Jonathan Rea's on brink of World Superbike title
For now the champagne is on ice, but what a battling performance from Jonathan Rea yesterday in Malaysia, where the factory Kawasaki rider all but clinched this year's World Superbike title with his 19th and 20th podiums of the season.
A win in race one - his 12th of the season - set Ballyclare rider Rea up to have stab at clinching the title at Sepang, very much aided by his team-mate and main championship rival Tom Sykes, who could only manage fifth place after encountering a mechanical problem.
In race two when Sykes crashed and remounted at the back of the field, it looked like Northern Ireland was on the brink of being able to celebrate its first motorcycle champion in 29 years.
But Chaz Davies, second in race one ahead of Max Biaggi, had other ideas on the Aruba.it Ducati.
And after swapping paint with Rea on the final corner, the Welshman took his third win in the last four races, leaving the customary championship winning T-shirts still in the presentation box - until the end of the summer break on September 20. Aprilia's Jordi Torres took the final podium spot.
With only three rounds and a possible 150 up for grabs, the Ulsterman could probably not bother turning up in Spain for round 11 of the series at Jerez on September 20, but he did look a little disappointed, albeit pragmatically philosophical at the end of race two.
"I'm really happy after a good weekend and happy to go into the summer break healthy and looking forward to Jerez," said Rea. "With three laps to go in race two my mechanic gave me a bit of a secret signal and I knew if I went then I could catch Chaz.
"Halfway into the last lap I realised it would be possible, and I passed Chaz and went through clean, but he let the brakes off. We did make contact but I do not blame him for that, as I would have done the same.
"In saying that, I almost crashed at the same time. I have to be happy because we got another win and a second place, which gave us a bagful of points.
"Maybe it's a blessing in disguise, as if I had won the championship here, I don't think my wife would have spoken to me for a day or two because she is at home in the Isle of Man"
It's been a phenomenal season for Rea, whose podium run in the opening 20 races of the year with the factory Kawasaki Racing Team, leaves him needing only ninth place in race one at Jerez to be crowned world champion for 2015.
The battle in the championship will now be for second place, and after Davies victory in Malaysia and Sykes' lowly haul of points, the Aruba.it Ducati rider moves ahead of the Kawasaki rider in the standings. Rea is on 452 points leaving Sepang with Davies on 308 and Sykes on 295.
American PJ Jacobsen, who spends part of his season living and training in Northern Ireland, took his debut win in the World Supersport class at Sepang. The New Yorker won the 600cc battle on his Core Motorsport Honda from Frenchman Jules Cluzel and Lorenzo Zanetti, both MV Agusta mounted.
World championship leader Kenan Sofuoglu finished fourth, reducing his lead at the top of the standings to 13 points over Cluzel, with Jacobsen a further 15 points adrift.
World Superbike Championship Rd 10, Sepang International Circuit, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Leading Final Positions:
1st Race: 1 Jonathan Rea (Gbr) Kawasaki 33mins 33.964secs, 2 Chaz Davies (Gbr) Ducati 33:34.085, 3 Max Biaggi (Ita) Aprilia 33:44.659, 4 Sylvain Guintoli (Fra) Honda 33:49.397, 5 Tom Sykes (Gbr) Kawasaki 33:51.947, 6 Alex Lowes (Gbr) Suzuki 33:57.722, 7 Leon Haslam (Gbr) Aprilia 33:58.818, 8 Matteo Baiocco (Ita) Ducati 34:02.270, 9 Niccolo Canepa (Ita) EBR 34:05.062, 10 Jordi Torres (Spa) Aprilia 34:08.069
2nd Race: 1 Chaz Davies (Gbr) Ducati 33mins 36.466secs, 2 Jonathan Rea (Gbr) Kawasaki 33:36.557, 3 Jordi Torres (Spa) Aprilia 33:41.474, 4 Sylvain Guintoli (Fra) Honda 33:49.596, 5 Michael van der Mark (Ned) Honda 33:52.267, 6 Leon Haslam (Gbr) Aprilia 33:52.436, 7 David Salom (Spa) Kawasaki 34:01.027, 8 Alex Lowes (Gbr) Suzuki 34:02.992, 9 Matteo Baiocco (Ita) Ducati 34:04.994, 10 Roman Ramos (Spa) Kawasaki 34:08.064
Leading World Championship Standings after Rd 10:
Riders: 1 Jonathan Rea (Gbr) Kawasaki 452pts, 2 Chaz Davies (Gbr) Ducati 308, 3 Tom Sykes (Gbr) Kawasaki 295, 4 Leon Haslam (Gbr) Aprilia 259, 5 Jordi Torres (Spa) Aprilia 186, 6 Sylvain Guintoli (Fra) Honda 162, 7 Michael van der Mark (Ned) Honda 125, 8 Davide Giugliano (Ita) Ducati 119, 9 Alex Lowes (Gbr) Suzuki 112, 10 Matteo Baiocco (Ita) Ducati 107
Manufacturers: 1 Kawasaki 475pts, 2 Ducati 363, 3 Aprilia 299, 4 Honda 197, 5 Suzuki 127, 6 BMW 97, 7 MV Agusta 62, 8 EBR 4