World Superbikes: Jonathan Rea turns title race on its head after capitalising on Alvaro Bautista crash at Misano
World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea has slashed the gap at the top to Alvaro Bautista to 16 points after completing a double at Misano in Italy.
Spaniard Bautista, who won Sunday’s Superpole sprint race, dramatically slid off his Ducati on the second lap of race two before re-joining the action and eventually finishing down in 14th place, earning two championship points.
Ulsterman Rea was determined to take full advantage of Bautista’s misfortune and the 32-year-old pulled out all the stops to seal victory over Turkish prospect Toprak Razgatlioglu (Puccetti Kawasaki), who pushed the reigning champion all the way.
Razgatlioglu attempted to line Rea up for a pass on the final lap, but the Kawasaki rider was able to keep his nose in front as he held on for a crucial triumph by only three-tenths-of-second.
His team-mate, Leon Haslam, completed the top three rostrum places ahead of Pata Yamaha’s Alex Lowes.
Rea, who is bidding for a record-breaking fifth world title in a row, is now within striking distance of Bautista, who led the championship by 41 points at the start of the weekend.
The four-time champion won Saturday’s first race in heavy rain but must have felt all his good work had been undone when he crashed out of second place in Sunday’s opening race. Bautista went on to seal his 14th win this season, with Rea managing to re-join the action, eventually crossing the line in fifth.
However, the circumstances of his victory in the final race has turned the championship race on its head.
It was Rea's 75th career World Superbike triumph, which comes 10 years after his maiden win at the Italian circuit in 2009.
With the season now at the half-way point, there is everything to play for as Rea prepares for his home round of the series at Donington Park, which takes place from July 5-7.