With the most recent points scoring WorldSBK event having taken place at Laguna Seca in the USA between the 12th and 14th of July, anticipation is high for the forthcoming event in Portugal. Race weekend will take place between the 6th and 8th of September and it will be the tenth round of a 13-round season.
After riding alongside Haslam to win the famous Suzuka 8-Hours race in late July, then joining Leon again the recent tests in Portugal, Rea is fully ready to try and extend his current WorldSBK championship lead of 81 points.
A strong recent run of winning form, added to his almost perfect early season podium-scoring, has given Rea his impressive lead with just four rounds to go. Race wins will be the immediate target, as ever, for Rea this weekend. He has already recorded nine individual victories this season and a remarkable 80 wins over his long WorldSBK career.
Portimao is clearly a happy hunting ground for Jonathan, who has won each of the past seven WorldSBK races he has competed at in Portugal – and all six races he has started there on a Kawasaki.
Haslam had much WorldSBK experience of Portimao before joining Kawasaki in BSB for the previous three years, ultimately winning the title last season. His recent successful test at Portimao was near perfect preparation for his racing return to Portimao for the first time since 2015. He scored a best finish of third on that occasion.
So far in 2019 Leon has recorded six podiums on his KRT Ninja ZX-10RR. He is looking for more this weekend, as well as his first win since his WorldSBK comeback. He is currently fifth overall, having broken through the 200 points mark at the most recent round in the USA.
As is the case at each round this year, there will be three points scoring races in Portugal. There will be two full distance contests over 20 laps (on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, respectively) and one ten-lap Tissot-Superpole ‘sprint’ race on Sunday morning.
Jonathan Rea, stated: “I am really excited to get back into racing again. It has been such a long time since the last WorldSBK races and I can’t wait for the Portimao weekend. I love the track and after the tests we have a clear direction of the base settings that we will start with on the Ninja ZX-10RR. We will work step-by-step through Friday, trying to get a race package, and then focus on our qualifying to make sure we have a good race. I am going to have a lot of travelling support over from Northern Ireland and I cannot wait to get back to business. That race weekend feeling is something I really enjoy, together with all my team.”
Leon Haslam, stated: “I have had several podiums with various manufacturers over the years at Portimao, and enjoyed some really good racing. The recent test was really positive for our team and on race tyres I think we were ranked 1-2. I was only one or two tenths of a second off Jonathan’s best lap time with a race tyre. It has been a tough year in some ways with a few injuries and having to learn some circuits. But Portimao is a circuit we have tested at now and every time I have done that so far I have made the podium. Obviously that is the aim but also I feel we can be even more competitive and challenge the front guys. That is the main aim this weekend and I am really looking forward to it.”
Still the top independent rider, Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing), will be more than ready to race in Portugal after setting a fast pace at the recent official tests. He has seven podiums to his credit in 2019 and he is motivated to score that elusive first WorldSBK race win, starting again at Portimao this coming weekend.
Jordi Torres (Team Pedercini Racing Kawasaki) found out valuable lessons about his Ninja ZX-10RR at the official tests recently. His season-best performances at Laguna Seca in July put him 12th in the championship.
Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura Kawasaki) looks to move up the championship rankings by season end, needing to make up a slender 12 points on the rider currently in 14th place. Like his peers he competes in Portugal this weekend, but during the penultimate round of the season he will get his second chance to race in front of his home fans, at the Villicum circuit in Argentina.
2019 KRT Rider WorldSBK Statistics
Jonathan Rea: World Champion 2015, 2016, 2017 & 2018
2019: Races 25, Wins 9, Podiums 22, Superpoles 4
Career Race Wins: 80 (65 for Kawasaki)
Career Podiums: 156 (114 for Kawasaki)
Career Poles: 20 (16 for Kawasaki)
2019: Races: 25, Wins 0, Podiums 6, Superpoles 0
Career Race Wins: 5 (0 for Kawasaki)
Career Podiums: 45 (7 for Kawasaki)
Career Poles: 3 (0 for Kawasaki)
6 x Riders’ Championships (Scott Russell 1993, Tom Sykes 2013, Rea 2015, 2016, 2017 & 2018), 1 x EVO Riders’ Championship (David Salom 2014)
4 x Manufacturers’ Championships (Ninja ZX-10R 2015 & 2016, Ninja ZX-10RR 2017 & 2018)
4 x Teams’ Championships (KRT/Provec Racing 2015, 2016, 2017 & 2018)
Kawasaki FIM Superbike World Championship Statistics
Total Kawasaki Race Wins: 136 – second overall
Total Kawasaki Podiums: 415 – second overall
Total Kawasaki Poles: 85 – second overall