Scott Deroue (Kawasaki Motoport) and championship leader Manuel Gonzalez (Kawasaki ParkinGo Team) had an eventual rider-to-rider fight for victory at the undulating Portimao circuit in Portugal, with Deroue winning by 0.153 seconds for his first race win of the season.With the usual strong field of over 50 riders hoping to make the race itself at Portimao Kawasaki Ninja 400 riders ended up dominating the event at the 4.592km long circuit, which sizzled in high temperatures all weekend.
Breaking away from the usual big group of would-be winners Deroue and Gonzales pushed each other all the way. The lead changed hands across the finish line eight times in the race - and it was often contested by Deroue and Gonzalez.
Gonzalez had been the fastest rider in Superpole qualifying and started from the best possible grid placing while Deroue started from row two. He launched from fourth place after a rider who had qualified one place ahead of him in Superpole was penalized and dropped 12 grid positions.
Such has been Gonzalez' brilliant early form this year that he could have wrapped up the title today but now it will at least go to the next round, if not the finale itself in Doha in late October. Despite Gonzalez strong points lead any one of three Kawasaki riders could still, technically, be crowned champion.
After today's podium-plus-one performances from Ninja 400 riders of one kind or other, Kawasaki won the Manufacturer's Award.
Scott is now the joint highest race winner in the short history of the championship, with four race victories to his name.
Ana Carrasco (Kawasaki Provec) is the rider who shares that quadruple victory status with Deroue. The 2018 WorldSSP300 champion was in the leading fight throughout the Portimao race and she finished third, at the head of a tight group of riders. She is still in championship contention, only just, being 47 points behind Gonzales and nine behind Deroue.
Nick Kalinin (Nutec – RT Motorsports by SKM) made it five Kawasaki riders inside the top six and two Australian riders - regular rider Tommy Edwards (Kawasaki ParkinGO Team) and Portimao one-off Joel Kelso (Nutec – RT motorsports by SKM Kawasaki) – fought each other the last place in the top ten. Edwards took tenth, Kelso a fine 11th in a race with 29 finishers.
Samuel Di Sora (Flembbo Leader Team) was the final Kawasaki points scorer in Portugal, finishing 15th. Dion Otten (MTM Racing Team Kawasaki) placed 17th.
After the unbroken sunshine of the Portimao weekend the entire paddock wishes for more of the same in the penultimate round of the championship, which will be held at Magny Cours in France, with race day on Sunday 29th September.
Scott Deroue, stated: "To be honest my championship hopes were probably gone after Donington because we missed so many points, but this race in Portimao was awesome! I got a good start but they overtook me on the straight. I said to myself to 'reset, reset, try to go! try to go!' I nearly got away but then Manuel was able to close the gap. In the end I made a plan about what I could do in the last lap. It worked out and winning is awesome, especially as my last win was at this track last year."
Manuel Gonzalez, stated: "The race was very difficult because Deroue was fast, especially in the last sector. I tried to pas him in the last corner but I did not see any chance; it was too difficult. Also, before crossing the line I could not pass him on some previous laps. I did my best, conserved some points for Magny Cours and I will try to win the champion there. Now I have an eye on the championship but at this race it was too difficult."
Ana Carrasco, stated: "It was a difficult race because from the beginning I had problems with the front and it has been impossible for me to follow Manuel and Scott. I would have liked to fight for the victory with them - but finishing on the podium despite these problems is a good result for us. I want to thank the team and Kawasaki for all the work because although it has been a difficult weekend at times we have managed to end it with a really good result. Now we are going to think about the next one and we will try to fight for victory in France."