Jonathan Rea’s dazzling World Superbike double at Imola in Italy has thrust the Pata Honda star into the title spotlight.
The Ulster rider was in a league of his own as he won both races on the CBR1000RR Fireblade SP in emphatic style to move to the summit of the championship standings after the first four rounds of the 2014 series.
His brace at the iconic Italian track took his tally of wins so far this season to three after Rea clinched an almost traditional victory at the Ten Kate team’s home circuit at Assen in the previous round.
After a solid start at Phillip Island, where Rea finished fifth and sixth in the first two races of the season, the 27-year-old has been on a roll, finishing on the rostrum in third at Aragon and Assen before bagging a maximum 50 points on Sunday.
It was a dream weekend for the Isle of Man-based Larne star, whose dominance at Imola was reinforced by a pole position start and two fastest laps.
“It’s been a great weekend for me,” Rea said. “I couldn’t have imagined doubling up coming here. But I knew we’d be strong because it’s a circuit I really enjoy and one that the bike goes really well at.
“To cap it off, it’s also been a perfect weekend for the team with Lorenzo [Zanetti] winning his first World Supersport race so massive congratulations to him. Mikey [van der Mark] was on the podium and he’s leading the championship, too.
“It’s a shame we have a test tomorrow because I think everybody in the team deserves to go and really enjoy the night and savour this moment but it’s back to work tomorrow,” he added.
“We’ll try to make the bike better and go to Donington hopefully to keep this ball rolling. I’m really enjoying riding right now and I want to thank everyone who’s put t he work in.
“Not just the track staff here but the guys back at base in Nieuwleusen [Netherlands]. It’s also the home round for our sponsors, Pata, so a big thanks to them, too.”
Rea never faced any serious opposition in either of the 19-lap races, quickly taking the lead and stretching away to win the first by four and a half seconds from Chaz Davies (Ducati) and defending world champion Tom Sykes (Kawasaki).
Davies again finished as the runner-up in race two, four seconds down on Rea, with Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli third on the Aprilia RSV4.
Eugene Laverty finished seventh and ninth in the two races respectively.
Round five of the World Superbike Championship takes place at Donington on May 25.