The start of December marks the beginning of what is rapidly becoming a tradition in the world of motorcycle racing. After the Jerez test in late November, it is now "Why Is Jonathan Rea Faster Than A MotoGP Bike" season. At Jerez, Rea pushed his Kawasaki ZX-10R WorldSBK machine – down 35+ bhp and up 10+ kg – to the fourth fastest overall time of the week, ahead of eleven MotoGP regulars (including two rookies), three MotoGP test riders and Alex Márquez, who the Marc VDS team were using to train up the new crew recruited to look after Tom Luthi's side of the garage while the Swiss rider is still injured.
How is this possible? And what does this mean? Are WorldSBK machines too close to MotoGP bikes? Why are MotoGP manufacturers spending ten times as much to be shown up at a test by Jonathan Rea? And why, for the sake of all that is holy, does Jonathan Rea not have a MotoGP ride?
The answer to all but the last of those questions is buried away in the bigger picture of the laps posted throughout the week. When you examine the numbers, the picture is a lot more complex than the headline times seem to suggest. Tires, temperature, and track all play a part. But all of that can't disguise a rather outsize dose of talent.
The first round after the summer break is always one that fans and paddock personnel get excited about. But the German round of the WorldSBK calendar hasn't captured the imagination, because of its remote setting and, for the riders, the bumpy track surface.
With Jonathan Rea easing his way towards the history books as the first rider to win the championship three years in a row, there was a feeling from some quarters that it was merely a matter of marking time rather than making a mark. That being so, once the weekend got underway it did throw up plenty of excitement in what appears to the final race at the Lausitzring.
Notes and quotes after a bizarre first WorldSBK race at Misano:
Notes and quotes on the second WorldSBK race at Imola from our man on the ground:
Race 2 at Assen didn't have the fireworks of Saturday but rather than the pressure cooker environment of a championship battle flaring up it was a slowly boiled intra-team scrap that was settled on Sunday.
In three years at Kawasaki Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes have had their differences and tension but overall their relationship has been mostly positive. There was the potential for fall-out in The Netherlands however when Sykes closed dramatically on Rea in the second half of the race.
The 2013 world champion has battled illness in recent weeks, a bacterial infection has forced him to into hospital and laid him up since Thailand, but in the thick of battle he sensed a weakened rival.
It's early in the 2017 WorldSBK season but already plenty of people are crowning Jonathan Rea as a three time champion. To anyone thinking that with 22 races remaining that the championship has been sewn up, it would be wise not to count any chickens just yet.
Rea has most certainly been the class of the field so far in Australia and Thailand but they are two tracks that the Kawasaki rider had been heavily favored to win at. Phillip Island is a wide open race to open the year but Rea has traditionally been a force at the Australian circuit. Likewise in three years of visiting Thailand he has won five races. There's a lot that can be taken from the opening three rounds of the year but it will take a couple of European rounds before a clear picture truly emerges.
Jonathan Rea claimed a dominant victory at the Chang International Circuit, the reigning world champion setting a searing pace en route to his third victory in a row. When he arrived in Parc Ferme after Race 1 the Northern Irishman's emotions were clear for all to see as he celebrated his 41st WorldSBK victory.
“I felt really good and quite calm, my guys gave me a really good bike again and that was my plan,” said Rea. “We had a really good pace but Chaz also had a very fast pace, as did Marco, so I had to ride away into T1 to make the holeshot, I wanted to get my head down in T1 and I did it. I managed to get a good gap and then built up a rhythm, I was just doing my job and it was enough to win, so I’m really happy. Last year there was a big fight between me, Tom and Chaz but the bike’s improved a lot since last year, so I’m really happy with that.
Can we just have every race at Phillip Island? That's certainly what a lot of fans will be thinking after a thrilling opening weekend of WorldSBK action. The tension that has simmered between Jonathan Rea and Chaz Davies over the winter came to the fore over the weekend and once again it these two riders fighting it out for wins.
Jonathan Rea had a fight on his hands for both wins in Australia but the reigning WorldSBK champion did enough to continue his domination of Phillip Island. In claiming his fifth win in the last three years at the Australian circuit the Northern Irishman also became just the fourth rider in history to win 40 WorldSBK races.
The second race of the WorldSBK season saw history made with the introduction of the much-touted revised grid that saw the podium men from Race 1 start from the third row.
This meant that Jonathan Rea, Chaz Davies and Tom Sykes had to fight through the field during the 22 lap affair. It proved little challenge for Rea and Davies to hit the front but ultimately Sykes lost too much time making progress and abused his tires trying to bridge the gap to the leading group.