Jonathan Rea has made World Superbike history as the Kawasaki rider clinched a third successive title in France with an imperious performance in the wet.
Rea, who bounced back following a crash during qualifying to secure pole position on the ZX-10RR, shot off the line and had stretched clear by 2.4 seconds after only one lap at Magny-Cours.
He continued to disappear into the distance, with his rivals seemingly unable to muster any kind of challenge as the Ulster rider took total control of the race.
Rea had opened an advantage of more than 12 seconds on the eighth lap over team-mate Tom Sykes, who moved into a safe second place after exchanging passes with Ducati’s Chaz Davies on the first few laps.
At the finish, Rea had more than 16 seconds in hand over Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Ducati), who came through to snatch the runner-up spot from Sykes on the last lap. Eugene Laverty finished sixth on the Milwaukee Aprilia behind Pata Yamaha’s Alex Lowes and Leon Camier (MV Agusta).
The manner of Rea’s 12th triumph of 2017 perfectly encapsulated his dominance of the championship this year, with the 30-year-old only failing to finish off the rostrum once in 21 races. On that occasion, Rea was denied not by his own hand, but was sent crashing out of the race at Donington Park after a sudden issue developed with his rear tyre.
He has now chalked up a half-century of World Superbike victories after his masterclass in race one at Magny-Cours, becoming the first rider ever in the history of the championship to win the title three times in a row.
The triple world champion is now one world title away from equalling the record of four championship successes held by the great Carl Fogarty, who was crowned champion in 1994, 1995, 1988 and 1999.
Rea is now level with Australian star Troy Bayliss - who won the title in 2001, 2006 and 2008 - as he rubs shoulders with the greatest exponents ever to have competed in World Superbikes.
It seems the sky is the limit for the Ballyclare man, who enters the second year of his current two-year contract with Kawasaki in 2018.
Rea has been linked with a move to the MotoGP class with Suzuki, although he recently played down the speculation, albeit stopping short of completely dismissing the possibility of a move to the premier class on a ‘winning package’.
Should he remain in World Superbikes, he has the opportunity to draw level with Fogarty in the hall of fame and perhaps even challenge the Blackburn rider’s standing as the best there has ever been.