Motorcycling: Jonathan Rea enjoys historic year on the track
The 2015 motorcycling season produced the usual thrills on the road and the track from the North West to the Isle of Man and across the UK and Ireland. However, it was a championship that began in Australia and ended in Qatar that produced the undoubted highlight of the year. Willis Marshall looks back...
THE 2015 season will be best remembered for the exploits Ballyclare’s Jonathan Rea, who swept to the world Superbike title.
The championship boasted one of the strongest line-ups of riders for a long time – but everyone had to give way to Rea, who dominated the series from the start.
From 26 race starts, Rea notched 23 podium finishes on the Factory Kawasaki ZX10, 14 of which were race wins, to wrap up the title with one round to go.
It all looked so easy for Rea, who has the talent, skill and attitude required to make the move up to MotoGP and become a champion there as well.
The MotoGP championship was filled with controversy right up to the final round of the series at Jerez in Spain, where the battle between former champions and team-mates Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi went down to the chequered flag.
It was Spain’s Lorenzo on the Yamaha GP machine who would win the final race of the year in front of 80,000 of his home fans with Rossi claiming fourth place after starting from the back of the grid, and in doing so losing out on the championship by five points to Lorenzo.
It was a difficult season in MotoGP for Toome rider Eugene Laverty in the CRT class, as he claimed nine points to round off the year in 22nd place.
British rider Danny Kent, meanwhile, capped an amazing season to claim the Moto3 world title.
As ever, the British Superbike Championships were again head and shoulders above any other domestic series with this season’s classes from Superbike to Supersport producing some of the most exciting racing in years.
The premier class for the title of British Superbike champion saw Australian Josh Brookes and Milwaukee Yamaha lift the title after Brookes took control in the last four races of the year, ending Shane Byrne’s reign as champion.
Michael Laverty carried the flag for the Irish fans on the Tyco BMW, finishing fourth in the Superbike standings.
Irish eyes were smiling in the British Superstock Championship when Enniskillen rider Josh Elliott stormed to the title after a fierce season-long battle with Carrickfergus rider Alastair Seeley, who had to settle for runner-up spot.
The Irish Superbike Championship took another downward turn, with spectator numbers falling for the second year running and serious issues requiring attention before next year’s championship.
Two riders dominated the series this year – Crumlin’s Ryan Rainey and Dromara’s Alastair Kirk. It went down to the final race of the year at Bishopscourt but a crash ended Kirk’s chances and Rainey claimed the title.
The international road racing scene proved fast and exciting with Seeley on the Tyco BMW again the main man at the North West 200, taking a hat-trick of race wins in the two Supersport races and the first Superbike race.
A shortened second Superbike race saw Enniskillen’s Lee Johnston take his first NW200 victory. This glimpse of Johnston’s potential would come into full view at the Ulster Grand Prix in August.
After the north coast of county Antrim, the next port of call was the Isle of Man and the TT races, where much of the focus was on brothers Michael and William Dunlop.
Michael caused a stir during practice week when he ditched the Milwaukee Yamaha for the Buildbase BMW after he said the Yamaha was not the package required to win around the 37-mile circuit.
Things looked to be going Michael’s way in Saturday’s TT Superbike race but a collision with a fallen rider on the last lap at the Nook section all but ended his TT week. William fared even worse when a practice crash at Laurel Bank ended his TT.
Yorkshire’s Ian Hutchinson was the man of the meeting as he notched up a hat-trick of wins on the mountain circuit.
New Zealand’s Bruce Anstey and Morecambe’s John McGuinness each took a win apiece in the two Superbike races.
The Metzeler Ulster Grand in August saw Lee Johnston emerge as the man of the meeting with three wins on the East Coast Racing Honda.
Anstey maintained his fairytale season with another Superbike race win, while new kid on the block Peter Hickman took his first ever win around the Dundrod circuit in the second Superbike race.
Hickman went on to record a stunning victory in the end of season Macau Grand Prix.
On the road racing scene, tragedy again struck with four riders losing their lives on the Isle of Man and at the Ulster Grand Prix.
French rider Frank Petricola died instantly when he crashed during TT practice, while Dennis Hoffer and David Taylor both lost their lives during the 2015 Manx Motorcycle Grand Prix. Scottish rider Andy Lawson died after he was involved in a high-speed crash at the Deersleap during the Ulster Grand Prix.
In motocross, French rider Romain Febrve won the world MXGP class while Slovakian Gajser Slovakia was crowned world MX2 champion.