Prospects of the WorldSBK Championship fight closing up again became reality at Donington, especially after Alvaro Bautista fell on Saturday and no-scored.
Kawasaki's Jonathan Rea was a main benefactor and although Bautista got past him in race two, leaving Rea with a 2-3 finish on Sunday, the points gap narrowed to 17 between the Spanish leader and the chasing Norther irishman.
Rea looked like he may have been able to put triple race winner Toprak Razgatlioglu into second in the final race, but it was not be - and Rea lost one position at the end, not Toprak. There was a reason why Rea had to drop back, however.
“I felt really good for half race - everything was working okay,” said Rea. “I was able to understand where I was good and where I had to improve. There were certain areas I was better. I really overcooked the front brakes.
"I was right behind in the slip streamalways. I went into the Melbourne loop two times and the lever was coming right back to the bar. It was all my power to not hit Toprak sometimes. So, I had to take some time just to cool down a little bit, fix my rhythm.
"Then Alvaro was coming with really strong pace in the middle at the very end of the race. Unfortunately, he came through. It was all I could do just to keep my rhythm. But, we made some good changes from yesterday to day with the bikes.
"We’re learning still a lot about the bike in the hot temperatures. It really was a weak area for us and I think now we can be happy, especially after Misano. I felt a lot closer here. It’s encouraging to go to Most and see what we can do there.”
Rea, for all his other great experience, had a new one in the Superpole race.
“We used the SCQ tyre for the first time,” he explained. “I was quite convinced that that tyre would be good. I thought Toprak’s pace in the beginning was going to smash the tyre, so I actually was quite conservative in the first couple laps. That’s when he did the damage and he was able to get a second and a half, or so.
"Then from lap four to here, I felt the same, more or less. We crossed the line not too far apart. So, it was encouraging. It’s a really strong track for him. He’s been strong here since when he was a rookie on the Kawasaki. It was one of the hardest races I did with him back then.
"I’m happy with the weekend, to be fair. To come out with 2-2-3 is strong. Yesterday we were fortunate to get a bit of a gift with points, so it really halved the deficit in the championship this weekend. So, big picture is okay, but still frustrating not to win. I really wanted to win here. But, we got to go with it and look at the big picture.”
Rea gave more detail about why braking was an issue for him.
“Donington is one of the hardest tracks on the brakes, especially the last sector where I was struggling,” he said. “So, Donington and Aragon, two of the toughest circuits with the brakes. In Most, I hope we don’t face the same problem.
"It didn’t help that I was really in the slipstream. I was on his back tyre. In fact, my throat started to get really dry because I was getting exhaust fumes most of the first half of the race. I don’t expect to see this problem again.
It was heat and hard braking, and also that I was completely in the slip stream the whole time so I wasn’t cooling my discs. So, the temperature was so high. I’m sure if we check the data it will be at record highs. All the power from the brakes was fading quite fast.”
The predicted excessive temperatures did not materialise at Donington, although it was quite hot for the UK in general. Rea gave some perspective when asked if this was the most physical race he had done at Donington.
“Yeah, probably at Donington,” he agreed, then qualified it by saying, “We’re talking about thirty degrees, but most of the European races are thirty degrees and more. Misano, I’m sure Czech Republic is going to be hot, Portimao, Montmelo will be a hot one in September.
"So, it’s not abnormal for us, to be fair, in the World Championship. But, it’s nice to see red faces in the spectator areas. I hope they’ve been applying their sun cream. It’s not normal for the UK to be this hot.”