Jonathan Rea tightens his grip on World Superbike Championship title
Double delight for Ballyclare man as he grabs eighth win
Jonathan Rea's third double victory of the season at Imola yesterday, made it eight wins from the opening 10 races in the World Superbike Championship for the Ulsterman - who dedicated his victories to former Kawasaki WSB star Joan Lascorz, who was paralysed at the Italian venue in 2012.
"It's been another incredible weekend, but my team gave me a great bike," said Rea, always quick to praise his Kawasaki Racing Team and share the victory plaudits.
He added: "In that second race I was thinking of Joan Lascorz.
"Unfortunately he's not able to race anymore after an accident here at Imola, so this is for him."
Rea's perfect 50-point haul also helped the factory Kawasaki rider extend his championship lead to 87 points over closest rival Leon Haslam and keeps him on track for a sensational world title win.
English Red Devils Aprilia rider Haslam crashed heavily out of race two at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari at mid distance, and described it as: "One of the biggest high-sides of my career. It was a tough day at the office, but it was my mistake as I was pushing on."
Rea was followed home in both races by his KRT team-mate Tom Sykes.
Race one was red flagged with the end result coming from a six-lap sprint race with Davide Guigliano an impressive third on his return to action with the Aruba.it Ducati squad.
Welshman Chaz Davies held potential on track podium positions in both races, but an electrical problem ended race one for the factory Ducati rider and what looked to be a terminal engine problem ended race two prematurely for the former World Supersport champion.
Leon Haslam's team-mate Jordi Torres took full advantage of the incidents in front of him to make his first appearance on a World Superbike podium, but the question must now be asked - has Jonathan Rea already got one hand on the 2015 World Superbike Championship after just five rounds and how many records can the 28-year-old break this season?
American Doug Polen holds the record for the most wins in a WSB season when he took 17 top steps en route to the title with Ducati in 1991. In the modern era, Carlos Checa took 15 wins on his way to the title with Ducati in 2011, but with eight wins already from the opening 10 races, Jonathan Rea is on course to overcome both former champions.
The most important thing for the Isle of Man-based Ballyclare lad is unquestionably to lift the title, which he has been chasing since his introduction to the World Superbike Championship back in 2009 (he made two appearances at the end of 2008).
One thing Rea will not do is get complacent as his current KRT team-mate Tom Sykes missed out on retaining his world title last season despite winning eight races, and our very own Eugene Laverty took nine victories with Aprilia the previous year, (2013) and narrowly lost the title to Sykes!
Round six of this year's World Superbike Championship takes places at Donington Park on May 24, and as his home round, Rea will be looking to make that another double success, where he could again close in on another key statistic: most podiums in a season, which is held by Tom Sykes with 16 last year.
Looking ahead Rea, who now has 23 career wins in WSB, said: "I've got plenty of confidence at the minute and I know when to pick my moments to gap the field, like we did in race two at Imola."
Kenan Sofuoglu made it three World Supersport race wins on the bounce after an emotional Imola victory on his Puccetti Racing Kawasaki. The three time former champion's seven-week-old baby son was rushed to hospital with bleeding on the brain, so it was a fitting victory for the Turkish rider.
Jules Cluzel was second on the Reparto Corse MV Agusta with his team-mate Lorenzo Zannetti third. American PJ Jacobsen's fourth place was enough to help the Intermoto Ponyexpres Kawasaki rider maintain second place in the championship standings.