Jonathan Rea marked another incredible milestone as the World Superbike champion chalked up his 40th career victory in the series by completing a majestic double at Phillip Island in Australia.
Rea, who narrowly won the opening race after a final-lap showdown with Ducati rival Chaz Davies on Saturday, was pushed all the way by the dogged Welshman again in race two, but the Ulster rider prevailed by only 0.025s to seal a brilliant brace on the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR.
The 30-year-old has joined an exclusive club of World Superbike winners, with only racing legends Carl Fogarty, Troy Bayliss and Noriyuki Haga winning more than 40 races in the chequered history of the championship.
It was a dream weekend for back-to-back champion Rea, who shattered the pole lap record on Saturday before showing his fighting qualities with two battling triumphs at the iconic course near Melbourne.
Rea, who celebrated with fans holding Ulster flags and banners after race two, said: “Phillip Island was really rewarding and to win two last lap battles here means a lot because it is a such a hard track to lead from the front on.
“Whilst that 40th career victory means a lot it is more important to put a good score on the board for round one.
“There was not only one area where we found some pace in the winter tests; we generally just polished the bike. Nothing magic happened but I feel good about this bike. The way things have changed a little bit have suited me,” added Rea.
“I can ride less on the limit and we have more tyre left to fight with at the end of races, compared to last year.”
Marco Melandri, who slid out of the first race on the Aruba.it Ducati, joined Rea and Davies on the podium as the Italian finished only two tenths in arrears.
Alex Lowes completed an impressive weekend on the Pata Yamaha with another fine ride to fourth place, while Northern Ireland’s Eugene Laverty – who hit the front in the early stages – took 10th place on the Milwaukee Aprilia as the Toome man continues to work hard on the set-up of the RSV4.
Rea, who is gunning for a record third world crown this year, leads the championship with a perfect total of 50 points after round one from Davies (40pts), with Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) – sixth in race two – in third place tied on 26 points with Lowes.
Round two of the championship will take place at the Chang International Circuit in Thailand from March 10-12.