Whilst the sight of Jonathan Rea atop the WorldSBK podium is certainly not an unusual one, the Ulsterman’s return to glory in race one at Imola nonetheless successfully brought variety to proceedings in 2019 as the first rider other than Alvaro Bautista to win a race.

With the ex-MotoGP rider storming to an unprecedented 11 straight wins across Phillip Island, Chang, Motorland Aragon and Assen, four-time champion WorldSBK Rea has spent the season thus far trailing his new rival with ten second places and one third place finish to his name.

However, the first of three races in Italy has seen Rea make his first in-roads into Bautista’s advantage, the Kawasaki Racing rider grabbing the lead from Chaz Davies on the opening lap and simply pulling away thereafter in a display akin to his successes between 2015 and 2018.

A ‘plan that worked perfectly’, Rea was delighted to come to Italy with a response to Bautista and his seemingly impenetrable dominance.

“I am very proud of the team. Even though we have not won a race until now this season, no one has given up. The atmosphere inside the garage is incredible and I have so much support from my team. It is a real nice victory because it is for everybody that has been working hard.

“We kept working and making steps with the bike set-up. I felt really good because we made a step in the right direction. I stuck a pass in on Chaz Davies in turn four of lap one and then stuck my head down. That was my complete strategy.

“The plan worked perfectly as I was able to push the pace and then roll off in the last laps and enjoy the moment. I want to thank Kawasaki because we made a step forward from last year.”

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