The world champion prevails in a rain-hit Tissot Superpole with Bautista back on the fifth row

The weather continued to wreak havoc at the Pirelli French Round with heavy rain falling ahead of Tissot Superpole. The lap times tumbled all the way to the end but in a dramatic finish, Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) held off Michael van der Mark (Pata Yamaha WorldSBK Team) with less than two hundredths of a second splitting the top two.

After a half-hour delay due to track conditions, the riders flooded out onto the rain-soaked Magny-Cours circuit and Rea immediately threw down the gauntlet, lapping almost a second faster than his nearest challenger Loris Baz (Ten Kate Racing – Yamaha). The chasing pack gradually chipped away though, with Michael van der Mark and Alessando Delbianco (Althea Mie Racing Team) halving the defecit as they circulated together.

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With just under 15 minutes remaining, Loris Baz ended Rea’s dominance of the session but the world champion’s response was instant. Climbing all over the back of the Yamaha through the final chicane, Rea regained provisional pole with a remarkable lap. With conditions constantly improving though as the rain relented, the battle for pole position was set to go all the way down to the wire.

The pressure was building on Alvaro Bautista (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati) with the Spaniard returning to the pits at the end of his first stint down in tenth place. The 34-year-old sat out yesterday’s second session which was held in wet conditions and had plenty of ground to make up as he ventured out for his final run, trailing the polesitter by over three seconds. His team-mate Chaz Davies wasn’t faring much better, suffering a crash at turn 12.

As grip levels improved, the timing screens were awash with personal best sector times. With Jonathan Rea choosing to run through pit-lane at the start of his final run, his lead started to come under serious threat from Michael van der Mark, who narrowed the gap to two tenths of a second. Leon Haslam was also starting to edge into contention, joining his team-mate on the front row.

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