Jonathan Rea stands on the verge of defending his World Superbike title after finishing second at Jerez in Race 2. The Northern Irishman came out on top of a tussle with his Kawasaki teammate, Tom Sykes, and will enter the final round of the season with an almost unassailable 48 point lead.
It was smart strategy that won Chaz Davies the opening race of the French round of WorldSBK but in Race 2 it was patience and perseverance that won out. The Welshman clocked up his third win in four races and each have come in very different circumstances. A dominant victory in Germany started this rich vein of form but France showed how strong Davies has become. Having the mental strength to stick to his guns, and his intermediate tyre choice, in the opening race was contrasted with his patience in waiting for an opportunity to pass the Kawasaki riders in Race 2.
The decision on whether to be conservative or aggressive with your choices wasn't the key in Magny-Cours rather it was just about having belief in your convictions. With a drying track Chaz Davies was one of the few riders to start the race with intermediate tires and the gamble proved worth the risk for Davies as he romped to victory.
In the early stages with a wet track Davies was a sitting duck to riders with more grip from full wet weather tires. The Welshman even said afterwards that “I was so slow that I wouldn't have been surprised if someone had hit me!”
It was a weekend of contrasts in Germany. Four weathers in a race weekend is usually something associated with Phillip Island, but with 30°C temperatures having welcomed the WorldSBK paddock from their summer break, the heat gradually transitioned to a downpour on a cold and windy Sunday.
With Chaz Davies and Jonathan Rea claiming the spoils in the races there was little reason to think that this was a standout weekend, but in many ways the German round of WorldSBK could prove pivotal when the season concludes.
At Laguna Seca, our World Superbikes writer Kent Brockman caught up with reigning WorldSBK champion Jonathan Rea, to ask about his season. In a frank interview, Rea talks about how he has adapted to the 2016 Kawasaki ZX-10R, and the development path which produced that bike, and how it has come on since the start of the season. Rea also talks about the importance of his team, and surrounding yourself with people you can trust. He sheds light on the strains of traveling around the world to race at the world championship level, and how important is to have the support of friends and family. And of course, he talks about the confidence with which he enters the remainder of the 2016 WorldSBK season.
Kent Brockman: It was a sour note to retire in the final race before the summer break but a 46 point lead clearly leaves you in a very strong position for the final four rounds of WorldSBK.
Jonathan Rea: Yeah and honestly I couldn’t have asked for much more in the beginning of the year because we started the season with a new bike. It was a completely new bike too with a new engine and chassis. For us to be competitive from the start in Philip Island and do the double there was incredible. We've achieved much more than we expected. Step by step we’ve been strong this year and we’ve faced some difficulties. The most obvious is the shifting problems I’ve encountered at some races. But now we pretty much understand that and why that’s happening. We’ve been able to be strong.
The WorldSBK season goes on its annual summer break with the championship suddenly poised on a much finer edge than was imaginable just a week ago.
Jonathan Rea's dominance of the current campaign has been almost unparalleled. However, his run of 17 consecutive podium finishes to open the season is now over and suddenly he faces a threat from within for his title defense.
The Kawasaki World Superbike line up will remained unchanged for the next two years. On Monday morning, the Kawasaki Racing Team announced they had signed Tom Sykes to another two-year contract for WorldSBK.
Sykes will line up alongside Jonathan Rea in 2017 and 2018, as he has for this season and last. There had been a lot of speculation that Sykes could jump ship to Ducati, after the Italian factory had handed him a de facto blank check for his signature. Sykes preferred to remain with Kawasaki, however, despite the animosity in the Kawasaki garage between the two riders.