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Jonathan Rea in action and on the grid at the fifth round of the WorldSBK championship at Imola

Rub of the Green: WorldSBK goes down to the last

Oct 262016

Twelve rounds, twenty four races and nine months will come down to two days, two hours and two points in the 2016 story of WorldSBK this weekend. The Kawasaki Racing Team already have the title sewn-up as the series heads to Losail, Qatar for the curtain-dropper but this year’s crown is still hovering and poised for a place to land. Jonathan Rea is bidding to become the first back-to-back Superbike champion this century and only needs to score two points if teammate Tom Sykes can own both dashes on Saturday and Sunday under the Qatari lights.

All attention will be on the Northern Irishman and leader of the series from the opening salvo back at Phillip Island in Australia in February. With 21 podium finishes from a possible 24 and 9 wins Rea has been the strongest and the smartest racer throughout the campaign. Sykes has racked-up 19 trophies and 5 triumphs but counts some costly mistakes in his 48 point deficit to #65. Ducati’s Chas Davies has claimed 5 of the last 6 WorldSBK races including clean sweeps in France and Spain just recently and must be a factor in what will come to pass in the desert this weekend.

Losail will stage the Superbike finale after a memorable climax in 2014 where Sykes narrowly lost out on being Kawasaki first athlete to own two WorldSBK titles by the narrowest of margins – just 6 points. Historically 10 different riders have won in Qatar from the last 14 outings so the odds lay against the 2013 champ somewhat in recording his second ‘double’ of ‘16. All Rea needs to do is motor home in the top fourteen to start the party.

“All my family will be there and a lot of my friends are making the trip as well because I hope to cap off an amazing season with the championship win,” the 29 year old said. “That is what we have been working hard for all season. The races in Qatar give us our chance to try and do that. We have just come off the back of a good weekend in Jerez where I was on the podium for the first time ever, and on the podium twice. I feel really equipped to go out and do a good job at Losail because I really enjoy the track and I feel we can aim high this weekend.”


Sykes is keeping positive while also realistic and regardless of Rea’s fate must ensure that Davies does not outpoint him by 19 to at least be in with a chance of the number 2 plate. “I feel we can go there and fight for the wins,” he said. “It would be nice to finish the year with a win and if we can secure runner-up in the championship, it is not a bad season. Not a great one because I have definitely let myself down in the wet races but after a large part of the season had been completed I was not really expecting to be in a position to take it to the last round. Looking to this weekend, I really enjoy the format of the floodlit races and I am a night owl anyway!”


In keeping with the new race format for 2017, the WorldSBK closers will occur on Saturday and Sunday nights at 19.00 CET