Bittersweet Sunday for riders at Imola

Sunday, 13 May 2018 16:10 GMT

Davies loses Rea battle but ends second, while Melandri crashes out

The stage was set for a dream Imola closer in the box, with all three riders taking the inside starting line, Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali around the paddock, and the stands a sea of red, full of passionate home fans. But the reality was less than ideal, with the team unable to take a win for the second Round in a row, and facing Donington Park next, a track where no Ducati has won since Carlos Checa in 2011.

There were still many positives to be taken from Sunday however, most concerning Chaz Davies ( Racing – Ducati). The Welsh rider was eventually passed by an unstoppable Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK), but his second place finish is his best in four races, and keeps him comfortably in second position in the championship standings.

From the start, Davies felt like the win might be a big ask at Imola: “I just didn’t have the feeling from the early laps, to be honest. I think the temperature went up, and I just struggled to pull the thing down on entry, and also to get that first traction in certain places, it was making the bike quite unstable. Just all sorts of issues. I could hear Johnny, I knew it was him behind me, and it was a matter of time before he’d come by. I didn’t know if he was going to leave it until the last laps or try and go. He had better rhythm than us, so I think he tried to come through a bit earlier than usual. I thought I’d try and go with him, but I knew that, realistically, I was struggling. 20 points was about as good as it was going to be today”.

Marco Melandri ( Racing – Ducati) was in contention for a second consecutive podium finish at Imola, but an incident with Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team) left both men out of the race. Disappointment for the Italian, who was promised a tight battle: “I had quite a good pace even if I was struggling a lot to pass the other guys. It’s a shame, to finish P3 was possible, and in the end, I finished on the gravel”.

“I feel the bike was better today, the rhythm was better, but I still had problems”, he admits. “Trying to make some passes with a full fuel tank is the weakest point we have, and with the Race 2 grid, when you lose time at the beginning it’s impossible to recover. I was planning to pass Xavi Fores, but suddenly van der Mark brought me down. I couldn’t do anything”.

Marco Ruben Rinaldi ( Racing – Junior Team) had an astonishing start to his race, jumping up from fourth to first at the start, and leading the race for two laps. Even Davies was surprised: “I just saw this orange dot! He got such a good start, and then he launched into the first corner as well. Fair play, it was a really good start from him, he made it happen”.

Eventually the Italian fell back, but he’s gaining valuable experience – and points – in his WorldSBK debut season. “I’m quite happy about yesterday and today, the most important thing is that we are improving every race”, Rinaldi says. “I have to improve my second part of the race, because it’s my worst part, but we are happy of course. To be first through the first and second lap was amazing. We are trying to improve a lot, to stay with the best riders every race”.

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