WSBK: Rea targets Portimao double to extend title advantage
Jonathan Rea is determined to keep his foot on the gas at Portimao in Portugal this weekend as he speeds towards an historic third World Superbike crown.
The prodigious Ulster rider is 70 points ahead of his Kawasaki team-mate Tom Sykes with four rounds and eight races remaining.
Rea, who has won back-to-back titles on the Ninja ZX-10R since joining the Japanese manufacturer from Honda in 2015, is poised to make history by becoming the first rider ever to win the championship in three consecutive years.
Portimao was absent from the calendar last season, but Rea was a double winner in Portugal in 2015 and the 30-year-old has set a himself a goal of two more victories this weekend as he attempts to put another nail in the coffin of Yorkshireman Sykes’ fading title prospects.
He said: “I have spent the last few days here in Portugal already with my family, enjoying the Algarve weather and getting focused for what is a very important weekend for me. Our target is to try and win two races.
“We had a great private test in the middle of the year so I’m sure we can start on Friday with a good feeling.
“I’m happy to return to Portimao this weekend as it’s a race weekend that I really enjoy,” he added. “The circuit has a lot of character and is fun to ride but in recent years the track has become very bumpy. It will be very important to optimise our set-up to be strong for the full race.”
Sykes, the 2013 world champion, has been comprehensively outshone by Rea at Kawasaki over the past two seasons and finds himself with a mountain to climb to keep his title ambitions alive.
The 32-year-old has won twice this season compared to Rea’s haul of nine victories and admits that he feels capable of better.
He has tweaked his riding style on the Kawasaki throughout the year in an effort to squeeze as much out of the bike as possible, but Sykes says there is still margin for improvement.
“I am looking forward to getting back in the saddle and getting some proper results in,” Sykes said. “We had almost another summer break in the season after Germany so I have had time to reflect on the year and I feel it is going okay.
“I need to work some more things out and honestly speaking I know I am capable of more. At the moment it is down to me trying to change my riding style and get a little extra from the bike. We will keep working on that.
“Portimao is a track I like, and where I have had some success, but the circuit itself is bumpy now. I am looking forward to going there again, especially after spending time away from the track since the previous round.”
Sykes also has a solid record at Portimao, claiming a race win in 2012 and again in 2014. He has also secure three pole starts at the Portuguese track on the Kawasaki.
Outside of Rea and Sykes, Aruba.it Ducati’s Chaz Davies is the nearest challenger on the Panigale, but the Welshman is a huge 105 points behind Rea despite having won six times on the Italian machine this year.