Jonathan Rea continued to add to his world superbike record tally with two more wins at the Italian round in Imola this weekend, setting a new record of 17 double wins and equalling Carl Fogarty’s 20 year record of 59 outright wins.
The Kawasaki man stormed to pole position and an effortless race win on Saturday, in a race that proved to be strung out with team-mate Tom Sykes almost four seconds back, with Ducati’s Marco Melandri a further two seconds adrift in third.
With Sunday’s reverse grid format seeing Rea starting from ninth and Ducati’s Chaz Davies on pole, expectations were high for a more exciting race. Another Ducati rider, rookie Michael Ruben Rinaldi, led the opening laps before Imola specialist Davies took over, but Rea was not to be denied and, after a brief skirmish with his main rival, was able to move into the lead on lap 13 of 19 before pulling away to take his record 59thwin with four seconds to spare. In another spread out race, Sykes took third – nine and a half seconds behind the winner.
“This weekend has been really good,” said Rea. “We came from a test at Brno but we were a little bit nervous because that track is fast and flowing, but here at a stop and go circuit the bike worked well as well. We made a small change to the spring and preload at the front of the bike for Sunday and that gave me a little bit more confidence to push towards the end of the race. It’s incredible to equal Carl’s record. If you had told me this as a 10-year-old I would never have believed it but we need to keep taking each race at a time, because this year we are finding that we are strong at some tracks where we were weak in the past, but on the back foot at others where we have done well in the past.”
British championship leader Leon Haslam made the first of his wild-card appearances on the Puccetti Kawasaki ZX-10RR in Imola, scoring ninth in the opening race before hitting problems on Sunday. The Carole Nash backed star had to adapt to the world superbike specification Kawasaki, which runs more sophisticated electronics than the national championship machines, and was happy with the progress made. He will race for the team again at his home Donington Park round in two weeks time.
“I’m not too bothered about the results as we’ve made good progress over the weekend,” said Haslam. “We don’t have traction control in British superbike, so I have to readjust to being able to open the throttle right up and letting the system do its job. We improved the corner exit in race two and have the sort of pace to be battling for the top six. I hit a false neutral with a few laps to go and run of the track, but we’ve made improvements to the bike and I am looking forward to racing in front of my home fans at Donington Park later this month.”
Rea’s perfect weekend sees him extend his lead in the championship to 47 points over Davies, with Sykes 72 points adrift in third.