MISANO ADRIATICO, Italy – Jonathan Rea closed his championship deficit to Alvaro Bautista with his milestone 75th World Superbike victory on Sunday at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli.
After Bautista came into the day with a 39-point lead in the standings, the title fight was turned on its head when Bautista crashed his Ducati out of the lead at turn four on lap two.
That left Leon Haslam in the lead ahead of his Kawasaki teammate Rea, while Toprak Razgatlioglu was third ahead of Marco Melandri and Alex Lowes.
Bautista rejoined, but was at the back of the field.
With 18 laps to go, it was Razgatlioglu who put a move on Rea at turn four, before leading at turn one a lap later, just ahead of Haslam. At turn 14 on the same lap, Rea lunged ahead of Haslam, as the five-time WorldSBK race winner began to fade away.
The No. 91 then suffered a collision with Marco Melandri, as the Italian tried an audacious pass into turn two. Both stayed upright, but it allowed Razgatlioglu and Rea to break away.
At the 12 to go mark, the race was far from decided, with two separate battles on hand.
Razgatlioglu defended at the front from Rea, while Haslam held on to third ahead of Melandri and Alex Lowes began to claw time back on the battling duo ahead of him.
With six laps to go, Melandri crashed at turn eight, promoting Bautista into the points as grip deteriorated with the rising track temperatures. A lap later saw the battle for the race win calm, as Rea made a mistake at turn 10, momentarily letting Razgatlioglu off the hook.
The final four laps was when Rea made his move out front, taking the lead at turn one. It was a heart-in-mouth moment for Razgatlioglu at turn four however, as he came within inches of hitting the rear of Rea, with his rear wheel in the air.
The fight was far from done, however, as the 22-year-old Turkish rider stayed glued to the rear end of Rea.
Razgatlioglu tried at turn four but thought better of it, waiting until turn eight to make his move. Toprak ran wide, with Rea slicing back ahead and the gloves were really off.
As the lap came to a close, Rea defended superbly and despite Razgatlioglu bouncing up his rear wheel at the final corner, the reigning champion hung on for an impressive victory – his fourth of the World Superbike season.
Third place went to Haslam, ahead of Lowes and Michael Ruben Rinaldi.
Sixth went to Tom Sykes and seventh was Chaz Davies, while Michele Pirro, Lorenzo Zanetti and Jordi Torres completed the top 10.