An astounding achievement for Jonathan Rea, but he took it with only a tiny margin, with Championship leader in second, whilst Redding is only eighth
The 2021 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship’s Tissot Superpole session at the Motul French Round and the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours fired into life under the sun. One question was whether or not anyone could break Jonathan Rea’s (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) pole position streak in 2021, with him looking at a historic eighth straight pole. Despite a strong challenge from his rivals, Rea resisted the pressure and set a new lap record and indeed a new record for consecutive poles, as the Ulsterman stormed to an eighth on the bounce to see-off Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) and Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team).
STORY OF SUPERPOLE: down to fast times immediately
With the first laps coming in and after the first five minutes, it was the usual suspects right at the front, with Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) jumping out of the traps to take provisional pole, ahead of Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) and Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK). The top seven riders were all in the 1’36s bracket, with an electric pace being set. Scott Redding (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), as is his usual strategy, decided to go out later than anyone else so that he had good track position, but his first lap only saw him go tenth. One aspect to note was that only one fast flying lap was possible with the Q tyre, meaning it was even more important to get a strong lap banked.
The final five minutes were underway, making for a frantic closing to the session. Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) had now bolted to the top prior to the final run and was sitting on a 1’36.025, the fastest lap of the weekend. However, that was then bettered by Championship leader Razgatlioglu, as he broke into the 1’35 bracket with a 1’35.784.
IMPRESSIVE TOP THREE: Rea sets a new record
However, it would be the new Mr. Superpole Jonathan Rea who left it late to fly up the order from seventh to pole. A new lap record for Rea with a 1’35.683, and now with an eighth pole position on the bounce – a new record for consecutive poles, surpassing Ben Spies’ record of seven set back in 2009. Not only did Rea set a record for his own personal streak but he gave Kawasaki a 100th pole of their WorldSBK history too. Toprak Razgatlioglu missed out by 0.101s to finish second, whilst Tom Sykes made it three manufacturers on the front row in third for back-to-back front rows.
ROW TWO: teammates in formation and ready to pounce
Leading off the second row is Alex Lowes, with the British rider just more than a tenth adrift of the top three, whilst it was Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) who impressed in fifth for a third top-six Superpole result on the bounce. However, one of the major improvements came from Leon Haslam (Team HRC), with the British veteran looking on course for pole position on his final flying lap before eventually finishing sixth, his best Superpole result of 2021, off the back of his worst when he was 17th at Navarra.
FURTHER BACK: Ducati disaster and notable grid slots
It was not a strong session for Ducati, with Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) in seventh, outqualifying teammate Scott Redding for the first time in 2021. 0.070s splits the Ducati duo but they’re more than seven and eighth tenths off Rea’s pole time respectively; for Redding, it’s the first time he’s been off the front two rows in 2021. Completing the third row and making it two BMWs on the front three rows, Michael van der Mark (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) starts ninth at a circuit of which he’s been on the podium at every year since 2016, although he’ll have his work cut-out to keep that streak up on Saturday afternoon. Home-hero Lucas Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) was tenth but suffered a fast crash at Turn 1, although he was soon on his feet.
With Mahias taking top Independent honours at home, Chaz Davies (Team GoEleven) and Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) make it an all-Independent fourth row. Alvaro Bautista (Team HRC) could only finish 14th, one place behind Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing). Christophe Ponsson (Gil Motor Sport Yamaha) took a career-best 16th on the grid at home.
Top six after Tissot Superpole in WorldSBK, full results here:
1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) 1’35.683s
2. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) +0.101s
3. Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) +0.236s
4. Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) +0.342s
5. Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) +0.518s
6. Leon Haslam (Team HRC) +0.575s