The 2017 WorldSBK title is heading ‘home’ to Australia! Well, at least partially, with Kawasaki factory pilot Jonathan Rea, who’s based in the Isle of Man but calls Australia home over summer, on the cusp of making history as the first rider to win three WorldSBK titles in a row.
The 30 year old Northern Irishman who’s married to Phillip Island’s Tatia Weston, and has two half Australian children, is likely to achieve the feat this weekend (Sept 29-Oct 1) at round 11 of the 2017 Superbike World Championship at Magny-Cours in France.
It’s the holy grail of WorldSBK competition, and Rea is in the box seat to secure his third successive title as he takes a whopping 120 pt (431 to 311) lead over teammate Tom Sykes into the third last round of the year, followed by Ducati pair Chaz Davies (296pts) and Marco Melandri (250pts).
A victory in race one on Saturday would put the 2017 championship issue beyond doubt – a likely proposition after his brilliant clean sweep at the last round in Portugal – but even if that doesn’t materialise all the permutations point to Rea getting the job done in race two on Sunday.
But he’s still not thinking that way, even with such a massive lead.
“I want to put the championship out of my mind for now and go and do my best in both races.
I’m confident with how the ZX-10RR is now, and that we can go and fight for race wins. I’m excited especially after such a strong weekend in Portimao where we remained for a day of testing after the race.
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 and one that I’ve been strong at in the past.
The circuit itself requires a little compromise when setting up the bike and we will also have to keep in mind the weather, as at this time of the year anything can happen.”
Even if France doesn’t deliver the ultimate prize for Rea, there will be two more opportunities in Spain (October 21-22) or Qatar (November 3-4) to cement himself into WorldSBK history.
The timing will work itself out, but the inevitable end result will add another layer of cream to a career that has gone from strength to strength since he joined Kawasaki in 2015. Over the last three seasons he’s racked up victories at such a rapid rate that his career total is now 49 – a figure bested only by Aussie Troy Bayliss (52) and Carl Fogarty (59).
Three other riders have attempted the WorldSBK three-peat – Americans Fred Merkel (champion in 1988-1989), Doug Polen (1991-1992) and British bulldog Fogarty (1994-1995 and 1998-1999) – but none have been able to get the job done.
Once Rea’s record-breaking season ends, he will again head back to Australia with his Phillip Island-raised wife Tatia and their two sons Jake and Tyler. Once they’re back in the Aussie sun, the family will divide its time between Phillip Island and the picturesque northern Victorian town of Bright, where Rea indulges in his passion for road cycling.
It’s a family affair that has seen Rea become a clear favourite among local WorldSBK fans, especially with the absence of an Aussie rider at the pointy end of the production-based series in recent years.
The 2018 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship commence at the glorious high-speed Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit from February 23-25. Tickets on sale soon.
For further information go to www.worldsbk.com.au or call the toll free WorldSBK Hotline 1300 728 007.