Heading to Donington Park with five rounds gone, the 2018 World Superbike championship is beginning to have a very familiar look to it. In last round at Imola reigning champion Jonathan Rea rode his Kawasaki ZX10R to his first double race win of the season, meaning that he goes into the British round with a 47-point lead in the championship over fellow Briton Chaz Davies on the Ducati.
The two wins at Imola elevated Rea to 59 career wins, equalling the record of Carl Fogarty set in 1999 when he won the last of his four world titles, one more than Rea has to date. The win rate of the pair is remarkably similar; Fogarty took 212 races to amass his 59 victories, whereas Rea has taken 224.
The double victory at Imola gave Rea the record for most double victories in the series with 17, a record he previously shared with Fogarty and Troy Bayliss. It was Rea’s first double of the season, whereas last season he had claimed both race wins in three of the first five rounds.
The swooping Donington Park circuit has been an especially happy hunting ground for British riders, none more so than for Rea’s team-mate Tom Sykes. British riders have won the last 11 races at the Leicestershire circuit, a run stretching back to race two in 2012 which was won by Rea when riding for Honda.
Of the 10 following races, nine have been won by Sykes, and one by Rea (the second of last year's two races). Donington is Sykes’ most successful circuit, with nine wins. Only two riders can better that; both Rea and Fogarty have 12 wins each at Assen. Sykes’ nine wins have contributed to 12 successive podium finishes at the circuit. Only Fogarty can boast a longer consecutive run of podium finishes at a single circuit; 15 between 1992 and 1999 at Assen.
Sykes has one further podium finish to his name at Donington, giving him the joint highest number at the circuit with Troy Corser.
The recent dominance of Sykes, especially at Donington, has taken Kawasaki to within two wins of equalling Ducati’s record of most wins at the circuit, which currently stands at 15.
Such has been the dominance of British riders in recent years that they have claimed 17 of the 18 available podium places from 2015 to 2017 , the sole interloper being Davide Giugliano in 2016.
Improved performances by Sykes of late have seen the 2013 world champion elevate himself to third in the championship. Two podiums at Imola and one at the previous round will have buoyed the Yorkshireman ahead of his home round.
Yet while his performances have improved, Sykes has still very much been playing second fiddle to Rea, who now leads his team-mate by 72 points.
Davies in second place has a 25-point advantage over Sykes. In fourth is Marco Melandri on the second factory Ducati, and fifth is the surprise package of the season so far, Xavi Fores, also on a Ducati. The top six is completed by Michael van der Mark riding a Yamaha.
Rea, who was awarded the MBE in 2017, will have his autobiography published by Harper Collins in October, by which time, based on current form, he should have cliched his fourth consecutive World Superbike title.
With rumours circulating that Rea is being courted by teams in MotoGP, it could be his last for a while.
2018 World Superbike Championship standings
1. Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) 209 points
2. Chaz Davies (Ducati) 162
3. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 137
4. Marco Melandri (Ducati) 131
5. Xavi Fores (Ducati) 124
6. Michael van der Mark (Yamaha) 113
Ahead of Donington, only six points separates the top four in the 2018 World Supersport championship. A fifth-placed finish at Imola was sufficient for Randy Krummenacher to take the lead for the first time this season. With previous series leader Lucas Mahias only managing eighth place, he now trails Krummenacher by two points.
The same margin separates Mahias from Sandro Cortese in third, who in turn has a two-point lead over Jules Cluzel in fourth. The top six is completed by Frederico Caricasulo and Raffaele De Rosa. The top five are all on Yamahas.
Close as the championship is, the biggest news in recent weeks was the confirmation of five-time World Supersport champion Kenan Sofuoglu's retirement. Sofuoglu announced his retirement ahead of the Imola race, but surprised everyone by also announcing that he would bring the curtain down on his career by racing at the iconic circuit.
After qualifying on the front row, the Turkish rider pulled into the pits after the sighting lap. He later explained this was as a result of a promise he had made to his mother.
2018 World Supersport Championship standings
1. Randy Krummenacher (Yamaha) 81 points
2. Lucas Mahias (Yamaha) 79
3. Sandro Cortese (Yamaha) 77
4. Jules Cluzel (Yamaha) 75
5. Federico Caricasulo (Yamaha) 69
6. Raffaele De Rosa (MV Agusta) 51