Last season, this time around, Jonathan Rea had already been crowned as the World Superbike champion. He had had a stellar season, winning 14 races and the title in his first season with Kawasaki Racing Team. A precious title that came after seven years in the sport till then.
Fast forward to 2016 and the Brit comes to the Losail International Circuit for the final round of the WSBK championship looking to claim back-to-back titles. Rea has a seemingly unsurmountable 48-point lead and needs to score just two points in either race to claim the title.
If he manages to do it, then he would become only the fourth rider in WSBK history to have claimed back-to-back titles. Only Fred Merkel, Doug Polen and Carl Fogarty have managed to pull off this feat so far. And just to put things into perspective, Foggy, who has done it twice, achieved his second one 17 years ago. For Rea, the turnaround from being the one with potential to claiming consecutive titles and entering WSBK record books would be truly a rewarding transformation.
Rea has had another dominant season so far winning nine races and having been on the podium in all but two races. Since joining Kawasaki, the Brit has notched up 23 wins and been on the podium 44 times from the 50 races. If you are looking for a term to describe this performance, coming into his own, would be apt.
“All my family will be there and a lot of my friends are making the trip as well because I hope to cap off an amazing season with the championship win. That is what we have been working hard for all season. The races in Qatar give us our chance to try and do that,” Rea had told worldsbk.com earlier.
The 29-year-old is hoping that his love of the Losail circuit will help him grab the crown. “We have just come off the back of a good weekend in Jerez where I was on the podium for the first time ever, and on the podium twice. I feel really equipped to go out and do a good job at Losail because I really enjoy the track and I feel we can aim high this weekend,” he added.
The one person who will be hoping for some luck to go against Rea would be his teammate — Tom Sykes. The Yorkshireman needs to win both the races and hope that Rea finishes outside the points in both of them. That would seem like a tall order but this is motorsport. Nothing can be taken for granted till the chequered flag is waved.
Sykes is realistically looking to claim the runners-up slot for which he will have to fend off Ducati’s Chaz Davies. The difference between the two is just 19 points.
“I am relaxed and looking forward to the races in Qatar and my ideal scenario is winning at least one of them. I feel we can go there and fight for the wins. It would be nice to finish the year with a win and if we can secure runner-up in the championship, it is not a bad season,” Sykes had worldsbk.com earlier.
Racing under lights is something Sykes says he enjoys and he is looking forward to take full advantage of it. “Looking to this weekend, I really enjoy the format of the floodlit races and I am a night owl anyway!”
If Sykes does manage to win the title, it would be his second crown, having won in 2013. The Englishman has now finished five consecutive seasons being among the top three in the standings.
In the World SuperSport, Kawasaki Puccetti Racing’s Kenan Sofuoglu has already claimed his second consecutive title in the previous round in Jerez. The Turkish rider has now won the WSSP five times. Sofuoglu will be looking to wrap up another dominant season with two more wins in Qatar.
The WSBK title fight will be the most followed battle this weekend. Rea had a chance last season to create history by claiming the most points in the history of the championship. He couldn’t do that. But he looks almost certain to enter history books this time around. Lights, camera, vroom…
WSBK - FP3: 15:30 - 15:45
WSSP - FP3: 16:00 - 16:15
WSBK - SuperPole 1: 17:30 - 17:45
WSBK - SuperPole 2: 17:55 - 18:10
WSSP - SuperPole 1: 18:30 - 18:45
WSSP - SuperPole 2: 18:55 - 19:10
WSBK - Race 1: 20:00
Jonathan Rea (left) of Kawasaki Racing Team in action during a practice session at the Losail International Circuit yesterday. (WSBK)