2015 Imola SBK Preview | Rea Has Nearly Perfect Lead
Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea

The 2015 World Superbike Championship heads to Italy’s Imola this weekend for round five of 13. Leading the way is the man who has amassed 190 points – nearly perfect for four rounds so far – Kawasaki Racing Team’s Jonathan Rea.

As Rea chases his first World SBK title, the Northern Irishman has piloted his Ninja ZX-10R to six wins in eight races, including double wins in Thailand and the last round in the Netherlands. In the other two races, Rea finished second.

He holds an impressive 50-point lead over Aprilia Racing Team Red Devils’ Leon Haslam and a 77-point lead over Aruba.it Racing Ducati Team’s Chaz Davies.

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Rea has luck at Imola due to his three previous wins there – including a double last season while riding with Pata Honda World Superbike – making him the second-most successful SBK rider at the 3-mile circuit containing 22 corners.

“I am looking forward to Imola because it is a track I really enjoy; a really technical track. It requires a lot of thought to be put into the lap and there are many areas where you can make up time by using quite different techniques, especially in the Piratella and Acque Minerali sections,” Ray says. “I enjoy going to Italy in general and it is good to go somewhere where I went really well last year and in the past. It is the first time in Italy this year and I am just excited to go there.

“I have not been working with my crew chief Pere Riba for that long but we have a really good understanding of each other. We will be working through a few plans this weekend to make sure are strong for the next few races. It is going to be another tough weekend because Imola always provides some good racing.”

The Imola circuit is named in honor of Enzo Dino Ferrari, and has been on the calendar since 2001. The track challenges riders due to its technical layout with many elevation changes and lack of long straights. It’s a tough circuit for sure – one of the most demanding in World Superbike. Since 2002, seven riders have doubled there, including Colin Edwards as he beat Tory Bayliss to a second world title, and Rea.

Though Rea has luck there, Aprilia does also. The RSV4 has landed on the podium 11 times, and has been in the top five at every Imola race since 2009. This is great news for Haslam as he looks to close in on Rea.

2015 Imola SBK Preview | Rea Has Nearly Perfect Lead Leon Haslam
Aprilia’s Leon Haslam

Haslam has never won at Imola, but has finished on the podium there three times.

“I really can’t wait to get things going again at Imola,” Haslam says. “Even though it’s not an easy track, it is one I always enjoy. The atmosphere of the Italian fans and the history of the track always give me goose bumps. I also know the team has been working hard in the weeks off so it’s exciting to get back on track”.

As for Ducati’s Davies, he finished second in both races last season as he also searches for his first SBK title.

“I’m excited to head to Imola. We had two good races last year, and I was able to finish both in second place, at a point at which we still had things to sort out with the bike. One year on, and with a lot more knowledge and experience of the Panigale, I’m hopeful that we can do well,” Davies says.

“Imola always feels like the best race of the year in terms of atmosphere, and feeling the support of the fans is something special, especially as a Ducati rider. It definitely adds some pressure but I like that! My goals remain the same as in recent rounds, to be on the podium twice, and then if I can do more, I’ll do more. I think this is a crucial point of the championship, and it’s time to be looking to winning more races and getting some points back – this is at the forefront of my mind.”

2015 Imola SBK Preview | Rea Has Nearly Perfect Lead Chaz Davies
Ducati’s Chaz Davies

Ducati fans will also be cheering on the return of Davies’ teammate, Davide Giugliano, who has been sidelined for the entire season due to injuring his back at pre-season testing in Phillip Island.

Also rejoining the grid is Michel Fabrizio will return to the grid, subbing for the injured Nicol Terol on the Althea Racing Team Ducati.

Another rider to watch is the man currently fourth in the championship with 88 points, 78 points behind Rea – Kawasaki Racing Team’s Tom Sykes. The Brit doubled at Imola in 2013 en route to his single World SBK title.

Rounding out the top 10 in points as World SBK heads to Imola is Aprilia Racing Team Red Devils’ Jordi Torres (83 points), Pata Honda World Superbike’s Sylvain Guinotli (65), Guintoli’s teammate Michael Van der Mark (60), the sidelined Terol (48), Althea Racing Ducati’s Matteo Baiocco (48) and Barni Racing Team Ducati’s Lorenzo Mercado (45).

2015 Imola World Superbike – the Numbers:

Several riders will reach landmark race start numbers in Italy. Ayrton Badovini will make his 130th World Superbike start in Race 2 and Davide Giugliano’s return will begin with his 80th race in the opening encounter, World SBK reports.

As for championship leader Jonathan Rea, Imola’s second race will see him become the 24th rider to start 150 races in WorldSBK’s premier class. He debuted on the Algarve in 2008; since then, Rea has amassed 21 race wins, 50 podium finishes, 13 Superpoles and 13 fastest laps. He also carries the sixth-largest lead after the opening eight races of a season in the series’ history, with a 50-point cushion over Haslam. Nine rounds and a maximum total of 450 points remain between now and the Qatar finale on October 18, World SBK reports.

2015 Imola World Superbike TV Schedule

beIN Sports will broadcast 2015 World Superbike from 6 to 8:10 a.m. EST Sunday, May 10.

2015 Imola World Superbike Preview Photo Gallery: