JONATHAN Rea stepped onto the podium for the first time this season when he finished third in the opening World Superbike race at Aragon in Spain yesterday, and he followed up with fifth position in race two during the second round of the championship.
For fellow Ulsterman Eugene Laverty, however, it was a damage limitation exercise as he struggled early on in both races. He was forced to come from 13th in race one to claim fifth with a gutsy ride and then take sixth in race two, again coming from well off the early pace — both races were won by defending world champion Tom Sykes, with Kawasaki team-mate Loris Baz second.
Rea battled throughout the opening 17-lap race to stay with Sykes, Baz and Ducati rider Davide Giugliano with the final rostrum position only decided on the final lap at the hairpin, where Rea out-braked the Italian, who in attempting to re-pass the 27-year-old crashed into the side of the Pata Honda.
Despite the impact, Rea stayed on board and took third position.
In race two, Rea tailed the flying Kawasakis of Sykes and Baz in the early stages, but tyre trouble dropped him off the leading pace, eventually finishing in fifth position ahead of Laverty.
Rea said: “It has been a really positive weekend for us to be back on the podium, my first time at this particular track. It’s given everyone in the Pata Honda Team a bit of a boost.
“It was two solid top five places and I feel we can take some momentum to the next round, the team’s home race at Assen in Holland.”
Laverty said: “It was a case of salvaging a result from difficult races.
“In race one, I ran off the track twice with a full fuel tank, but once it lightened I was able to make progress.
“In the end I came away with more points here than last year when I scored none and now we can move on to the next round.”
Eugene’s brother Michael Laverty was 16th in last night’s MotoGP Grand Prix of the Americas at Austen, Texas, the race won by world champion Marc Marquez.
At Scarborough yesterday, Guy Martin got his road racing season off to the best possible start by taking a treble on his Tyco Suzukis.
Martin won the Ian Watson Spring Cup race by four seconds from Ivan Lintin, Dean Harrison and Lee Johnston, the Superbike race from Harrison and Johnston while he also clinched the Supersport race from Harrison and Jamie Cowton.
Ryan Farquhar finished second in both Supertwin races, in which Jamie Hamilton was fourth.
Donington Park saw Michael Pearson make his seasonal debut where he finished fourth, sixth and had a non-finish in the Thundersport GP1 races in which Denver Robb had 14th and 15th place finishes, while Richard McNeill from Bangor took third in a Supersport elite race.
Loughbrickland rider Natalie Kane took the lead in the women’s World MX championship by finishing third overall at the Trentino Grand Prix in Italy.
Riding an HM Plant KTM, Natalie finished fourth in race one and took third in race two to lead the championship by two points .
Graeme Irwin from Carrickfergus was a treble winner during Saturday’s opening round of the CCM Racing Irish Motocross championship at Tinker Hill, Newry, where defending champion Gary Gibson was second overall on the day.