Jonathan Rea wins amazing third World Superbike title in a row with victory at Magny-Cours
Northern Ireland biker Jonathan Rea has secured a historic third consecutive World Superbike title at the Magny-Cours circuit in France.
The 30-year-old Northern Irishman, who claimed a double triumph in Portugal last time out, clinched the opening race win to secure the title with two rounds of the championship - and Sunday's second race - still remaining.
Rea started from pole position on his Kawasaki ahead of Argentinian Leandro Mercado (Aprilia) and team-mate Tom Sykes and he soon pulled clear of the rest of the pack to remain unchallenged at the front.
He recorded his 12th victory of the season in beating Italian Marco Melandri (Ducati) and closest rival Sykes to the finish line with over a 16-second gap.
British duo Leon Camier (MV Agusta) and Alex Lowes (Yamaha) finished fourth and fifth with Eugene Laverty just pipping Aprilia team-mate Mercado to sixth.
Italian Davide Giugliano (Honda), Michael van der Mark (Yamaha) of Holland and Brit Chaz Davies (Ducati) rounded off the top 10 at Magny-Cours.
Sunday's race gets under way at 1pm local time.
It was his 50th World Superbike victory, and puts him within touching distance of Carl Fogarty's record of 59. If he were to continue into 2018 in the same vein of form, that record could be in jeopardy.
Fogarty holds the overalll record of five titles but no rider until Rea has won three in a row.
Speaking before the race Rea said: "To win 50 races would be massive and if I do it in race one it would be lost in having also won the championship. I have great memories of watching the likes of Fogarty, James Toseland and Neil Hodgson - they were heroes to me, now I'm one of them. It's surreal.
"It has got to the stage where there are more Northern Ireland flags being waved at the race meetings, wherever they are, than other British riders' flags and that makes me so proud."
Rea has had a remarkable run of results since joining the Kawasaki Racing Team in 2015, including 34 race wins (11 this season to date), which have resulted in two World championships and helped Kawasaki to their first Manufacturers' titles and two team championships.
A triumphant homecoming is now planned for tomorrow night.