WSBK: Jonathan Rea strengthens title grip at Donington Park
World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea was unable to clinch a coveted victory at his home round of the championship, but the Kawasaki rider has opened a commanding lead in the title race.
Rea twice finished on the rostrum at Donington Park, following up his runner-up finish in Saturday’s opener with third in race two on Sunday.
The Northern Ireland star drew level with Carl Fogarty’s benchmark of 59 victories in the previous round following a stunning double at Imola in Italy, but Rea’s inevitable record-breaking triumph is merely a matter of when, not if.
Nonetheless, the 31-year-old’s brace of rostrum finishes at the Leicestershire circuit has given him a massive lead of 64 points in the standings over Ducati’s Chaz Davies, while Michael van der Mark is third on the Pata Yamaha after a sensational double – the Dutch rider’s maiden World Superbike wins.
Rea, who started from the third row in eighth place based on the reverse grid rules for race two, had forged his way into the lead with seven laps remaining.
However, just as he had done in Saturday’s race, van der Mark threw down his challenge and edged past Rea to hit the front before pulling away to win by 2.3 seconds.
Series rookie Toprak Razgatlioglu produced a magnificent ride on the Puccetti Kawasaki as he demoted Rea to third place on the final lap, becoming the first Turkish rider to seal a World Superbike podium.
Rea may not have been able to muster his sixth win of the season, but it was a positive weekend overall for the Ulsterman, whose chief rival Davies could only finish eighth on Saturday and fifth on Sunday.
“It’s been a positive weekend but just not the most beautiful race from my side,” said Rea, who has been linked with a MotoGP move again in 2019 after reports of interest from several factory teams.
“It was very difficult in the beginning coming through traffic and it seemed like there were a lot more guys with pace.
“Alex (Lowes) was setting a good pace at the front but then I could see that he was maybe suffering with the same problem that I had at the end of the race, with some arm pump,” he added.
“I ran into a huge bunch of bugs and missed the chicane, which gave Mikey the chance to pounce. Once I got my tear-off removed I concentrated on doing the best couple of laps I could.
“At that point I was wasting so much tyre and energy and I couldn’t get it done.”
Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha) finished in fourth ahead of Davies and Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team).
Eugene Laverty, sixth in race one on the Milwaukee Aprilia, was a retirement with a technical problem.
Van der Mark won Saturday’s race by 1.1 seconds from Rea, with Sykes completing the top three.
Leon Haslam was a faller at Melbourne on the Puccetti Kawasaki on Sunday while fellow British Superbike wildcard entrant Bradley Rea ended the race in 15th on the Buildbase Suzuki behind Luke Mossey (Pedercini Kawasaki), who was also entered as a wildcard at Donington.
In the World Supersport Championship, Carrick's Andrew Irwin secured his best result yet in his first full season in the class with a solid ride to 10th on the CIA Landlord Insurance Honda.
Round seven of the World Superbike Championship will be held at Brno in the Czech Republic from June 8-10.