Rea had to start Race One from the third row of the grid, despite having qualified on row two, in fifth place, after he was adjudged to have impeded another rider’s progress during Superpole. Jonathan accepted the ruling without complaint, and ended up eighth on the first race grid as a result.
Alex was also starting off the third row, and both riders had to take avoiding action of some kind in the aftermath of a first corner crash under braking from Michael Ruben Rinaldi.
It was a tough race from the beginning, especially as Jonathan - alongside several members of the paddock - was suffering from some form of intestinal complaint.
Rea moved up to fifth place by lap five, and stayed there until lap ten. Losing front tyre grip, Rea could not use the greatest of his machine’s capabilities for the whole race and he slipped back to finish ninth.
Alex had been as high as fifth after he passed his team-mate on lap ten, but he also had to drop back as front tyre wear played its unwanted part.
Lowes and Rea were involved in a last lap fight for points with each other in the end. Jonathan finished just 0.136 seconds ahead of Alex at the culmination of 22 high intensity laps, trying to stick to a narrow racing line, which had been particularly slippery in the morning’s cooler and humid FP3 session.
The second and final Mandalika raceday on Sunday 5 March will feature the always exciting ten-lap Superpole Race and then a 22-lap Race Two.
Jonathan Rea, stated: “It was a difficult day. In Superpole I got lap cancelled because of a yellow flag and then a penalty for being in the way of Philipp Öttl. Big apology for that and no excuses really. In the race, I got involved in that melee in Turn One with Rinaldi, and lost some track positions. I got back to Andrea Locatelli and I thought that would be where I would race, with Locatelli and Toprak Razgatlioglu. Most of the sectors were OK, except for the fast succession of early right hand corners. I lost all my front confidence going through there. At angle, on the gas, the front was moving and sliding as I committed to T7. I had no front stability to turn there, then to change direction to get a good exit from T8. After that it was just a fight for positions. Not great for us today, but that was my race.”
Alex Lowes, stated: “Superpole was tough, as the wind got up in that session and caught me out a bit. Then I had a yellow flag when I had fitted a fresh tyre. So I set my best lap when the tyre was not quite at its best anymore. A couple of tenths can make a big difference around here so I ended up on the third row of the grid. In the race, I didn’t feel too bad for the first 12-13 laps. Then I had massive problems with front grip, and couldn’t stop the bike the way I wanted, to enter the corners. I was struggling to lean the bike. Other guys looked like they had a lot better package than me. And the worst thing about this track is that when people get past, they nudge you off the racing line, and you lose a second instead of two tenths to half a second. So that pushed me back and back. In general, we need to work on the second part of the race.”
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) finished the opening race in 18th place, and four laps down on the leaders. Still suffering from gastroenteritis, as he has done since Thursday, Sykes toughed it out to ride in sweltering conditions. He came into the pits in the middle of the race to make set-up adjustments and then rejoined to evaluate his bike set-up and gather more data.
Oliver König (Orelac Racing Movisio Kawasaki) was 17th in the opening race.
2023 KRT Rider WorldSBK Statistics
Jonathan Rea: World Champion 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 & 2020
2023: Races 4, Wins 0, Podiums 1, Superpoles 0
Career Race Wins: 118 (103 for Kawasaki)
Career Podiums: 246 (204 for Kawasaki)
Career Poles: 40 (36 for Kawasaki)
2023: Races: 4, Wins 0, Podiums 0, Superpoles 0
Career Race Wins: 2 (1 for Kawasaki)
Career Podiums: 33 (13 for Kawasaki)
Career Poles: 1 (0 for Kawasaki)
8 x Riders’ Championships (Scott Russell 1993, Tom Sykes 2013, Rea 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 & 2020), 1 x EVO Riders’ Championship (David Salom 2014)
6 x Manufacturers’ Championships (Ninja ZX-10R 2015 & 2016, Ninja ZX-10RR 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020)
5 x Teams’ Championships (KRT/Provec Racing 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 & 2019)
Kawasaki FIM Superbike World Championship Statistics
Total Kawasaki Race Wins: 177 – second overall
Total Kawasaki Podiums: 524 – second overall
Total Kawasaki Poles: 105 – second overall