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Jonathan Rea wins sixth successive World Superbike title after comeback from qualifying crash in Portugal


Jonathan Rea is the World Superbike champion yet again.

Jonathan Rea is the World Superbike champion yet again.

Jonathan Rea is the World Superbike champion yet again.

Jonathan Rea is the World Superbike champion yet again after getting over the line in this year's Championship with a superb comeback to finish fourth in the weekend's opening race in Portugal.

The Kawasaki rider needed only three points - a 13th place finish - to take the title with tomorrow's two races to spare.

However, for the first time since the Nurburgring way back in 2011, he started the race from outside the top 10. In fact, it was as far back as 15th after he crashed out of the Superpole race when the front of his bike folded under him.

That meant his streak of consecutive front row starts ended at 16, just one short of that particular all-time record.

It was going to take a lot more than that to deny him the title though, picking himself up to roar through the field and finish fourth.

"I have no feeling right now, to be honest. I can't even look back," he told Eurosport.

"It has been an incredible journey this season. I just want to thank the organisers and circuits for getting racing going this year.

"With everything people are going through this year sport always comes second but we managed to race.

"I really miss the fans here, and my family and friends. My travelling support from Northern Ireland would usually be here. It is all for them."

Rea is World Superbike's most successful rider ever, having overtaken Carl Fogarty's four world titles and 59 race victories last year.

At six Championships and needing just one more for 100 race victories, his own records will take some beating.

Last year, he had to battle back from 61 points behind Alvaro Bautista with 11 races gone to once again top the Championship standings that he has dominated since 2015.

And there was another relatively slow start to the 2020 season, with Rea 24 points behind Scott Redding after the opening two meetings of the truncated campaign.

With only Superpole successes for Rea to celebrate in Australia and Spain, Redding's Superbike double in round two had given the Ducati rider the advantage.

But it was just a week later in Portugal that Rea seized the advantage with a stunning treble, and he never looked back. That put Rea four points clear at the top and with another six wins across the four meetings that followed, the Northern Irishman entered this weekend's final round of the season 59 points clear, requiring those just three points to confirm yet another World Superbike title.

"Teamwork is the key," Rea said ahead of this weekend's racing. "Last year was a good schooling with Alvaro (Bautista) seemingly uncatchable at one stage, but we always believed as a team we could turn things around and did. This year, 24 points adrift and a shortened season, the team again made huge steps forward and, yes, I have had to ride closer to the limit."

Never one to forget his home fan base, Rea added: "In normality I would usually have travelling support at the majority of the rounds. It's a shame there has been nobody trackside this season, but messages of support have been coming through social media platforms.

"It's great that I can still carry the baton for Northern Ireland motorcycling. Thank you everybody and keep those fingers crossed this weekend."

It had been an eventful start to the season as Rea donated his winnings from the first round in Australia to the bushfire appeal, revealing that his wife Tatia's family's house in Wandiligong, outside the town of Bright in the state of Victoria, had come under threat from the fires raging across her home country.

Then came the coronavirus-caused sporting shutdown, with no racing for five months from early March until August.

There had been concerns that the pandemic could deny Rea a sixth consecutive title but once again the racing superstar has found a way to win.

At 33, and having signed a new multi-year contract with Kawasaki during the summer, he's far from finished.

Belfast Telegraph