Northern Ireland’s Jonathan Rea took a massive step towards becoming a two-time World Superbike champion following a dominant double at Misano in Italy.
The Kawasaki rider claimed a maximum points haul of 50 points in San Marino to stretch his lead at the top of the championship to 66 points over team-mate Tom Sykes with five rounds remaining.
Rea twice had the beating of Yorkshireman Sykes, edging Saturday’s opening race by only 0.090 seconds after a titanic duel between the pair before winning with more in hand in Sunday’s second race, crossing the line almost three seconds clear.
It was a commanding display by the reigning world champion, who now has one hand firmly on the trophy he won for the first time following an imperious run to the title in 2015.
Rea, who signed a new two-year contract with Kawasaki in May, looks poised to secure back-to-back championship successes and the significance of his Misano double was clear at the weekend, as the jubilant Ulster rider celebrated with a Northern Ireland flag in tribute to Michael O’Neill’s Euro 2016 hopefuls, who face a pivotal game against world champions Germany on Tuesday.
The 29-year-old had been without a victory in six races heading into the eighth round of the championship at the Marco Simoncelli Circuit, but Rea had maintained a healthy gap at the top, never finishing outside the top three in a remarkable display of consistency.
His two victories at Misano were his sixth and seventh wins of the season and Rea will be aiming to finish on the rostrum again in both races at Laguna Seca in the USA in July (8-10) before the summer break, with the championship resuming again in Germany in September.
Italy’s Davide Giugliano finished on the podium in third in Sunday’s second race, with the top six completed by Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Ducati), Lorenzo Savadori (Ioda Racing Aprilia) and Spain’s Jordi Torres (Althea BMW).