WorldSBK commentator Steve English previews what could be a historic weekend
Sometimes you need to take a step back and appreciate what you're seeing. Whether it's smelling the roses, listening to waves lap up on the beach, or watching Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) in World Superbikes. The Northern Irishman stands on the verge of history this weekend, when he will almost certainly claim a third consecutive WorldSBK title.
Rea has been able to consistently find a way to get the most from the bike and finish the year with the most points. Teamed with Tom Sykes for the last three years, he has time and again been able to get more from the package than his title winning teammate. It has been remarkably impressive, and while the battles with Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) have been thrilling since 2015, it has been Rea that has come out on top at the end of each season.
The last round of WorldSBK - the Prosecco DOC Portuguese Round at Portimao - showed that while the Kawasaki and Ducati have been closely matched for most of this season, there is still a step that Kawasaki can find at times. The bike has a bigger operating window and in Portugal Rea certainly took advantage of that difference, to put one hand on the championship.
Going to Magny Cours, where he did the double in 2015, Rea holds a 120 point lead and it is almost impossible to see a situation where the title race continues beyond this round. He has been able to take advantage of other riders mistakes and misfortunes this year, but to be able to achieve what he has over the last three years shows the challenge facing his competitors.
As a double champion with 49 victories and 107 podiums Rea could retire in the morning as a true WorldSBK legend. Instead he's likely to leave France as the series first three-peat champion, and edge himself even closer to Carl Fogarty in the discussion of the greatest WorldSBK rider of all-time.