Belfast Telegraph

Unstoppable Jonathan Rea hungry to build on perfect World Superbike Championship start

By Paul Lindsay

There's just no stopping Ulsterman Jonathan Rea, who continued his perfect start to the 2017 World Superbike Championship, taking his third and fourth wins of the season during the weekend at the Chang International Circuit in Thailand with Kawasaki.

The reigning world champion was unstoppable, and in stark contrast to the season opener in Australia, where he was made fight until the death in both races for the wins - this time around it was a 'cake walk' for the Ballyclare ace, who extended his lead to 30 points in championship standings over nearest rival Chaz Davies on the Ducati.

Speaking after race two yesterday, which was his forty second win in the World Superbike Championship, Rea said: "That's the best start to any season during my career in World Superbike, but it's important now to maximise these points when we can, because it is how I've built my championship challenges in the past," added Rea, who was also quick to point out.

"These four victories are nearly halfway to my win tally from last year already. So when we can win, we make sure we win," beamed the 30-year-old, who can now return to his adopted European base on the Isle of Man in preparation for round three at the beginning of April in Spain.

Rea's six second victory on Saturday was launched from his pole position placing, and while the scrap behind for the minor podium positions was eventually settled with Davies taking his third consecutive runners-up position of the season for Ducati; it was Rea's dogged and determined team-mate Tom Sykes who overhauled Marco Melandri (Ducati) for the final podium spot.

In the re-started second race yesterday, Rea was followed home by Sykes, making it a Kawasaki Racing Team 'one-two', albeit, the Englishman was four seconds adrift of Rea's championship winning, number 1 liveried factory Kawasaki ZX-10RR. Marco Melandri redeemed himself with a podium finish in third, with Davies struggling to sixth after a crash before the re-start leaving him an uphill task.

Summing up his weekend, Rea added: "We took the bike set-up we had from Phillip Island to here and it just pretty much worked. That is unheard of, so I have a good bond with the bike now. There are still some areas we need to improve on for the coming races but KHI are working hard on this and we expect to improve the bike again in the next races."

Eugene Laverty's return to the SBK series continues to be dogged with frustration, the Ulsterman retired in Saturday's opening race on the final lap from seventh place with a mechanical problem on his SMR prepared Milwaukee Aprilia. Race two oyesterday involved a crash and brave remount, with Laverty taking just a solitary point for his efforts in 15th, but remains upbeat,

"The first half of the race was difficult as I started so far back," said Laverty of his 10th place starting position. "This meant I was extra aggressive to try and make up some places; I was braking harder than usual in some areas and worked the front hard, and in a way the red flag gave me time to regroup," he explained.

"After the restart the conditions were slippery, so the front tyre was moving a lot. I had a lot of warnings and I tried to settle into my position, but I lost the front so many times and finally after eight laps I crashed."

Concluding he said: "It's not nice to ride like this where you can't push one hundred percent without crashing, but we know where we have to improve."

The third round of the WorldSBK series takes place at Motorland Aragon in Spain.

Belfast Telegraph


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