Kawasaki Racing Team’s Jonathan Rea shone as brightly as one of the dazzling lights of the Losail circuit in Qatar this evening as the 29 year old rode to second position in the first outing of the final round of the 2016 series to re-fix the number one plate on his ZX-10R for the second year in a row.
The Northern Irishman and reigning champ only needed to grab two points from the initial race in the thirteenth and last date on the WorldSBK slate (and from Pole Position after blitzing the track record) but rode to a solid runner-up slot behind winner Chaz Davies to send the Kawasaki team into rapture for the second time in two weeks; the team wrapping up the Manufacturer’s title a fortnight ago at Jerez in Spain.
Rea has faced a challenge from teammate Tom Sykes this season – the Englishman riding to fourth in Losail – but has headed the standings from the get-go at Phillip Island in February and with his podium appearance on Saturday night clinched his 22nd top three classification from a possible 25 in 2016; dropping the pressure for a hard charge on Sunday and the chance to demote the in-form Davies who has won five six from the last seven WorldSBK sprints.
#65 became the first back-to-back champion in WorldSBK this century and only the fourth in the history of the class.
“We have twenty-six races in the season and we won the championship with one remaining so that means we have done a very good job all year and have been very consistent,” said Rea – who has now accumulated 87 WorldSBK podiums and a total of 45 in two years since joining Kawasaki – to www.worldsbk.com. “To win back-to-back championships is so difficult. Last year when I first arrived in the Kawasaki family I already had high motivation to win but the ZX-10R was a headache for me at the beginning of this season because it was completely new and very different to last year’s [bike] so I want to thank Kawasaki and my team for really believing in me and this project and to keep pushing on.”
“Back-to-back championships is incredible and I think one of my heroes – Carl Fogarty – was the last to do it seventeen years ago,” he continued. “Chaz had incredibly pace at the end of last year and was the strongest so I felt a bit like the underdog to be honest but we won at Phillip Island and ‘made’ the season in the first part of the year. My teammate Tom, and Chaz, were so strong and everybody would have their good and bad days but it was about keeping the bike up when things did not go well and that was the difference. We had to accept our bad days and it was hard to do that but the story of the year was that consistency is key.”
The bigger picture of WorldSBK is now finished, framed and now figuratively hanging on the walls of the Rea residence on the Isle of Man. The 2016 story comes to a conclusion tomorrow evening in the Qatari night air.