Jonathan Rea masters wet at Misano to reduce Alvaro Bautista's World Superbike title advantage

Jonathan Rea won Saturday's rain-hit opening World Superbike race at Misano in Italy.
Jonathan Rea won Saturday's rain-hit opening World Superbike race at Misano in Italy.

Jonathan Rea claimed his seventh World Superbike victory at Misano in atrocious conditions in Saturday’s opening race at the Marco Simoncelli Circuit in Italy.

The reigning champion has closed the gap to Alvaro Bautista at the top of the standings to 32 points going into Sunday’s Superpole and second full-distance races.

Rea, bidding for an unparalleled fifth consecutive world crown in 2019 on the factory Kawasaki, pocketed all 25 points after race leader Alex Lowes was caught out in the wet on his Pata Yamaha.

Ulsterman Rea’s latest victory at Misano comes ten years on from his first ever World Superbike success at the circuit in 2009.

He said: "I had done next to zero laps in the wet this season, even in winter testing. The first time we came across the wet was in morning warm-up at Imola. The gamble to stay inside the box in the wet morning warm-up today still paid off, but we did not expect the rain clouds to come for the race.

"I was very nervous as we did not really have a wet set-up. So we just tried to maximise our potential, ride my own race and our bike works well in these conditions. It is a very stable bike but the track was changing lap-to-lap. Sometimes we had a lot of surface water, sometimes zero surface water," Rea added.

"You need much more concentration in a wet race, because the bike is moving much more underneath you and you have to be very precise, especially with the white lines and the kerbs.

"When Alex came past I was not prepared to take that risk to go that fast. When I was leading the race I tried to manage my rhythm and the gap to behind. Arturo my mechanic was super-good with my pit-board so I could enjoy the last lap.”

Tom Sykes finished on his own in second position on the factory BMW, with championship leader Bautista sealing third on the Aruba.it Ducati.

Loris Baz took fourth on the Ten Kate Yamaha ahead of Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Ducati) and Marco Melandri (GRT Yamaha).

Eugene Laverty was ruled out through injury. His replacement, Italian rider Lorenzo Zanetti, finished ninth on the Team Go Eleven Ducati.

The race was restarted due to heavy rain and thunder and lightning on the Adriatic coast.