Jonathan Rea matches heroics of Northern Ireland footballers with double
Inspired by the success of the Northern Ireland football team in France, Jonathan Rea took a double victory over the weekend at Misano in Italy, during round eight of the World Superbike Championship.
His faultless 50-point haul, increased his series lead to a healthy 66 points over Kawasaki Racing team-mate Tom Sykes, who was second in both races at the Marco Simoncelli circuit in Rimini.
Rea showed his patriotism following Saturday's opening race win, proudly carrying a 'Green and White Army' Euro-2016 liveried Northern Ireland flag on his victory lap, which showed unity with his footballing peers - who are doing the country proud at the European Championships in France currently.
Speaking afterwards, he beamed: "I have to admit, I'm happy to finally win after what feels like forever. It was probably quite an ugly race as the tyre dropped off but I felt really confident.
"The plan was to be as relaxed as I could in the beginning and I found the pace really easy," added Rea who led for the 21-lap duration.
"I feel that we can take this into Sunday's race and try to do the same again."
And that's exactly what the Ballyclare ace did, but revised his game plan and allowed Sykes to lead until five laps from the end. The Kawasaki duo were in a league of their own and pulled away from the pursuing pack.
On lap 17 of 21, Rea hit the front and pulled away to record a comfortable three-second victory - his seventh of the season from a faultless podium tally of 16 from 16 races.
And for the statisticians, it was Rea's 36th career win in World Superbike, which puts him fourth in the all-time winners' list.
Punching the Misano Adriatico air with delight, the Ulsterman said afterwards: "My pre-race target was achieved, so I am super-happy.
"For many reasons I really wanted to win here, which we did on Saturday, but to make it a double is incredible. I love racing here, as it is where I had my first career race win in World Superbike."
With the second half of the season now in full swing, and just five rounds and 10 races remaining to decide the fate of this year's title, Rea further explained: "Approaching the mid part of the season I had said many times just how important the next two races would be before the summer break.
"So to make it count this weekend is really good."
Recounting Sunday's second race, he added: "Race two was a little bit of a different strategy. I set off so fast on Saturday, but today we used a different rear tyre and I think that made the difference.
"I want to say a big thanks to Pirelli.
"Also credit must go to my crew, because compared to race one we changed the bike quite a lot and we were able to conserve our tyre a little bit better."
Honda's Michael Van Der Mark and Ducati's Davide Giugliano were the third placed men in Saturday and Sunday's respective races. Championship contender and four time winner this season, Chaz Davies, was the big loser at Misano.
The Welshman finished fourth on Saturday but crashed out on Sunday, and now trails Rea by 99 points and second placed man Sykes by 33.
The next round takes place at Laguna Seca on July 8-10.
Before then, the KRT squad will undertake a day of testing at Misano today.