Jonathan Rea matched another all-time World Superbike record with his 17th victory of the season, in Qatar on Friday.
The four-time world champion thus matches Doug Polen’s 1991 tally and will have the chance to take win number 18 – and his twelfth victory in a row – during Saturday night’s season finale.
Rea qualified second on the grid behind team-mate Tom Sykes, but snatched the holeshot at turn one and never looked back, steadily building a 1.4s advantage.
“There is a lot of hard work done to arrive in this position,” Rea said. “It is really difficult; to build the package, the team atmosphere and a feeling with the bike.
“This weekend I have not quite felt myself on the bike and I said to my guys yesterday evening that this game is so much about confidence. We have been lucky this year in that I have had such a great feeling with the bike and that we have had that little bit extra.
“That gives you confidence and you are able to ride in a certain way. That is how it is done; that confidence the bike gives me, working with the team. Every time we are struggling, or my confidence is down, my crew chief Pere Riba finds a way to re-invent that, and turn things around. I am really grateful for that.”
The race two reverse grid means Rea will line-up in ninth place, just behind Sykes and Alex Lowes (Yamaha).
Sykes kept Rea in sight throughout Friday’s race, but was never close enough to attack.
“I think overall we made a good race. Yesterday in the long run there was myself and another rider who destroyed the front tyre, so today I think it all went to plan,” Sykes said.
“This morning in FP4 we used a set of tyres from yesterday, the pace was there, improving all the time. Then the qualifying tyre went into the bike for Superpole and instantly when that tyre goes in I go to my more natural riding style, and everything becomes easier. That was nice to win Superpole.
“In the first, probably eight, laps I felt like we could have pushed on a little bit harder in some of the fast right corners but I just kind of knocked it back a fraction – which I think proved a good idea.
“I saw the gap closing behind me a fraction at one stage so I pushed to finish second.”
Sykes will be making his final Kawasaki appearance on Saturday, before BSB champion Leon Haslam takes over his seat for 2019.
On course to finish fourth in the world championship, Sykes is tipped to join the SMR team on BMW machinery next year.