“It is such a fantastic win, especially in Jonathan Rea’s ‘back garden’…” Tom Sykes, second race victor at Assen last weekend and Kawasaki Racing teammate to World Superbike Champion Jonathan Rea, was under no illusions as to his accomplishment by setting off from first place on the grid (Rea started in ninth) and ending #1’s eight-race streak at the hallowed circuit in Holland.
The flat kinks and curves of the most revered and treasured venue in world motorcycling (“a real racer’s circuit…” says Rea) has indeed been a staunch reserve of the three times champion in recent years. Before the upturn from Sykes, the Northern Irishman managed an effective race from rivals Chaz Davies and local hero Michael Van Der Mark on Saturday to again walk the familiar path to the top step of the podium.
Rea prevailed and made history in the sport. His feat equalled Carl Fogarty’s record of 12 wins at a single circuit (notched in 1999). Jonathan stretched his consecutive streak to 8 with his Saturday success and would have been set for another deed-busting 17th SBK ‘double’ until Sykes proved to be uncatchable.
Rea has already become the first rider ever in the series (created in 1988) to ace three championships in a row. He needs one more title to eclipse Fogarty’s tally and stands just two triumphs away from reaching ‘Foggy’s’ win total of 59.
“Pretty cool. Just to be compared with him [Fogarty] is cool anyway,” JR said. “I don't look too much at the records anyway but people were talking a lot about the three titles last year and it’s become a bit of a target to surpass his race-win tally: I’m getting closer and it is something to be proud of.”
The numbers certainly mark Rea as one of the outstanding names of Superbike. A ten-year career in the discipline has yielded 117 podium results and he has been nothing short of prolific since jumping on the factory Kawasaki in 2015.
“Statistics are nice…but I’m motivated by titles and race wins,” he admits. “I hope that people can look back in a few years and consider me one of the greats of Superbike. Maybe we are going through ‘my era’ like the Foggy or [Troy] Bayliss eras. Stats are stats though and there will always be someone who wants to come and smash them. Foggy to me was a legend because he was from the UK but it was just a little bit before my time and before I could understand what-is-what. I watched Bayliss quite a lot and understood his aura and that he brought quite a lot to Superbike. It felt great to eclipse what he did and to get Foggy’s records would be incredible.”
It is fitting that Rea’s latest milestone came at Assen; a place where he has tasted more than his fair share of champagne. He described some of the magic that arrives as soon as the #Team65 wagon pulls under the famous tunnel and into the flat paddock. “I did a lot of testing here because my previous team was based forty minutes down the road and we used this place as a test track, so we could come here with a set of quiet mufflers and knock-out the laps!” he explains of the layout that has been trimmed and tucked over the years. “I know a few tricks from last lap battles and it is somewhere I enjoy. It is a real racer’s circuit for guys that don't have their bike working perfectly then you can always make the difference. I only wish I was around when the old track was here because that was even faster and you needed a set of big balls.”
The Superbike books could be altered again in a matter of weeks. Rea might have a 30 point lead in the championship standings but Imola and round five of thirteen presents another chance to hammer the statistics as well as his rivals.