Alex Lowes took his maiden World Superbike victory in a dramatic Brno Sunday race, as championship leader Jonathan Rea crashed out after a collision with Kawasaki teammate Tom Sykes.
Lowes seized the lead on the run into the first corner at the start, but was quickly demoted by Yamaha teammate Michael van der Mark at Turn 3, while Rea had made little progress from ninth on the grid in seventh.
The Yamahas swapped position at the start of lap two, while Ducati’s Marco Melandri took third away from Eugene Laverty on his Milwaukee Aprilia, before moving ahead of van der Mark on the following tour.
Drama unfolded behind when Rea engaged KRT teammate Sykes at the Turn 11/12 chicane on the third lap.
Rea lunged up the inside of Sykes, but ran wide and allowed Sykes to cut back into sixth. However, the pair made contact, and Rea crashed – his retirement since Magny-Cours Race 2 last year.
At the front, Melandri carved past Lowes for the lead at Turn 1 on the fifth tour, but the Ducati rider’s challenge ended two corners later when he outbraked himself and ran into the barrier.
Sykes survived the collision with his teammate, but would crash at Turn 10 on the sixth lap as he chased down fifth spot.
Lowes and van der Mark were soon released into a comfortable lead, with the former maintaining a half-second advantage for much of the race, while Chaz Davies settled into third.
Lowes extended his gap in the final few laps to over one second to secure his first WSBK win, while van der Mark completed Yamaha’s first 1-2 in the series since 2011.
Davies took the chequered flag in a comfortable third to tally up his 75th WSBK podium, equalling double world champion Colin Edwards’ haul, while Laverty held Aprilia stablemate Lorenzo Savadori at bay to finish fourth.
Michael Ruben Rinaldi was the second-best Ducati across the line in sixth, while Melandri rejoined after his early off to claim the final point from Leandro Mercado in the closing stages, with Sykes 3.6s back in 16th.
Leon Camier was seventh on the Ten Kate Honda, with Xavi Fores on the Barni Ducati beating Pucetti’s Toprak Razgatlioglu to top independent honours in eighth. Team Go Eleven rider Roman Ramos completed the top 10.
The collision between Rea and Sykes was put under investigation by race direction, but was deemed a racing incident.
Rea’s non-finish and a third place for Davies sees the KRT rider’s championship advantage cut from 81 to 65 points, with van der Mark a further nine adrift in third.
Jordi Torres joined Rea on the sidelines on lap six after being struck by yet another technical issue with his MV Agusta.