Belfast Telegraph

Unbeatable Rea has one hand on history as he closes in on world treble

Centre stage: Jonathan Rea on Portimao podium with Michael van der Mark (left) and Marco Melandri (right)
Centre stage: Jonathan Rea on Portimao podium with Michael van der Mark (left) and Marco Melandri (right)

By Roy Harris

Reigning World Superbike Champion Jonathan Rea put one hand on an historic third title at Portimao over the weekend after claiming a double success, which means he needs only a second place finish at Magny Cours in two weeks time to take a historic third championship in a row.

From pole position in race one Rea was untouchable on his Kawasaki, crushing the opposition with a blistering first lap leaving him two seconds clear of the field cruising to a 6.189secs victory over Ducati pair Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri.

Toome's Eugene Laverty experienced mixed fortunes... he was in a potential podium position in the first half of the race before his old problem with lack of grip raised its ugly head and he dropped back to finish sixth.

Starting from the third row in yesterday's second race, Rea took two laps to get to the front, after a good scrap with the MV of Leon Camier and despite a small electronic glitch with his Kawasaki he set a pace no-one could match and raced to a four second gap by half distance.

Laverty was in second position in the early stages before Davies forced his way through on lap seven, but the Welshman failed to finish, crashing out with three to go.

Michael Van Den Mark raced through to his first ever Yamaha WSB podium in second position while Laverty and Melandri swapped paint a couple of times before the Toomebridge man had to give best to the Italian as the Aprilia tyre wear reared its head, again forcing him to settle for a season best fourth position.

Of the 20 races to date in 2017 Rea has won 11 and with his second win moved onto a total of 49 career victories, the third most successful rider in WSB history - the record is 59 victories set by Carl Fogarty.

A jubilant Rea said afterwards: "I am really, really happy to win and aside from a little issue in race two it was plain sailing.

"In race two I made some tough passes in the opening laps to get to the front and once ahead I made a rhythm and went away.

"After Saturday's issues with the late tyre selection forced on us we had a completely different bike today. With eight laps to go the bike cut out and I thought, oh no I'm not going to finish, but we got going again and as the laps were ticking down I could see the gap to Chaz was remaining steady.

"When he went out I knew I had some breathing space. The championship lead is massive now - 120 points - and we go to Magny Cours thinking about trying to win it. If we have a solid weekend we can get it done.

"It was a great day for Kawasaki, they won every race and I visited the podium to congratulate every winner. The most impressive, definitely Ana Carrasco."

Carrasco (20) from Spain made her own little piece of history yesterday by becoming the first female to win a world championship race, by winning the Supersport 300cc race with a great slipstreaming move from the final corner to the chequered flag.

It was a painful weekend for Rea's Kawasaki team mate Tom Sykes, who suffered a crash during Saturday qualifying, tumbling through the flames as his machine caught fire. He escaped serious injury and still retained his second position in the championship after Davies' crash yesterday.

Race 2 result: 1 Jonathan Rea (Gbr) Kawasaki 34mins 40.917secs, 2 Michael van der Mark (Ned) Yamaha 34:46.751, 3 Marco Melandri (Ita) Ducati 34:50.118, 4 Eugene Laverty (Gbr) Aprilia 34:53.709, 5 Jordi Torres (Spa) BMW 34:56.860, 6 Lorenzo Savadori (Ita) Aprilia 35:00.276, 7 Leandro Mercado (Arg) Aprilia 35:04.203, 8 Anthony West (Aus) Kawasaki 35:17.899, 9 Ayrton Badovini (Ita) Kawasaki 35:29.461, 10 Takumi Takahashi (Jpn) Honda 35:30.917.

World Championship Standings: Riders: 1 Jonathan Rea (Gbr) Kawasaki 431pts, 2 Tom Sykes (Gbr) Kawasaki 311, 3 Chaz Davies (Gbr) Ducati 296, 4 Marco Melandri (Ita) Ducati 250, 5 Alex Lowes (Gbr) Yamaha 169, 6 Michael van der Mark (Ned) Honda 166, 7 Javier Fores (Spa) Ducati 156, 8 Leon Camier (Gbr) MV Augusta 133, 9 Jordi Torres (Spa) BMW 130, 10 Eugene Laverty (Gbr) Aprilia 117.

Manufacturers: 1 Kawasaki 465pts, 2 Ducati 395, 3 Yamaha 235, 4 Aprilia 155, 5 BMW 153, 6 MV Augusta 133, 7 Honda 91.

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