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Jonathan Rea at the 2018 WorldSBK Qatar round

Rea halted by nature as dust settles on WorldSBK in Qatar

Oct 282018

11 wins in a row and the only way four-time WorldSBK Champion Jonathan Rea could be stopped at Losail, Qatar for the season-wrapping last round of 2018 was by a desert storm that washed out part of the famous floodlit venue. Before the Saturday climate-crash just outside of Doha, Rea had already planted more milestones. The Kawasaki man led teammate Tom Sykes and Pata Yamaha’s Alex Lowes onto the first race podium on Friday. His 11th chequered flag-wave in succession and 17th win of the season meant he equalled Doug Polen’s record haul in the history of Superbike – set in 1991 – and also superseded his own trawl of 16 wins from 2017.

2013 champion Sykes had swept to his 48th Superpole in what was his swansong with the team but was again powerless to match a rampant Rea. The Northern Irishman was denied the chance of an unprecedented seventh double due to the freak weather in Qatar that forced the organisers to cancel the second Superbike race in the wake of a perilous World Supersport dash.

Like the rest of the SBK grid, Rea patiently waited in the Losail pitlane before news filtered through that the 13 round and 26 race campaign was over. Rea could reflect on his 56th victory for Kawasaki on Friday - a record for a single rider with a single manufacturer in WorldSBK.

“There is a lot of hard work done to arrive in this position,” he said. “It is really difficult: to build the package, the team atmosphere and a feeling with the bike. This weekend I have not quite felt myself on the bike and I said to my guys yesterday evening that this game is so much about confidence. We have been lucky this year in that I have had such a great feeling with the bike and that we have had that little bit extra. That gives you confidence and you are able to ride in a certain way. That is how it is done. Every time we are struggling, or my confidence is down, my crew chief Pere Riba finds a way to re-invent that, and turn things around. I am really grateful for that. People can find a good team and a good bike, and a good team can find a good rider, but trying to put all the elements together is really difficult. But I certainly have that with the Kawasaki Racing Team.”


“From one side it is frustrating not be able to finish the season when you are geared up to race but on the other side conditions are really difficult out there,” he added. “It did not seem like it was draining at all and every time they tried to clean the track, water was coming up from the gravel bed. It was frustrating but we can look back at our season and be really proud of our efforts.”

Sykes also signed off with a podium. “It was weird not to race today. I feel robbed!” he smiled. “I wanted to have one last dance with my bike and just enjoy it, really. I just felt something good coming today and wanted to give it one last go. I have been in the top three in the world championship for six years, so this is the first time in seven years I finished outside of it. On another note, our speed was still unquestionable; we still have that. Yesterday we brought it home not too far behind Jonathan, who is a four-time world champion. Thanks to everybody in Kawasaki and the team for all their efforts over the past years.”

Lowes sealed a memorable 2018 where Yamaha took another positive step towards reaching the level of Kawasaki with a fourth trophy. The silverware was hard earned after #22 battled to the final corner with Eugene Laverty. “Towards the end I could see Eugene was also starting to struggle with the front,” Alex said. “That opened the door, so I just dug in at the end to pass him for third. It's great to be back on the podium here in Qatar and it was fun to be involved in such a great fight. The team have done a great job this weekend.”


2019 WorldSBK will not be far in many teams’ thoughts with testing set to begin next month and the latest version of the calendar due any day soon.