Jonathan Rea has taken over the lead of the World Superbike Championship following a dramatic opening race at Donington Park on Saturday.
In wet conditions, Ducati’s Alvaro Bautista crashed out of fifth position as he relinquished his grip on the world title.
It was the third round in a row that Bautista has suffered a crash, with the ex-MotoGP rider also coming off at Jerez and Misano in the previous two rounds.
He led the standings by 61 points at Jerez, but now Bautista – who won the first 10 races of the season – finds himself playing catch-up for the first time, with Ulsterman Rea on top by nine points.
Rea, who qualified on the front row in second place, mastered the tricky conditions on his ZX-10RR and won with plenty to spare over Yorkshire’s Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad). The rostrum was completed by Leon Haslam on the second of the official Kawasaki machines.
It was Rea’s third victory at Donington Park and he will now look to ram home his advantage in Sunday’s Superpole race and the second 23-lap race ahead of next weekend’s ninth round at Laguna Seca in the USA, which is the final race prior to a lengthy summer break.
Loris Baz (Ten Kate Yamaha), Alex Lowes (PATA Yamaha) and Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura Kawasaki) completed the top six.
Top road racer Peter Hickman finished a fine seventh after being drafted onto the factory BMW team as a replacement for Markus Reiterberger, who was ruled out with flu.