WSBK: Rea can’t stop Sykes but continues to lead series

Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea (right) spray champagne on the podium. INLT 22-917-CON
Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea (right) spray champagne on the podium. INLT 22-917-CON

Race ace Jonathan Rea may not have bagged the wins he craved at the weekend, but he did extend his lead to 56 points over team-mate Tom Sykes in the World Superbikes Championship.

The East Antrim rider had to settle for a third and second-place finishes at Donington Park but he continued his remarkable 100 per cent podium finishing record in 2016 with two hard-fought rides.

In Saturday’s race one, the former Larne Grammar pupil had problems with the Kawasaki selecting false neutrals throughout the race as he challenged Sykes, but the Yorkshire man went on to win.

In Sunday’s second race, Rea was in a positive frame of mind before the race after setting the fastest time in morning warm-up. With a handful of laps to go and to the delight of the large Jonathan Rea supporters club from Ballyclare, Rea made a move on Sykes but in finding a false neutral he lost ground that he would never quite make up.

Sykes maintained a high and consistent pace right to the end for his eighth successive victory at the track.

Feeling the effects of arm pump close to the end of the intense 23-lap race, Rea eased up in the final few laps, with third place finisher Chaz Davies safely over two seconds behind him, and 4.437 seconds behind Sykes.

Rea said: “To be so close to Tom on a circuit that he is so strong at is good because he is riding really strongly now. I am happy for that and happy to come here and make a big margin in my championship lead as well. That is the priority - but it would have been really nice to cap it off with a win in race two. My bike was feeling really good but near the end I just suffered a little bit with arm pump in my right arm.”

The next round of the championship will take place at Misano, between 17 and 19 June.