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Rea all set to make history with World Superbike title hat-trick

 

By Roy Harris

How often does any of us get the opportunity to re-write the history books?

Well Jonathan Rea has that chance this weekend at the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours when he competes in the 11th round of the Motul FIM World Superbike races, as he could secure the title for the third successive season, something no other WSB competitor has ever done.

The 30-year-old Kawasaki Racing Team rider holds an almost unassailable lead in the series, 120 points ahead of his nearest challenger and team-mate Tom Sykes with 150 still to be raced for.

"I want to keep thoughts of the championship out of my mind for now," Ulsterman Rea said as he prepares for the challenge ahead at the French circuit where he scored a double race victory in 2015 on his way to his first ever world championship, joining Ralph Bryans, Joey Dunlop and Brian Reid as Ireland's only global motorcycle champions.

A stunning double at Portimao during the last round where he seemed to be riding on rails, Rea is not one to rest on his laurels and is only focusing on the action ahead of what are two of the most important races of his career.

He said: "I'm really excited about the weekend, especially after Portimao where we remained for a day of testing after the races. We found some positives that we can perhaps implement this weekend to give me some extra confidence on corner entry.

"Magny Cours is a great circuit, one I have been strong at in the past. It requires a little compromise when setting the bike up and we will also have to keep in mind the weather, as at this time of year anything can happen.

"This is the first opportunity to try to win the 2017 World Superbike Championship, but I want to put that to the back of my mind and do my best to fight for race wins - the championship will look after itself."

Sykes meanwhile had a torrid Portuguese round, suffering a nasty, fiery high-side in free practice, dislocating his left little finger and cracking a wrist. Having undergone surgery in Barcelona, Sykes is focusing on his fitness and preparing to take one session at a time.

Rea's career began in schoolboy motocross where he was British 60cc champion in 1997 at 10 years of age. He made the switch to tarmac 125cc racing through the Red Bull Rookie programme in 2003. British Supersport was next, but a serious leg injury in a crash at Knockhill cut short the season.

British Superbikes were next in 2005 and he became the youngest rider to claim a pole position.

He was runner-up in the championship in 2007 before switching to World Supersport with Ten Kate Honda in 2008 and was runner-up in his rookie year, picking up his first win at Brno.

He contested the final World Superbike meeting of the 2008 season at Portimao and has been full time in the championship since 2009.

He secured fifth in the championship that season, fourth in 2010 despite a nasty fall at Imola, while 2011 saw a pre-season crash at Phillip Island and then a high-speed tumble at Misano.

In 2012 he was fifth and in 2013 he crashed on oil at Nurburgring and broke his femur before his best season in 2014, when - still with Honda - he won four races and had five other podiums on his way to third.

Always sticking with Honda, Rea was awarded two Repsol Honda MotoGP races in 2012, replacing the injured Casey Stoner and finishing eighth at Misano and seventh at Aragon.

He also became the first British rider to win the prestigious Suzuka eight-hour race in Japan alongside FCC TSR Honda team-mates Taddy Okada and Konsuke Akiyoshi.

However, Rea wanted more and made the switch to the Kawasaki Racing Team for 2015 and hasn't looked back since - 14 wins on his way to the 2015 WSB Championship before retaining it last year, one of only four riders to secure back-to-back WSB Championships.

Having overcome some major set-backs along the way, Rea is now on the cusp of history, but he is still the family man, married to Tatia with sons Jake, who turned four on Wednesday, and Tyler (2), with his feet firmly planted on the ground.

• Ducati is adamant it can still beat Marc Marquez and Honda to the 2017 MotoGP Championship with Andrea Dovizioso - because Marquez takes so many risks.

As Marquez won in Spain, Dovizioso - who had previously been level on points with him - trailed home seventh and fell 16 points adrift.

But Ducati's sporting general manager Gigi Dall'Igna said how hard Marquez - who crashed in Aragon qualifying - is having to push shows how the title battle could still change.

"Marc is a rider who takes a lot of risks and only wants a result," Dall'Igna said.

"Dealing with someone like this can be difficult, as we have seen.

"I don't think he has a lot of margin, and for this reason he's taken many risks.

"Someone who is making so many errors is always travelling close to the limit."

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