It's mine to lose: Jonathan Rea closes in on fifth World Superbike title after double delight in Portugal
Jonathan Rea admits a record fifth World Superbike title on the spin is "mine to lose" after the Northern Ireland star took another step towards the championship in Portugal.
Rea won Saturday's opening race at Portimao and roared to victory in yesterday's Superpole Sprint race to make it an incredible nine victories in a row at the Portuguese circuit.
The 32-year-old was only denied a treble by nearest title rival Alvaro Bautista, who held on narrowly to win race three by a 10th of a second on his Ducati.
Bautista, who finished as the runner-up to Rea in the earlier Superpole race, is now 91 points behind the four-time champion with only three rounds and nine races remaining.
It has been a sensational turnaround by Rea, who at one point trailed Bautista by 61 points before gradually reducing the deficit to the former MotoGP rider, whose championship prospects faltered following a series of crashes.
Bautista finally returned to winning ways yesterday, but it could be too little, too late for the Spaniard, who recovered from a poor start to secure victory in yesterday's second race.
Rea added another 20 points to his tally as he crossed the line in second place ahead of Turkish rider Toprak Razgatlioglu on the Puccetti Kawasaki, with Alex Lowes in fourth on the Pata Yamaha.
"It's a great position to be in of course and you can almost smell it - I think now it's our championship to lose," said Rea.
"But we have seen before, especially with Alvaro's mid-season, how the pendulum can swing, so it's important to make no mistakes and try to keep taking our opportunities when they arrive and when they don't, just finish the race and do what we can.
"After the first four rounds of the season I would never have dreamed of being in this position with 91 points going into the last three rounds.
"It really is a testament to never giving up and how hard the team is working, and putting a solid weekend together every single time.
"I'm excited to see what France brings and then after that, Argentina and Qatar."
Rea won the Superpole race by two seconds from Bautista, who only just held off Lowes in the dash to the line.
Eugene Laverty, who retired from Saturday's race, finished 15th and 14th yesterday on the Go Eleven Ducati.
The 11th round of the championship takes place at Magny-Cours in France from September 27-29.
√Carrick's Andrew Irwin missed out on the all-important British Superbike Championship Showdown yesterday at Oulton Park.
Irwin was excluded from race two after he was penalised for breaking the rules when he re-started his machine and travelled back to pit lane after crashing in Saturday's race.
Peter Hickman claimed the final top-six spot for the Smiths Racing team.
Josh Brookes (PBM Ducati) and Tommy Bridewell (Oxford Ducati) won yesterday's races, with Brookes also victorious in Saturday's opening race at the Cheshire circuit.
In the Supersport class, Alastair Seeley crashed out of the Feature race and appeared to suffer a wrist injury. Jack Kennedy was also a faller, but the Dubliner leads the title race by 37 points from team-mate Brad Jones, with Seeley 73 points adrift in third.
√Skerries man Michael Sweeney dominated the final Irish road race of the season with four wins at the East Coast Festival in north county Dublin yesterday.
Sweeney won both Superbike races and was also successful in the Supersport and Supertwin classes to earn the 'Man of the Meeting' award.