Champion Jonathan Rea poised to reign in Spain again for World Superbike Championship Jerez round
Jonathan Rea will take a 48-point lead into the penultimate round of the World Superbike Championship at Jerez in just over a week, giving the Ulsterman a realistic chance of retaining his title with Kawasaki at the Spanish venue - the very same place where he lifted his first title last season
Rea took second place in race two at Magny Cours yesterday behind double winner Chaz Davies on the aruba.it Ducati. But more importantly for Rea, he held off Kawasaki Racing team-mate Tom Sykes (third) in the closing stages to increase his championship lead with his 19th podium of the season.
Speaking after a tough weekend, that included a fourth place in Saturday's weather hit encounter, the 29-year-old said: "I spent so much energy trying to get back onto the group.
"When I did lead it, Tom stuffed me and Chaz came back underneath and having lost so much physical energy I also lost a bit of concentration.
"When I did get back past Tom, Chaz was gone, but congratulations to him," added Rea, who was two seconds adrift of the double winning Welshman.
Looking ahead, Rea said: "It is a 48-point gap now and it is nice to extend the championship lead, if only by one point after Lausitzring last time and by another single point here. Championships can be won by a point, so every one of them is important. If we can just have a clean end to the season hopefully we can do the job and close this championship out."
The MV Agusta of Leon Camier finished fourth, ahead of Dutchman Michael van der Mark (Honda) with Italian Lorenzo Savaldori - who will be Eugene Laverty's team-mate at Milwaukee Aprilia next season - sixth on the Ioda Racing Aprilia.
The penultimate round in the championship takes place on October 15-16 at Jerez in Spain. And the last round will be held at the Losail Circuit in Qatar from October 28-30.
In the British Superbike Championship at Assen in the Netherlands, the token European round on the British calendar, JG Speedfit Kawasaki's Leon Haslam was a double winner, closing the gap on championship leader Shane Byrne (BeWiser Ducati). James Ellison (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) was third in race one and Jason O'Halloran (Honda) in race two.
Tyco BMW's Michael Laverty was the best of the local riders, taking a brace of sixth placed finishes for Hector and Philip Neill's Moneymore-based team.
The margin at the top of the table between Byrne and Haslam is down to just 17 points going into the final weekend at Brands Hatch on October 15-16 where the Superbike class will have three races over the two days.
In the British Supersport class, Carrick's Andrew Irwin did lead yesterday's feature British Supersport race in wet conditions, but eventually finished fourth after losing out on the final podium position to championship leader Tarran Mackenzie.
The race was won by Luke Jones, who took his first win of the season on the Acumen Triumph, by an impressive nine-second margin over Came BPT Yamaha's Joe Francis. Eglinton's David Allingham, who was second in Saturday's Sprint Race, was seventh in yesterday's feature race aboard the EHA Racing Yamaha.
Northern Ireland youngsters Aaron Wright (15) and Scott Swann (13) had a baptism of fire over the weekend in the KTM RC Cup World Finals. Wright, who won the respective British KTM series this season, finished 14th in race one on Saturday, bettering that result yesterday in tenth.
Swann took 14th and 17th placed finishes, but full credit to both schoolboys who had to deal with learning the complicated Dutch circuit, whilst doing their utmost to represent the British series on the world stage.
Eugene McManus impressed in Sunday's British Moto3 race, finishing seventh on his debut at the Dutch venue and recently crowned British Superstock champion Taylor Mackenzie won the Dutch Superbike class aboard his Buildbase BMW.
His team is rumoured to be running Suzuki's official effort next season, which throws up the question - could we see Michael Dunlop on the Japanese marquee at the North West 200, Isle of Man TT and Ulster Grand Prix?