Jonathan Rea took a huge step towards his relentless pursuit of a record-matching fourth World Superbike title with a famous double at Laguna Seca in the USA at the weekend.
The three-time champion toasted his first-ever double at the legendary American circuit as he tightened his grip on the championship, increasing his advantage to a massive 75 points over Chaz Davies, who twice finished as the runner-up on the Aruba.it Ducati.
Rea won Saturday’s opening race in California by 2.9s from the Welshman and underlined his authority with an even more dominant victory in race two on Sunday, despite starting from row three based on the reverse grid rules.
The Isle of Man-based Ulsterman has now won 62 World Superbike races in his career and has become the most successful rider at Laguna Seca with four wins, moving past his team-mate Tom Sykes and Davies, who have both won three times at the US track, which is renowned for its Corkscrew turn.
Rea has won eight times this season, giving him a 50 per-cent success rate in 2018, and with only five rounds left on the calendar the factory Kawasaki star is set to match Carl Fogarty’s record of four world titles.
Barring a disaster of epic proportions, Rea’s fourth title would be his fourth in a row, such has been his supremacy in the class since he made his career-changing move to Kawasaki in 2015.
However, the runaway title leader isn’t allowing himself to dream of another crown just yet, even if Rea admits he is firmly in control of his own destiny once again.
“Of course I always want to keep increasing it and not be resting on my laurels and it was a shame to lose so many points in the last race at Brno,” said Rea, referring to the controversial incident that saw him crash out of race two in the Czech Republic following contact with team-mate Sykes.
“But right now it’s nice to have a 75-point lead and be able to drive the championship as opposed to playing catch-up, but it’s never over until it’s over.
“In the past I’ve seen guys have so many surges in the championship so we just need to keep on doing what we’re doing, step by step, but we are focused on that big goal at the end of the year and we’re on the right track.”
Aside from an uncharacteristic slip-off during free practice on Friday, Rea said his memorable weekend at Laguna went faultlessly.
“I am so, so happy to have a weekend like we’ve had – to be so strong. It doesn’t happen every weekend, this weekend – aside from my tip off on Friday – it’s been plain sailing. I was able to make my passes, make them stick and go away.
“Eugene had a really good pace (in race two) and was a really good marker. I was in no urgency to arrive and then step by step I got there, and then made my rhythm.
“It was awesome to see my rhythm increasing, and then just five or six laps to go I was absorbing the feeling in Laguna Seca in the sunshine I just felt so blessed to be here and it’s a cool moment,” he added.
“We expected to be strong but yesterday was a much more difficult race with the track temperature, which I think was probably six or seven degrees lower. It meant we could be much faster at the end and that was the key to our race, and how we set the bike up all weekend.
“I got it done and it’s kind of surreal; it kind of makes the long flight home much more sweeter and we deserve to go out and crack open a beer with my mechanics tonight and get ready for Misano in a few weeks.”
Rea, who is a fan of the Isle of Man TT, paid tribute to Manxman Dan Kneen and Scottish newcomer Adam Lyon, who lost their lives competing at the event.
“I was also thinking about Dan Kneen and Adam Lyon, those race wins this weekend are for them and that gave me a lot of power,” he said.
“A double win at Laguna in the sunshine - it does not get much better.”