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Old 09-16-2015, 10:30 PM   #1
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World Superbike math can be confusing

Kawasaki's Jonathan Rea has the opportunity to lock up the 2015 World Superbike Championship this weekend in Jerez if he scores six or more points. Some people mistakenly thought he'd wrapped the title after Race 2 in Sepang last month.

In racing, teammates rarely become friends—or like each other in general—and the two Kawasaki factory riders in WSBK, Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes, are no exception. Rea quickly pulled away in this year’s championship with 11 wins and five second-place finishes in the first eight rounds, while Sykes kept things interesting by beating his rival in three out of four occasions between Misano and Laguna Seca. Heading into Sepang last month before a month-and-a-half break, the gap between Rea and Sykes nonetheless amounted to 125 points, enough to possibly prompt the team to issue team orders, which last year proved to be a double-edged sword.

“I prefer to do things on my own, but it's the team who has to decide” said Rea to this end. Sykes added, “Last year, even though he didn't obey, Baz was asked to help me. But, if the shoe is on the other foot and I have no chance at the title, I'm a team player and will show respect.”

“Rea's advantage is encouraging, even though the math still doesn't crown him as the champion,” clarified Kawasaki's Team Manager Guim Roda. “We prefer our riders to have a clean, loyal fight. Last year, when we asked (Loris) Baz to help Tom, he was fifth in the championship. It's hard to ask the same to two riders who are both fighting at the top. If anything, we may ask Jonathan to help Tom secure the second place in the championship (laughs).”

Given Ducati's late surge, Roda's tongue-in-cheek idea may actually become true. In Malaysia, Rea had to gain 25 or more points on his teammate to become world champion. Thanks to his teammate's tire issues and crashes, he did so. However, the math did not factor Chaz Davies into the equation. With three wins and a second place to his tally in the last four rounds, the Welshman rose to second in the championship, 144 behind Rea but 13 points ahead of Sykes.

Curiously, part of the Kawasaki team itself did not realize that the Ducati rider was keeping the championship open. During the final lap of Race Two in Sepang, members of the local fan club started to unravel a celebratory banner, only to be stopped by members of the TV crew. A couple of Kawasaki's technicians were already shedding tears of joy before someone told them they had to hold them back. A flag was brought out during the parade lap, and Sykes stopped to congratulate his teammate, who was shaking his head to explain he did not seize the title yet.

“It was a misunderstanding,” said Roda. “We calculated that, if Davies left Malaysia 150 or more points behind Rea, the title would have gone to a Kawasaki rider, no matter what. But he won, so Rea has still to score six points in the next three rounds. It seems definitely within his reach. We're confident, but we won't celebrate until it’s done.”

Ducati also did not do the math. “I didn't know I spoiled Jonathan's party,” Davies said with a smile. This collective disregard for numbers is somewhat surprising, especially given the plethora of engineers in the paddock. However, top riders and teams have something else in common: they race to win, and each calculation is based to achieve that goal first and foremost.

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