Bridging the gap: Rea, Yamaha and the fight at the front

Thursday, 1 June 2017 10:59 GMT

WorldSBK commentator Steve English looks back at the PATA UK Round

The more things change, the more they stay the same? WorldSBK has been about two manufacturers this season, but at Donington Park we finally saw a bike other than a Ducati or Kawasaki on the podium: Alex Lowes' stunning ride to third in Race 1 for Pata Yamaha gave plenty of heart that there may be change in the air.

Jonathan Rea did his best on Sunday to put a lid on any such thoughts, however. The reigning champion crashed out of Saturday's opening race following a tyre problem but reasserted himself as the series frontrunner with a superb victory in Race 2. Starting from tenth on the grid, Rea was already in the lead on lap two and was able to stretch away the front before his teammate, Tom Sykes, started to peg him back.

Ultimately, Sykes was unable to bridge the gap and had to release his stranglehold on success of Donington Park. Having won nine in a row, the 2013 WorldSBK champion had to settle for second best but the win for Rea once again marks a milestone. It was Kawasaki's 100th win in the class, but more importantly it was another blow that Rea was able to deliver as he seeks to defend his crown once again.

Like Aragon earlier in the season, Rea had earmarked his home round as a crucial one. Beating Davies and Sykes in a straight fight at, arguably, both riders' best tracks of the season is hugely impressive. Rea's rivals will likely have left the UK Round scratching their heads about what they need to do to be able to fight with the champion on a round by round basis.

While Davies and Sykes ponder the future, the Pata Yamaha team can bask in a strong weekend. It took “the race of his life” for Lowes to come back through the field after being forced off the track at turn one in Race 1. Having qualified fourth, the Englishman had good speed all weekend but the manner in which he carved through the field was hugely impressive and bodes well for the coming rounds.

Lowes' podium was a highlight but teammate Michael van der Mark also showed an impressive turn of speed in Race 2. The Dutchman came close to matching his teammate's podium but fell just short as a charging Chaz Davies hunted him down on the final lap. Finding some consistency was the key for van der Mark at the weekend, and his lap times were impressive throughout the race.

The majority of the WorldSBK paddock has a test this week at Misano where they will look to make a further step to contend with Kawasaki, and the season is by no means a done deal - there's a long way to go until the season finale.