WSBK: Imperious Jonathan Rea equals Doug Polen's victory record in Qatar

Jonathan Rea won the opening race in Qatar for a record-equalling 17th win.
Jonathan Rea won the opening race in Qatar for a record-equalling 17th win.

Jonathan Rea equalled American rider Doug Polen’s record of 17 World Superbike victories in a season as he chalked up a staggering 11th win in a row in Qatar.

The Kawasaki rider, who qualified second fastest behind team-mate Tom Sykes, stamped his authority on the opening race of the weekend under the floodlights at the Losail International Circuit.

With one race of the 2018 season remaining on Saturday, four-time world champion Rea is right on course to set a new record of 18 victories. Another win in the final race would also see the Ulster rider break his own benchmark of 556 championship points, which he set in 2017 en-route to his third world crown.

The 31-year-old again proved too hot to handle for his rivals, with Rea taking the lead and opening a gap at the front on the Ninja ZX-10RR over the chasing pack.

He sealed the win from Yorkshireman Sykes by 1.4 seconds, while PATA Yamaha rider Alex Lowes edged out Toomebridge man Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia) for the final place on the rostrum.

Laverty was lining up a pass on Lowes on the final lap when he had a big moment at the last corner, fortunately managing to stay upright to take fourth place.

The 32-year-old will be having his last race for Shaun Muir's team after learning this week that he would be replaced by Sykes in 2019, with Muir running a new-look factory-supported BMW team that also includes FIM Superstock 1000 champion Markus Reiterberger.