Jonathan Rea hails 'huge' weekend in World Superbike title race as Bautista finally reeled in
Jonathan Rea is back on top of the world after a sensational weekend at Donington Park where he rode to his first ever World Superbike treble success and, having gone into his home British round of the series 16-points behind Alvaro Bautista, he left with a 24-point lead in the championship.
Reigning four-time champion Rea said last night: "I would have laughed if you had told me on Friday that I would win three races. I didn't expect this after practice. We took advantage of the wet race on Saturday and in the two races today I had zero problems. The team gave me a great bike and yes, you could say I'm happy."
At that, Rea headed straight for East Midlands airport to board a Belfast-bound plane and a double celebration of his win and anniversary of his marriage to wife Tatia in his local Templepatrick bar.
"I won't start thinking about next weekend's round at Laguna Seca in California until after that," he smiled.
Saturday's 23-lap race in very wet conditions was a pivotal point of the 2019 WSBK championship as Rea went top of the standings for the first time this season as series leader Bautista suffered a massive 150mph high-side, thankfully unhurt.
Rea, from second on the grid, immediately took the lead on his Kawasaki and by the end of the opening lap had a second and a half lead over Tom Sykes and was lapping two seconds a lap quicker than anybody else.
The rain got heavier and Bautista suffered his huge crash, saying: "It was very slippery, like ice and midway through the race I lost the rear and couldn't avoid the crash."
Rea never looked back and crossed the finish line with a celebratory stand-up wheelie, 11 seconds clear of Sykes with Leon Haslam a further 11 seconds back in third.
"I knew we had a good wet set-up on the Kawasaki for the wet," Rea said.
"But you never know in those conditions, as one lapse in concentration can lead to a mistake. It's a huge win for me."
Yesterday began with a dramatic Superpole race in which Rea shadowed Sykes for four laps of 10 before hitting the front with a close pass at the chicane.
On lap seven, Peter Hickman's BMW engine blew, leaving a trail of oil into the Melbourne Loop and four riders crashed out bring the race to a premature end with Rea declared the winner.
However, after the red flag as Rea and Sykes came around to where the oil was deposited, Rea almost lost the front end, and needed a steadying 'dab', while Sykes' front end folded and he crashed.
His BMW in the back of a pick-up truck, he was back in the paddock, but with no bike there within the five-minute time limit rules an unimpressed Sykes was excluded from the results with Toprak Razgatlioglu promoted to second and Haslam third.
Rea said: "After the red flag, the only oil flag I saw was after the chicane over the blind crest where we are on the brakes. I almost lost the front, let off the brakes and ran straight on. There were cars, marshals and crashed bikes everywhere - a strange moment."
The treble came in a superb final 23-lap encounter that saw Rea and Razgatlioglu swap the lead time and time again with Bautista and Haslam disputing third.
It wasn't until the final two laps that Rea managed to get a slight gap, taking the chequered flag and his 78th World Superbike win, three-tenths clear of the Turkish rider with Bautista six seconds back in third.
It topped off an incredible weekend for Rea in front of 38,000 spectators, many who had travelled from Northern Ireland to support him, and now he heads across the Atlantic for round nine of 13 on top of the championship with 376 points to Bautista's 352.
How they finished
Superpole Race: 1 Jonathan Rea (Gbr) Kawasaki 10mins 22.084secs, 2 Topak Razgatlioglu (Tur) Kawasaki 123.258, 3 Leon Haslam (Gbr) Kawasaki 123.750, 4 Alvaro Bautista (Spa) Ducati 124.373, 5 Loris Baz (Fra) BMW 124.886, 6 Alex Lowes (Gbr) Yamaha 125.908, 7 Chaz Davies (Gbr) Ducati 11:07.035, 8 Michael van der Mark (Ned) Yamaha 11:07.337, 9 Jordi Torres (Spa) Kawasaki 11:08.687, 10 Marco Melandri (Ita) Yamaha 11:09.565
WSB Race 2: 1 Jonathan Rea (Gbr) Kawasaki 33mins 51.931secs, 2 Topak Razgatlioglu (Tur) Kawasaki 33:52.296, 3 Alvaro Bautista (Spa) Ducati 33:57.861, 4 Alex Lowes (Gbr) Yamaha 33:58.265, 5 Leon Haslam (Gbr) Kawasaki 33:58.764, 6 Loris Baz (Fra) BMW 33:59.372, 7 Tom Sykes (Gbr) BMW 34:00.473, 8 Michael van der Mark (Ned) Yamaha 34:06.781, 9 Chaz Davies (Gbr) Ducati 34:10.055, 10 Marco Melandri (Ita) Yamaha 34:21.046
World Championship Standings: 1 Jonathan Rea (Gbr) Kawasaki 376pts, 2 Alvaro Bautista (Spa) Ducati 352, 3 Michael van der Mark (Ned) Yamaha 206, 4 Alex Lowes (Gbr) Yamaha 192, 5 Leon Haslam (Gbr) Kawasaki 187, 6 Topak Razgatlioglu (Tur) Kawasaki 153.