Jonathan Rea has tied Doug Polen’s all-time record of 17 wins in a season, with victory on Friday night at the Qatar World Superbike season finale.
Kawasaki’s newly crowned four-time champion snatched the holeshot from team-mate and pole starter Tom Sykes, then inched away from the Englishman to claim his eleventh victory in a row by 1.4s.
Tomorrow night will see Rea chase a new record of seven double-wins in a year.
Behind the ZX-10s, SMR Aprilia’s Eugene Laverty helped put himself in the shop window for 2019 by holding third for much of the race, under constant pressure from Pata Yamaha’s Alex Lowes.
Lowes attacked early on the final lap, Laverty retaliated, but Lowes outbraked the Irishman again at Turn 12.
Laverty was lining up a drag race to the line only to suffer a big front-end scare through the final corner, confirming a hard-fought podium for Lowes.
Marco Melandri and Xavi Fores spent most of the race fighting for top Ducati honours in the V-Twin’s penultimate appearance. Barni-rider Fores held the advantage until plummeting from fifth to 13th on the last lap.
Likewise, Melandri’s team-mate Chaz Davies (Ducati) and Lowes’ team-mate Michael van der Mark (Yamaha) – who will settle second in the world championship this weekend – were nose-to-tail for much of the 17 laps.
However, both were caught and passed by charging Althea BMW rider Loris Baz in the closing stages, the Frenchman seizing what became sixth place after Fores’ decline.
Although van der Mark comfortably got the better of Davies, who only just held off the Red Bull Honda of Jake Gagne, the Welshman will start Saturday’s race with a 23-point advantage.
Gagne’s team-mate Leon Camier fell at Turn 12 in the middle stages, with MV Agusta’s Max Scheib the only other non-finisher out of the slender 17-rider field.