Dominant Jonathan Rea once again obliterated the competition to create another piece of World Superbike Championship history – taking two more wins to end the year with the highest ever points tally in the series’ 30 year history.
The Northern Irish rider had rewritten the record books last time out in France, when he secured the 2017 title and became the first rider to secure three consecutive titles. This weekend, in Qatar, the 30-year-old needed two wins to take his final points tally to 556, surpassing the previous best of 552 set by Colin Edwards in the momentous 2002 season.
While that campaign 15 years ago was characterised by Edwards’ incredible battle with Troy Bayliss in the fight for the championship, the 2017 edition will be remembered for Rea’s complete and utter domination of the series once again. The Carole Nash backed racer won 16 of the 26 races and only missing out on the podium in two races – both of which he failed to finish through no fault of his own.
“The points tally is nice but the championship is the main thing,” Rea said after the races. “To win 16 races in a season, more than 50% of the races, is not normal. That’s the biggest thing I take away. This year, like I keep saying, I have no words. It has been feeling normal to be here on the podium and that is kind of scary. Right now is my time, so I really am enjoying the moment. Next year it could easily be somebody else so we really need to enjoy this and celebrate an incredible year. I know how difficult it is when things are not coming naturally, and it is an uphill struggle, so that is why I am so grateful to Kawasaki for this opportunity. It is a huge team effort. In a few weeks’ time we can start turning our attention to 2018.”
The main interest going into this weekend’s final rounds was the battle for second in the championship. In the end, Ducati rider Chaz Davies overhauled Rea’s Kawasaki team-mate Tom Sykes for the silver medal. Davies took two second places to end the year a huge 153 points adrift of Rea, with Sykes having a disappointing race meeting – crashing out of Saturday’s race after taking a lowly sixth on Friday.
In truth, Qatar delivered another pair of processional races – livened up by a spectacular near crash for Davies while leading the early laps of Saturday’s finale. The Welshman’s Ducati bucked and weaved and did everything but spit him off, with the ‘crash’ smashing his screen and allowing Rea to come through for yet another unopposed win. With Davies second and Sykes third in the championship, the top three places in the series were once again filled by British riders.
There was more excitement in the world supersport championship, where France’s Lucas Mahais secured his first title. The Yamaha rider looked to have the championship sewn up when main rival Kenan Sofuoglu crashed and broke his hip in Magny Cours last month. While most riders would have found themselves out of action, the Turk defied medical advice and took the battle right to the wire. Ultimately Mahias was able to win the championship in style, winning the race after a last lap battle with fellow countryman Jules Cluzel, but Sofuoglu’s battling third place was remarkable and gave Mahias no room for error.
Rea’s double win also means that he goes into the 2018 season well placed to break Carl Fogarty’s 19 year old records as the championship’s most victorious rider. Rea now sits on 54 race wins, just five behind King Carl’s record, while a fourth successive world title will see him tie with the English legend’s four, which were won between 1994 and 1999.