World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea says his destiny is in his own hands as the Northern Ireland rider prepares to stake his claim to win back-to-back titles this weekend at Jerez.
Rea became a world champion for the first time amidst jubilant scenes at the Spanish circuit in 2015. The Kawasaki star has a golden chance to repeat the feat and put the outcome beyond doubt ahead of the final round in Qatar at the end of this month.
He only needs to outscore team-mate Tom Sykes by two points to become the first rider since World Superbike great Carl Fogarty in 1999 to seal successive world crowns.
The 29-year-old is firmly in the title driving seat but Rea is prepared for every eventuality as the Ulster rider edges closer to another championship success.
“At this point in the championship it’s difficult to control your emotions and you can look at the situation every way, but my way: I’m in the driving seat, I’m the guy with the advantage. If I have to go to Qatar for example with a zero gap, I’m ready to fight right until the last race,” said Rea, who leads Sykes by 48 points with two rounds to go.
“I really want this championship. To win one championship is incredible but to do it two years in a row would be my ultimate dream and I’m prepared to fight until the very last lap of Qatar race two if I have to.
“I’ve been working so hard for this, not just this season, but all my life. It’s important for me, my team and my family to try and make it happen,” he added.
“I have some margin to finish second if I have to, or to finish third if I have to. The other guys have zero margins – they need to wait for me to make a mistake. This means that I’m in control of my destiny, so I need to be clever.”
Rea has been in imperious form again this season, winning nine races to extend his career haul of WSBK victories to 38 and finishing on the rostrum 19 times.
He won the championship last year by a staggering 132 points from Welshman Chaz Davies, who is the only other rider mathematically capable of winning the 2016 title. However, the Aruba.it Ducati rider is 81 points behind Rea with only a maximum total of 100 points up for grabs and second place is surely the best Davies can hope for.
Sykes, who won the title at Jerez in 2013, has given Rea a bigger run for his money this season and closed the deficit to 26 points after race one at Lausitzring in Germany last month, when he sealed the runner-up spot after Rea crashed out.
However, the pendulum swung back in Rea’s favour as he dominated to win in the wet in race two, re-establishing a healthy advantage after Sykes was caught out by the conditions.
Rea extended his advantage by a single point to 48 at Magny-Cours in France last time, where he finished fourth and second as Sykes twice crossed the line in third.
The English rider has it all to do but Sykes says he won’t go down without a fight.
“I am looking forward to getting back out on the bike and it is a bit of a pivotal weekend coming up,” said Sykes. “I am just hoping that we can make something happen. That is all we need and then we are back into it. We have also tested at Jerez this year and we have information from those tests. We have changed the bike set-up quite a bit since then but hopefully we can be in the ballpark when we get to Jerez.”
Practice gets underway on Friday with race one scheduled for a 12 noon start on Saturday following Superpole qualifying.