One other chapter within the seemingly unending success story that’s Jonathan Rea’s motorbike world title-winning exploits has been written.
The Northern Irishman wrapped up a sixth straight World Superbike crown in Portugal to proceed his long-standing dominance of the championship, increase an assailable 72-point lead because of a fourth-place end in race one at Estoril.
For good measure, Rea stands tantalisingly near additional rewriting the document books by attaining an unbelievable ground-breaking a hundredth race win within the collection to additional cement his legacy as probably the most profitable rider within the historical past of the collection.
He stays one wanting that landmark determine earlier than Sunday’s Superpole race and have race two.
The 33-year-old has had expertise of pulling away from the pack and profitable titles with one thing to spare – then in 2019 overturned an enormous factors deficit to safe a document fifth triumph.
However this yr has offered the Kawasaki rider with an altogether totally different problem.
The imposition of journey restrictions to assist forestall the unfold of coronavirus led to a truncated season with seven of the eight rounds being staged in Europe – principally centred across the Iberian Peninsula.
Acquainted venues have been erased from a repeatedly altering calendar and new circuits included of their place.
Add in an unaccustomed five-month hole between the primary and second rounds and a brand new chief rival within the type of England’s Scott Redding and it’s clear this was no run-of-the-mill title triumph for Rea.
Spanish success lays the foundations
Rea had virtually half a yr to regroup after what was by his personal excessive requirements a mean begin to the season – a crash on the opening spherical at Phillip Island contributing to him leaving Australia with a 19-point deficit – that uncharacteristic error partially mitigated by the primary of 5 consecutive Superpole dash race wins.
Regardless of reported overtures from the MotoGP paddock, Rea’s perception that the general bundle supplied by Kawasaki stays the strongest on supply in World Superbikes was emphasised when he prolonged his long-time affiliation with the Japanese producer by signing a brand new multi-year contract in June.
Stable factors on the resumption of the collection at Jerez, the place Redding bagged a double, was adopted by a hat-trick of wins at one in all Rea’s most joyful searching grounds – Portimao – because the defending champion eased 4 factors forward within the standings.
The challenges posed by operating a global race collection within the face of the worldwide battle in opposition to Covid-19 led to 4 World Superbike rounds being staged in Spain – two of these in consecutive weekends on the Aragon circuit.
Two extra victories within the first instalment of the Aragon double-header noticed Rea enhance his factors benefit to 10 at a observe the place Ducati had historically been sturdy in recent times – the championship now changing into a two-horse race between himself and Redding.
The title battle was hotting up at a time when the championship normally paused for its prolonged mid-summer break however regardless of the impact of the excessive temperatures on riders and tyres, Rea refused to wilt below the Spanish solar and additional hammered dwelling his benefit in Aragon half two per week later.
The County Antrim man went away together with his confidence boosted because of a win and two second-place finishes – Redding leaving pissed off and together with his title hopes dented after a crash marred his weekend’s efforts.
Driving types and race administration
Rea notably made a small adjustment to his already easy using fashion in 2020 and the distinction between his extra upright standard mode of racing and Redding’s extra flamboyant fashion is marked.
Expertise, consistency and continuity have been once more the hallmarks of this newest title success, however the five-time champion additionally confirmed his aggressive facet when required – notably when changing into concerned in a scrap with Michael Ruben Rinaldi in an exhilarating race two on the second Aragon spherical in September.
Rea survived two huge ‘moments’ in popping out on high in that race, a sign of simply how exhausting he was attempting and proof, have been it wanted, that the starvation and concern of dropping are nonetheless there.
Two weeks later, Rea was at his imperious greatest in race one at his Kawasaki workforce’s dwelling race on the Catalunya circuit in Barcelona – a classic efficiency by the champion seeing him break from the chasing pack early on and management proceedings from the entrance to turn out to be the primary WSB winner at that observe.
Race administration has constantly been a energy of the a number of world champion – setting a tempo which permits him to take care of a cushty hole whereas crucially preserving tyre life.
His versatility once more got here to the fore when the championship moved on to France – wins in race one and the Superpole dash in moist observe situations shifting him to the brink of one other title.
Rivals unable to maintain problem
The 2020 season shall be remembered for a return to aggressive, thrilling racing on the entrance of the World Superbike area – seven totally different race winners bear testomony to that – however none of Rea’s rivals may discover the consistency mandatory to stay on a par with the champion.
Rea’s team-mate Alex Lowes and Toprak Razgatlioglu have been winners on the opening spherical however did not mount a sustained problem, whereas Rinaldi, Michael van der Mark and Chaz Davies additionally loved their ‘days within the solar’ with out ever trying like credible title contenders.
That left reigning British Superbike champion and ex-MotoGP rider Redding as the person to take the combat to Rea regularly, commendably profitable 5 races in his debut marketing campaign.
As with Spaniard Alvaro Bautista in 2019, Redding was a collection rookie and had a Ducati V4 at his disposal however the vibrant Englishman fell simply wanting making it back-to-back championship successes, having popping out on high in probably the most aggressive home collection on this planet in 2019.
Redding confirmed a capability to shortly be taught circuits he was racing at for the primary time however regardless of his expertise on the Ducati, albeit with some totally different electronics, he was unable to emulate the form of outcomes Bautista achieved within the first half of the 2019 season.
The Gloucester rider’s bodily construct proved to be one thing of a downside as sure tyre compounds favoured lighter riders resembling Rinaldi at key phases of the championship.
Whereas the Italian Ducati marque once more proved to be the principle rival to Rea’s Kawasaki hegemony, the Yamahas have been constantly there or thereabouts, the brand new Honda Fireblade’s outcomes improved because the yr wore on on its full manufacturing facility return to the collection and the BMW confirmed glimpses of its potential within the latter phases of the marketing campaign.
However with Ducati and Honda seemingly having an influence benefit which interprets into better straight-line velocity, Rea shall be hoping Kawasaki can give you a brand new model of his Ninja ZX-10RR to assist him keep forward of his rivals in 2021.
A seventh title subsequent time period would see him equal the sequence of consecutive collection wins achieved by Italian legend Giacomo Agostini within the grand prix world championship from 1966 to 1972.