King Rea leads a World Superbike re­vival

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Comment - ANDY CAL­TON Gareth Ash­man, 01733-468118

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.

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