The clock is ticking on the 2016 WorldSBK season and with three rounds remaining, Jonathan Rea has one hand on the title. For centuries, people have travelled to France in search of a miracle. Typically it is to Lourdes that pilgrims flock but this weekend it will be to the Circuit de Nevers-Magny Cours. The links between the two are well known, with Saint Bernadette Soubirous - who first cited the apparitions of Lourdes - having died close to the circuit in Nevers. With Jonathan Rea having opened a 47 point title lead it may be that the flagging hopes of Tom Sykes' title campaign are in need of divine intervention this weekend.
It's been a remarkable 18 months at Kawasaki Racting Team, with Sykes having been displaced by Rea as the team leader. However, the Englishman should not be underestimated. He still has a blistering turn of speed and “Mr Superpole” is arguably the fastest Superbike rider on the planet when he has the bike working as he needs it. But, when the bike isn't as he needs it, Sykes has been overshadowed by Rea.
The Northern Irishman is almost as fast as Sykes in outright pace, but his metronomic consistency and adaptability is the difference maker. When Sykes has a bike that is capable of winning races he can be unbeatable-as shown by his five wins in 2016-but when the bike isn't capable of winning races he can fall down the order - with Phillip Island a perfect example. That opening round saw Sykes fall into a 29 point hole that he has spent the entire season trying to climb out of.
Both riders have had two non-scores this season, but in the other races it has been Rea's podium finishes that have put him on the verge of the title. Sykes may have not been a match for Rea yet over the course of a 13 round campaign, but on any given day it is never a surprise to see him win.
The Yorkshire native needs to strike a rich vein of form once again in the final three rounds if he is to have any chance of winning a second title in 2016. Ultimately, it could take a miracle for that to become reality - so the goal for Sykes should be to start planting seeds of doubt in Rea's mind for next year. The title race is tough in 2016 and a change of tack will be needed by Sykes if he is going to start challenging once again over the course of a full campaign - a change of tack that needs to begin in Magny-Cours.
Seaching for a Miracle....