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Jonathan Rea ready for world title party under bright lights


On track: Jonathan Rea should retain his world title at the weekend

On track: Jonathan Rea should retain his world title at the weekend

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On track: Jonathan Rea should retain his world title at the weekend

Jonathan Rea is counting down the last few days to the final two races of the 2016 season on Saturday and Sunday in Qatar, where he is set to retain his World Superbike title with the Kawasaki Racing Team.

Ulsterman Rea holds a 48-point lead going into the final two encounters and realistically only need finish in the top 14 in Saturday's opening race in Qatar to retain his crown.

When he does finally secure the title this weekend, the 29-year-old Manx resident will be the first rider to retain a WSB title since Carl Fogarty in 1999.

Looking ahead to the unique experience under the floodlit 3.375-mile Losail Circuit, Rea said: "I'm more than happy to finish the season here at Losail because it is a circuit that I really enjoy.

"The atmosphere of Qatar - a night race, in the middle of the desert, surrounded by five star hotels - is a cool place to race," he added.

Last season Rea secured the title one round earlier at Jerez in Spain. On that occasion an army of fans from Northern Ireland made the trip, and while quite a few of them were back in Spain a fortnight ago, many will dig deep and make the trip to Qatar this weekend.

Delighted at the support from family and friends, Rea explained: "All my family will be there in Qatar and a lot of my friends are making the trip as well, because I hope to cap off an amazing season with the championship win."

Never one to forget his hard working Kawasaki Racing Team, Rea said: "The championship is what we as a team have been working hard for all season. These two races in Qatar will now give us our chance to try and do that.

"We have just come off the back of a good weekend in Jerez, where I was on the podium for the first time ever - we actually made the podium twice.

"I feel really equipped to go out and do a good job at Losail, because I really enjoy the track and I feel we can aim high this weekend."

Rea's main rival in the championship is Kawasaki Racing team-mate Tom Sykes, who has all but surrendered the title to the Ulsterman.

He is now more intent on defending second place over charging Welshman Chaz Davies on the Ducati, who is just 19 points behind Sykes.

Sykes said: "I am relaxed and looking forward to the races and feel we can go there and fight for the wins.

"It would be nice to finish the year with a win and if we can secure runner-up in the championship, it will not have been a bad season.

"I really enjoy the format of the floodlit races as I am a night owl anyway!" he added.

Both Saturday and Sunday's races from Qatar take place at 6pm UK time.

The MotoGP World Championship heads to Malaysia this weekend for the third and final stop on the famous 'flyaway' long haul tour, that takes in three races in as many weekends.

The Malaysian Grand Prix is the penultimate opportunity to see the riders on track in 2016, a season that has seen Marc Márquez regain the title as Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and now even Maverick Viñales fight it out for the runner-up spot.

The Pull&Bear Aspar Team arrive in Malaysia feeling positive about their chances.

Ulsterman Eugene Laverty could only manage 14th position at Phillip Island in Australia but his quest for a top 10 championship position certainly remains a possibility.

Belfast Telegraph