Rea piles more pressure on Bautista with Portimao pole

Kawasaki's Jonathan Rea powers to WorldSBK pole position in Portimao from Tom Sykes as Ducati suffers a poor session with Alvaro Bautista down in sixth

Jonathan Rea - Kawasaki Racing Team ZX-10RR

Jonathan Rea put himself in prime position to extend his advantage over Alvaro Bautista in the World Superbike Championship standings after securing pole for this afternoon’s first encounter at Portimao, Portugal.

The Northern Irishman showed his hand early on with an impressive benchmark lap on race tyres that only a small handful of riders could defeat on their own soft Superpole rubber.

As such, Rea couldn’t be stopped once he’d bolted the qualifying tyre onto his Kawasaki ZX-10RR, the four-time champion turning in a lap record of 1m 40.372s.

Even so, he was run close by former team-mate Tom Sykes, who toasted his new BMW contract with a run to the front row, only a tenth off the top spot.

In a session of surprises, Sandro Cortese notched up his second front row start of the year on the satellite GRT Yamaha to lead the Japanese manufacturer’s challenge ahead of Leon Haslam and Alex Lowes.

A disappointing session for Ducati on a circuit it was expected to be a force on, title contender Alvaro Bautista appeared to pay the price for going out earlier than his rivals with the soft tyre as he slipped to sixth in the closing stages. 

Row three will be filled by impressive Pedercini Kawasaki rider Jordi Torres, the soon-to-be-retired Marco Melandri and Sykes’ team-mate Markuas Reiterberger.

Top riders left with work to do in Portimao WorldSBK Race 1

With the likes of Cortese, Torres and Reiterberger impressing with their respective top ten charges, a number of leading riders have been left with work to do in both race one and the Superpole Race on Sunday morning.

On the weekend it has all-but-been confirmed Michael van der Mark and Toprak Razgatlioglu will form the Pata Yamaha line-up in 2020, the pair were down in tenth and 13th, the latter Puccetti Kawasaki rider making a mistake on his best lap having run inside the top four through practice. 

Similarly, Chaz Davies will worry his win in Laguna Seca wasn’t the ‘breakthrough’ he’d hoped after qualifying 12th, behind the privateer Barni Ducati of Michael Ruben Rinaldi. 

Elsewhere, Eugene Laverty on the Go Eleven Ducati starts a disappointing 14th, while Loris Baz was left down in 15th after crashing on his fastest lap. Takumi Takahashi and Sylvain Barrier start 17th and 20th respectively for their first WorldSBK starts of 2019.