WorldSBK World Champion Jonathan Rea ended his longest ‘dry spell’ (six races) since throwing a leg over the Ninja ZX-10R last year by convincingly owning the eighth round of the 2016 series and increasing both his personal stats and lead in the championship standings to 66 points over teammate Tom Sykes who helped give the dominant team their seventh double ‘double’ of the term.
Rea was primed for Misano. The Northern Irishman had maintained a steady podium streak since the beginning of the season but had to watch Sykes, Nicky Hayden and Chaz Davies catch the first glimpses of a waved chequered flag for the previous three fixtures. For the first time since Assen the No.1 was gunning for the top spot and at the venue where he registered his very first WorldSBK success in 2009.
On Saturday the Rea/Sykes dynamic made a swift escape from the group and Rea had to contend twenty-one laps with a green ‘rash’ as Sykes kept within tenths of a second. Rea proved up to the task and dealt with the constant pressure when it counted. Less than a ‘tenth’ was the distance at the finish line. “Tom was strong in some areas of the track, we were strong in some areas of the track, but overall our lap times were quite similar. I am really happy to win again,” said Rea.
“Nearly there, but not quite,” reflected Sykes. “I know on the last two laps when I tried I was not able to put the nose of the bike in a good position. We were less than one tenth of a second from the win and we have to take some positives.”
Misano entertained some special guests with Valentino Rossi looking on and the track name in honour of Marco Simoncelli tied as the third most ‘raced’ circuit in Superbike history with Sunday’s second dash. Sykes was making his 200th Superbike start and was determined to give Kawasaki their sixth win in a row at the venue. It was the Englishman who made most of the running as he and Rea broke free once more. With only a few laps to go the ‘65’ powered past and opened a more concrete advantage of almost three seconds. For Rea the achievement stretched his podium blast to sixteen and his career win tally to thirty-six.
“My pre-race target was achieved so I am super-happy,” he beamed after citing critical tyre choice in assisting his virulent charge. “For many reasons I really wanted to win here and to make it a double is incredible. Approaching the mid part of the season I had said many times just how important the next two races would be before the summer break, so to make it count this weekend is really good.”
“I think today I was not as strong as I intended to be but probably Jonathan also found something extra, because that is how it looked,” Sykes mused. “Two times second, and pole position, normally that would be an acceptable weekend so I am grateful for those things, but Jonathan is the one who we are challenging in the championship and we lost some ground. We will keep working to improve things because I want to win races.”
In his first race back since breaking his collarbone Yamaha’s Alex Lowes grabbed a 13-8 scorecard. WorldSBK is bound to see more Kawasaki fever with round nine of thirteen on July 10th at Laguna Seca in the USA.