Jerez (Round 11) poised to crown a new World Champion - Video on the "FassigruTV" channel of YouTubeJonathan Rea is just six points away from the ultimate goal in WorldSBK: the eni FIM Superbike World Championship title of 2015. Thanks to a truly dominant campaign on the Kawasaki Racing Team ZX-10R, number 65 requires only a single top ten finish to cement the achievement in the opening World Superbike race of the Pirelli Spanish Round this weekend. The list of superlatives describing Rea’s 2015 campaign is becoming exhausted. The facts speak for themselves: 20 races, 20 podium finishes and 12 race wins. He has already become the first rider in history to have clinched 20 top three finishes in as many races from the start of a season and, should the rostrum run continue, he will beat Colin Edwards’ record of consecutive podium finishes in the first Qatar race.
Should Rea finish tenth or higher in Race 1 at Jerez (a highly likely possibility, considering the season so far) he will become the 17th different World Superbike Champion and the fifth different title winner in as many years. Fogarty, Hodgson, Toseland and Sykes may have gone before him as British World Champions, but all of them hailed from England; thus, Rea would be the first Northern Irish title winner.
Four-time 2015 race winner Chaz Davies is the only man who can prevent Rea from winning the title. Despite the Aruba.it Racing-Ducati SBK Team rider having finished on the podium in eight of the last ten races, collecting fourth place finishes in the other two, he continues to feel the affects of his costly low placings in Thailand and his double retirement of Imola. A colossal deficit of 144 points to Rea (with 150 on offer from the final three rounds in Spain, France and Qatar) means the only way Davies can prevent Rea from winning the title is by winning five of the remaining six races and finishing at least second in the other – and, all the while, hoping Rea fails to score each time. In fact, in the Sunday Paddock Show at Laguna Seca in July, Davies was already hailing Rea as the 2015 World Champion. This weekend Welshman Davies is partnered by Michele Pirro, who covers for the injured Davide Giugliano.
The fight for runner-up spot is far less clear-cut. Tom Sykes has finished in the top two of the World Championship for the last three years (including his title, which he won at Jerez in 2013) and he wants to make it four. Rea’s team-mate currently sits 13 points behind second-placed Davies, while Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils’ Leon Haslam may have suffered of late but remains in the fight for second, 36 points behind Sykes and 49 in arrears of target man Davies. Further back, Aprilia’s Jordi Torres will feel more confident of retaining a top five spot now that Giugliano is out of action, but must be wary of a potential late-season charge from soon-to-be outgoing World Champion Sylvain Guintoli (Pata Honda World Superbike Team).
What of this weekend’s venue? This is the third consecutive year that Jerez de la Frontera is a permanent fixture on the modern-day calendar. However, this is the fourth time that WorldSBK visits the sunbaked southern Spanish destination, which debuted on the calendar in 1990; Frenchman Raymond Roche celebrated both of the race wins prior to clinching the title that season.
Away from motor racing, Andalucia is known for its vineyards (indeed, it was dubbed Wine Capital of the World in 2013), sherry production and popular ‘Feria de Jerez’ horse fair, while Moorish fortress the Alcazar de Jerez and the Cathedral of San Salvador are just two must-see items on the list for sight-seeing visitors. There is also flamenco dancing, although this may be less evident in the WorldSBK paddock…
Spain itself is the fourth largest country in Europe, with Andalucia being its most southerly region on the mainland. Three Spanish riders line up on the grid this weekend: Jordi Torres from Rubí, Catalunya (Aprilia Racing Team – Red Devils), David Salom from Palma de Mallorca (Team Pedercini) and Roman Ramos from Santa María de Cayón in northern Cantabria (Team Go Eleven). This quantity of representatives matches the number of Spanish riders to have won World Superbike races: Carlos Checa (24 race wins), Ruben Xaus (11) and Fonsi Nieto (1). How sweet would it be to make it four at home this weekend?
Watch out also for Manufacturer joy. Kawasaki could clinch the title in Race 1, with the easiest method being to win the race with the top Ducati finishing fifth or lower. This would mark an historic first for the Japanese company; although Kawasaki has won Riders’ titles in the past (Scott Russell in 1993 and the aforementioned Sykes two decades later), it is yet to claim the Manufacturers’ crown. Should it do so, it would become the sixth different marque to wrap up a World Superbike Manufacturers’ title after Ducati, Honda, Aprilia, Suzuki and Yamaha.
Opening World Superbike practice for the Pirelli Spanish Round begins on Friday at 11:15am local time (GMT +2). Live Tissot Superpole and all of the racing action can be watched with full commentary on WorldSBK.com across Saturday and Sunday.