Jonathan Rea has moved himself within striking distance of the 2012 World Superbike Championship lead despite falling a lap short of a third victory of the season at Miller Motorsports Park.
The Ulsterman, a race winner last time out at Donington Park, has been in strong form of late on the Honda CBR1000RR and arrived in the United States confident of turning around an indifferent record at the Utah venue.
Qualifying in fifth position, Rea became embroiled in an absorbing tussle with Max Biaggi – whom he collided with at Miller Motorsports Park last season – throughout race one, but chatter would contribute to him just missing the podium in fourth.
Nonetheless, tweaks to the bike – coupled to Carlos Checa's early exit from the lead - transformed Rea into a victory contender in race two, an endeavour he looked set to fulfil when he burst into the lead with seven laps remaining.
However, while Rea certainly had the measure of his rivals on the twisty infield, the lengthy home straight was indicative of the Honda's apparent disadvantage in a straight-line, the CBR1000RR giving away 5kph to Marco Melandri's BMW S1000RR.
The difference eventually told on the final lap when a recovering Melandri came scything through to ultimately deny Rea a win. Nonetheless, the man himself was not disheartened to be finishing in second position, not least because it puts him just 19.5 points off series leader Max Biaggi.
“We knew we had good pace for today but I had some front chatter in race one. It was coming from the engine braking so we released that a bit for race two. We changed the front tyre as well, because the temperature had gone up. That gave me the confidence to push because I knew the guys in front in race one had used the same one. It was good, and my guys gave me a little bit more power off the turn.
“It's clear to see how well the bike is working and how much traction I've got. It's just the big, long straight here at Salt Lake where we've been down on speed. Without dwelling on the negatives, my guys gave me a great bike and it's working really well. I've got real confidence now and don't feel like I'm riding on the edge – it's quite controlled, which is a good thing, so thanks to all the team for their continued hard work.
“Nobody's giving up and, without thinking about the championship, it's just nice to come back here to the winner's enclosure and be on the podium. After the nightmare of last year at Miller, it's really cool to be fighting for wins.”