After a month’s break from competitive racing both KRT runners are keen to get back into action at the classically-sculpted Autodromo Nazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari di Imola, which features no fewer than 22 corners along its 4.936km length.
Rea has an impressive individual record at Imola with seven race wins from 12 podiums all-in, making this parkland track the third most successful circuit on his untouchable WorldSBK CV – only behind Assen (12 wins as part of an 18 career podium total) and Portimao (seven wins as part of a 14 podium total). Jonathan won the double for Kawasaki at Imola last season, when there were only two WorldSBK races per weekend.
For Haslam, the 2018 BSB champion with Kawasaki, Imola is a well-known circuit. He has ridden as a WorldSBK wildcard as recently as last year, as well as being a regular WorldSBK competitor at Imola during much of his earlier career. His personal bests at the Italian venue are two third places, set in the 2012 season.
This season’s new Ninja ZX-10RR has already taken Rea and Haslam to the podium in the opening four rounds of the 2019 season; Jonathan 11 times and Leon twice.
The dramatically undulating and challenging Imola track affords little opportunity for the riders to relax between its many corners and rapidly interlinked technical sections. No fewer than four chicanes reduce speeds on the otherwise high-speed sections and none of the straights are entirely arrow straight, as they have to follow the perimeter of the park’s layout.
There are three WorldSBK races at all events this year; two longer races, which bracket a ten-lap ‘sprint’ on Sunday morning. The short Tissot-Superpole race also determines the grid positions for the top nine riders in the final race of the weekend, to be held on Sunday afternoon.
In the championship standings Rea is a clear second with 183 points and Haslam fifth, with 93 points.
Another long break in the WorldSBK calendar will follow on from the Imola round, with the Circuito de Jerez Angel Nieto in Spain hosting round six, between 7 and 9 June.
Jonathan Rea, stated: “I had a great few weeks’ rest at home, and I am re-charged and ready to attack this mid-part of the season. After four rounds we have understood and evaluated where we are and where we need to improve. So we approach Imola trying to make another step in terms of my riding and also the performance of the bike. The circuit is incredible and I love racing at Imola, because it is steeped in history and from a rider’s point of view it is a fun track to ride. It is very unique with a lot of undulations and you really need to feel at one with your bike to push on the limit there. I am very excited for FP1 just to understand our performance, if we can be competitive, which I am sure we can be. I will work with my team throughout Friday to give us a bike to compete. I see Imola as a track where we can be really competitive and last year we had a great season, so I feel like it is the time in my season where we can try to change the momentum of the championship. Imola gives us a good opportunity to do that.”
Leon Haslam, stated: “Imola is going to be a good race because after Assen, it was a disappointment. I felt we had good pace for the podium there but with the front tyre issues we had, we dropped back. To finish where we finished off the podium was not a nice way to go into a long break. We are heading into Imola now and I actually raced there on a Puccetti bike last year with the ELF colours that my dad, Ron, used to run. The pace was OK for a top five although we had some issues in the races. I am quite confident that the bike will work well at Imola and I can probably adapt a little bit faster, having ridden the circuit last year. It is a circuit of mixed memories for me. I lost the championship chance in 2010 to Max Biaggi there but I also had some quite good battles with Carlos Checa. I have some up and down memories but I will have to wait and see where the other competition is at. But from my side I am really looking forward to it.”
Jordi Torres (Team Pedercini Racing Kawasaki) and Toprak Razgatlioglu (Turkish Puccetti Racing) are currently disputing tenth place in the overall championship standings, with Torres just three points ahead of Razgatlioglu. Leandro Mercado (Orelac Racing VerdNatura Kawasaki) is still recovering from injuries he suffered at Motorland Aragon, meaning that his replacement at Assen, Hector Barbera, will once again stand-in for Leandro this weekend.
2019 KRT Rider WorldSBK Statistics
Jonathan Rea: World Champion 2015, 2016, 2017 & 2018
2019: Races 11, Wins 0, Podiums 11, Superpoles 1
Career Race Wins: 71 (56 for Kawasaki)
Career Podiums: 145 (103 for Kawasaki)
Career Poles: 17 (13 for Kawasaki)
2019: Races: 11, Wins 0, Podiums 2, Superpoles 0
Career Race Wins: 5 (0 for Kawasaki)
Career Podiums: 41 (3 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: 127 – second overall
Total Kawasaki Podiums: 393 – second overall
Total Kawasaki Poles: 82 – second overall