Jonathan Rea is in eleventh heaven as he keeps up his winning run
Jonathan Rea kept his record breaking momentum going in the opening race of the final round of the World Superbike Championship in Qatar last night, winning his 11th race in a row and making it 17 for the season as he equalled the 28-year-old record of American Doug Polen with one race remaining today.
Starting from the middle of the front row, Rea out-dragged his Kawasaki team-mate Tom Sykes to the first corner and from there he was never headed, winning by 1.4 seconds from Sykes, Alex Lowes and countryman Eugene Laverty.
Rea said after his win: "This is mad, as it wasn't as easy as it looked. I ran into a front tyre problem late in the race - as everyone in the race complained about afterwards - and right-hand corners had to be treated with caution.
"I had my eye on 17 wins and it's a credit to the team, who gave me a good bike, that we have equalled the record. We will have to work on that front tyre problem for the final race of the season."
Taking the lead, Rea got his head down in the early laps and stretched the field, quickly opening a race winning gap.
The highlight of the race was the battle for the final spot on the rostrum between Eugene Laverty on his penultimate ride on the Milwaukee Aprilia and the Pata Yamaha of Alex Lowes, the pair never more than three quarters of a second apart throughout the 17-lap race.
It all came down to the final lap with Lowes edging ahead, Laverty fighting back, the two side-by-side at times, the final corner the decider as Laverty lost the front end and with a foot off the peg he almost crashed allowing Lowes to get to the chequered flag a second ahead of the Toomebridge rider.
Afterwards Laverty, racing to try and earn a ride for 2019, said: "That was a hell of a race, probably my best of the year. I rode my socks off, but with about six laps to go the right-hand side of my front tyre was destroyed.
"It was a terrific dice with Alex and I aimed to be right on his back wheel out of the last corner and slip stream him to the finish line.
"Unfortunately, the front tyre let go and I just about saved it. We'll start the final race of the season from pole position and it would be nice to end the season and my time with Aprilia with at least a podium."
On his position of no seat for 2019 Laverty commented: "I had been working four or five months on a deal, but for whatever reason I didn't get the nod.
"I've been about racing long enough to know you are only as good as your last race, but unfortunately, I'm not in the team for next season.
"My focus this weekend is on getting good results and putting myself in the shop window to try and get something sorted.
"I have raced 12 years in the championship, three times a runner-up and I feel as if I have a lot left to offer World Superbikes."
No-one could argue with that on the basis of yesterday's performance by Eugene.