Three rounds into the 2019 WorldSBK FIM World Championship and things were looking bleak for four-times No.1 Jonathan Rea. MotoGP convert and factory Ducati rider Alvaro Bautista had proven to be unbeatable on the new Italian rocket and many were predicting a debut season whitewash.
Accelerate to the eighth event of the thirteen-round campaign and the turnaround has been emphatic. Rea has overhauled a seemingly impossible deficit in the standings and has now taken his factory Kawasaki back to the top of the pile.
The Northern Irishman was assisted by another fall (a third in as many races) by his Spanish rival in the British rain at Donington Park on Saturday but Rea capitalised and then won both sprints on Sunday to complete his first ‘triple’ of ‘19. Rea tackled former teammate Tom Sykes – one of the most prolific racers in WorldSBK history at the English circuit – in the first outing on Sunday before the dash was prematurely ended. In the second he again duelled with Turk Toprak Razgatlioglu before owning the chequered flag. “I seriously did not expect these kind of results this weekend,” said an over-awed Rea whose stunning ‘volte face’ means he now has a 24 point advantage over Bautista.
“This morning in the sprint race with Tom Sykes, who is one of the best riders at this circuit, I was able to analyse where he was strong and make my move,” he explained. “Unfortunately the race was red flagged before the end. But to win the second race this afternoon was really special - the best of the weekend. Another nice fight with Toprak, who was really strong in some areas of the track and I was able to be strong in others. A positive weekend and I am looking forward now to the next few races, because I feel like there are some good tracks coming for us now.”
Kawasaki Racing Team’s delight was extended with two podium results by Leon Haslam. “Honestly, I had a really good feeling on 80% of the track but I was just struggling on that last part with the stop/start areas,” the Brit said. “I did feel that if we could have sorted those last two corners out we would have been in that battle for those top two spots today. We have had a run of podiums and a fifth place finish recently so we are there or thereabouts. We closed the points gap on third and we will keep on pushing on.”