Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea is on the brink of becoming just the fourth rider in world superbike history to clinch back-to-back titles, as the production-based series heads to Jerez in Spain for the penultimate round of the 2016 FIM Superbike World Championship this weekend (Oct 14-16)
After a brilliantly fast and consistent season which began at Phillip Island in February when he won both races around the 4.45km grand prix circuit, Rea sits 48pts ahead of Kawasaki Racing Team teammate Tom Sykes and only has to grow his advantage by a small margin to become the first rider to win consecutive WorldSBK titles since fellow Briton Carl Fogarty in 1995 – and replicate his title-winning deeds at Jerez from 2015.
Rea says the spectre of winning the title is in “the back of my mind”, but his main focus will be on set-up in what is expected to be red-hot competition from not only Sykes but Aruba.it Racing Ducati’s Chaz Davies, who took the double in the last round at Magny-Cours.
“We have to be clever, because Tom and Chaz are riding really strongly and I am sure some others will also be strong in Jerez,” said the Northern Irishman, who now has 38 WorldSBK wins to his credit – fourth on the all-time list. “So we need to be prepared to set-up the bike well with the team and then what will be will be. I’ll just try to go out and have two solid races.
“Jerez holds very special memories so I am excited to go back there. We had a very productive mid-season test at Jerez, where we not only get to refine our current model, we also got to work on some items for 2017.
Even if Rea’s first opportunity at WorldSBK success doesn’t come to fruition, there’s always the last round in Qatar from October 28-30 to get the job done.
Since his clean sweep at Philip Island, Rea has scored another 17 podium finishes from 20 races for seven wins.
The 29-year-old is based in the Isle of Man during the racing season, but when it’s all over he heads to Australia where he divides his time between Phillip Island, the home town of his Aussie wife Tatia, and the northern Victorian town of Bright.
Meanwhile, Davies still remains in the ‘mathematically capable’ zone to win the 2016 WorldSBK title, but at 81pts behind Rea he’d have to rely on multiple DNFs from the front-runners over the final four races – and everything to go right from his end.
Honda’s Michael van der Mark is currently fourth in the championship from teammate Nicky Hayden.
The 2017 WorldSBK title will again kick off at Australia’s Phillip Island with the Yamaha Finance round, from February 24-26. To purchase tickets and camping go to Ticketek or visit www.worldsbk.com.au