Jonathan Rea roars into the Superbike history books
Jonathan Rea made history at the weekend by becoming the first rider to seal three consecutive World Superbike Championships with victory in the first race at this year's French round.
The 30-year-old, who claimed a double triumph in Portugal last time out, clinched the opening race win to secure the title with two rounds of the championship - and Sunday's second race - still remaining.
Rea started from pole position on his Kawasaki ahead of Argentinian Leandro Mercado (Aprilia) and team-mate Tom Sykes and he soon pulled clear of the rest of the pack to remain unchallenged at the front.
He recorded his 12th victory of the season in beating Italian Marco Melandri (Ducati) and closest rival Sykes to the finish line with over a 16-second gap.
British duo Leon Camier (MV Agusta) and Alex Lowes (Yamaha) finished fourth and fifth with Irishman Eugene Laverty just pipping Aprilia team-mate Mercado to sixth.
Italian Davide Giugliano (Honda), Michael van der Mark (Yamaha) of Holland and Brit Chaz Davies (Ducati) rounded off the top 10 at Magny-Cours.
In the overall world championship wins table, Rea joins Australian Troy Bayliss in joint-second place with three title wins, one behind leader Carl Fogarty.
After sealing the triple success an emotional Read said: "I have no words right now. I have sacrificed so much in my life, as have my parents and everyone involved in helping me get me to this level.
"To win the championship the first time, the second time and then go three times in a row – I cannot compute my feelings right now.
"My thanks to all the team, every single member of the team, and everyone from Kawasaki back in Japan.
"Most of all I want to thank my wife and kids who sacrifice so much.
"To win this race was special. Winning a race to win the championship is not something I have done before, so I was important for me to do that.
"I also scored my 50th WorldSBK race win as well.”
A match made in heaven with his Ninja ZX-10RR, Rea took the crown in race one with a stunning display of pure race craft.
He has made this season's dominance seem effortless, and his third consecutive title cements his name alongside the greats in the history books.
Beginning his racing career in motocross, Rea moved over to the tarmac as he began to compete in the British domestic series.
Making the step up onto the world stage in 2008 in WorldSSP, he quickly found his feet and moved into the World Superbike class with Honda – taking 15 victories overall.
Swapping to a green machine in 2015, Rea quickly adapted to his Kawasaki Racing Team Ninja, and he secured his debut world title that same season.
It was from here the he became unstoppable, taking the 2016 title in style at the final round in Qatar, finishing a narrow 51 points ahead of team-mate Tom Sykes.
Becoming the first champion of this millennium to secure back to back titles, he then went into 2017 looking to make history.
A strong winter of pre-season testing stood Rea in good stead ahead of his title defence, and he began the season in true Rea style with pole position and a double victory around the Australian circuit of Phillip Island.
Round Two in Buriram, Thailand saw the dominance continue with another double victory and pole position, heading to Europe with a 30-point lead in the championship standings.
With already such a strong lead in the standings, the County Antrim man didn’t show any signs of slowing down.
Rea was able to stop British rival Chaz Davies around MotorLand Aragon to take the victory in race one, before continuing his stunning run of victories at the TT Circuit Assen for Round Four, making it 11 wins in The Netherlands.
He faced some tough competition in the mid-part of the season, with Davies dominant in front of the Ducatisti around Imola and Sykes heading to his preferred circuit of Donington Park, but the champion continued with his consistency throughout the rounds, only finishing off the podium once in race one around Donington Park following a tyre issue.
Heading into the summer break with a 59-point lead following victories at Misano and Laguna Seca, talk of Rea securing the title this season had already begun.
Returning on track in August to the Lausitzring circuit, Rea again struggled to hold off Davies’ domination, but two podium finishes didn’t leave the reigning champion worried.
Producing a masterclass of a double victory in Portugal seemed to seal the deal for Rea, whilst his team-mate and main title rival Sykes was forced to watch from the sidelines.
Heading to Magny-Cours, Rea welcomed a fast pace from Friday and was able to secure pole position as the rain fell on Saturday morning.
The title fight was never in doubt, as the Northern Irishman put in a stunning performance to dominate the 21-lap race in wet conditions, to take the title and his 12th victory of the season.
After securing this historic treble title, Rea is established as one of World SBK’s greats, with compatriot Carl Fogarty’s records in his sights.
Ever the fan favourite and a dedicated family man, how many more titles can he win?
Then again, will he move to MotoGP?
Only time will tell.