WSB: Rea dashes to Laguna double as 2019 takes shape

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Jonathan Rea and Kawasaki strengthened their stranglehold on the World Superbike Championship with a sublime double at Laguna Seca last weekend. The 31-year-old overhauled Ducati’s Chaz Davies for Saturday’s win, passing on Lap 7, while on Sunday he imperiously climbed from ninth on the grid despite the Californian circuit being one of the hardest on which to overtake.

Rea’s success, meaning he becomes the first rider in history to win four WSB races at Laguna Seca, sees him extend his title advantage to 75 points over Davies. The Ducati rider put his recent woes behind him with two second places, while Alex Lowes kept up his run of form with a third podium of the season on Saturday; his weekend included an audacious Corkscrew pass on team-mate Michael van der Mark. Sunday’s final podium spot went to Eugene Laverty, becoming the ninth rostrum finisher of 2018 and notching up the first top three finish for Milwaukee Aprilia and Shaun Muir Racing. It was the first Aprilia podium since 2015 and Laverty’s first since Malaysia 2014. The key has been putting full focus on rear end grip and the Irishman has now found a setting that works in all conditions.

American Jake Gagne had his best weekend to date with tenth and ninth places finishes. Compatriot PJ Jacobsen was less fortunate, crashing out of both races, while MotoAmerica star and Yamaha wildcard Josh Herrin was cruelly robbed of two points finishes due to handling problems. Karel Hanika pulled off a commendable double points finish for Guandalini Yamaha, the 22-year-old Czech and former Red Bull Rookies Champion replacing the sacked Ondrej Jezek for the rest of the year.

As impressive as performances were at the sharp end of the grid, Laguna Seca 2018 will be best remembered for what happened off the track. Tom Sykes had a miserable weekend, finishing outside the top five in both races despite becoming only the fourth rider in history to start 250 World Superbike races. Relations within the Kawasaki Racing Team have hit an all-time low after the infamous Brno collision and subsequent Eurosport television interview in which both riders aired clear and scathing remarks about one another. Sykes will not stay next season while Leon Haslam as emerged as a contender to replace him thanks chiefly to huge support from Kawasaki in Japan. Ducati and Yamaha look set to retain their proven line-ups consisting Davies, Marco Melandri, Lowes and van der Mark.

More reaction from California and the latest on an intriguing rider market situation will follow in Wednesday’s printed edition of Motorcycle News.

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Greg Haines

By Greg Haines

Superbike reporter and Eurosport commentator