you therefore goes to all of their hard work: ‘Well done.’ Chaz was superb and in Race 2 he rode perfectly to give us this first victory. He only just missed out in Race 1 but in Race 2 he won by a clear margin, demonstrating all of our bike’s potential as well as his great talent. The entire team has worked well, as ever, and Xavi’s results are also very positive. Now we must continue in the same direction to ensure that this is the first of many.”
“We’ve come close before now but today we finally did it! This has been my only goal since coming to Ducati and I’m very pleased to have achieved this result here. It’s extremely important to me, to be able to repay Ducati, Aruba and all of the Ducatisti with the first win for the Panigale R. I know that everyone has been working tirelessly to obtain this result. Race 1 was also really enjoyable and I was happy with the podium but just disappointed with the position, as I really wanted the win. I didn’t have a lot of opportunity to make passes but tried where I could in the final stages. I made a small mistake in the middle of the race, selecting an incorrect electronic setting on the bike and losing maybe a second to the Kawasakis but fortunately I was able to make it back up and push all the way to the line. All in all, it’s been a fantastic day with results that I hope to repeat very soon.”
World Superbike Aragon Race 1 Results: Top 10
1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki)
2. Chaz Davies (Ducati)
3. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki)
4. Leon Haslam (Aprilia)
5. Jordi Torres (Aprilia)
6. Xavi Fores (Ducati)
7. Nicolas Terol (Ducati)
8. Leandro Mercado (Ducati)
9. Sylvain Guintoli (Honda)
10. Leon Camier (MV Agusta)
World Superbike Aragon Race 2 Results: Top 10
1. Chaz Davies (Ducati)
2. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki)
3. Leon Haslam (Aprilia)
4. Jordi Torres (Aprilia)
5. Xavi Fores (Ducati)
6. David Salom (Kawasaki)
7. Leandro Mercado (Ducati)
8. Michael van der Mark (Honda)
9. Ayrton Badovini (BMW)
10. Nicolas Terol (Ducati)