King Rea leads a World Superbike revival
Cal Crutchlow has, quite rightly, been hogging the headlines recently. But it was a Northern Irishman who achieved something remarkable last weekend that should see the spotlight shine in his direction – at least for a while.
As two-times 2016 Motogp winner Crutchlow struggled and slithered his way to a DNF at Sepang, Jonathan Rea rode a cool and calculating two races at the final WSB round in Qatar to land his second title in as many years. It’s the first time anyone has successfully defended their title in consecutive years since Carl Fogarty in 1999.
And while WSB has seen a serious slump in interest over recent years, Rea’s incredible feat and talent must not go overlooked. In fact, WSB has seen some encouraging signs of a revival this year, which should bode well for its shortterm future at least.
Three UK riders filled the top three title spots and Donington Park’s May round saw a 15 per cent surge in weekend attendance, allaying fears that the controversial new format – one race on a Saturday and one on a Sunday – could be the final nail in the coffin. There were similar stats reported across most of the championship’s 13 rounds.
With Chaz Davies and his Ducati making sure that 2016 was not another green-wash, and Nicky Hayden moving from Motogp to mix things up for Honda, things got very interesting very quickly.
There’s a strong mix of manufacturers in the series now, too, with most running full factory or heavily supported efforts. With a new Suzuki GSX-R1000 and Honda Fireblade hitting the streets in 2017, the series should get another injection of interest. WSB is nowhere near what it once was and there are still some strange goings on – like the nine-week break between July and September and the unfeasibly early February start to the season – but there are some green shoots of recovery. And with the success that the UK has enjoyed with this production-based battle of superbike brawn, let’s hope that Rea, Davies, Sykes and Co can keep us all coming back for more.