World Superbikes: Jonathan Rea inches closer to title in Malaysia
Jonathan Rea is on the brink of winning the World Superbike Championship after taking a win and a second place in the Malaysian round at Sepang on Sunday.
The Northern Ireland rider enjoys a 144-point lead over nearest rival Chaz Davies, with six races still to go.
Rea, 28, is now poised to secure the title at the next round of the series at Jerez in Spain on 20 September.
The Kawasaki rider came from seventh on the grid to win race one but was edged out by Chaz Davies in the second race.
Davies withstood a determined final-lap charge to claim his fourth win of the year by 0.091 seconds and delay Rea's likely title celebrations for a further seven weeks.
Rea made up 1.5 seconds on the closing circuit and nudged ahead, before a last-ditch passing manoeuvre saw the bikes collide and Davies retake the lead and win the dash for the line. Jordi Torres completed the podium spots.
Yorkshireman Sykes slipped off and re-mounted to finish 14th, but drops to third in the overall standings on 295 points, behind Rea on 452 and Davies on 308.
Rea, now resident in the Isle of Man, is tantalisingly close to becoming Northern Ireland's first motorcycling world champion since Joey Dunlop and Brian Reid clinched the Formula One and Formula Two world titles respectively in 1986.
"The bike was really easy to ride. I kept my pace and my rhythm and I knew the gap was coming down but Chaz just pushed me out," he said.
"I can go into the summer break relaxed and hopefully I'll finish the job off at Jerez in September."
The County Antrim rider took his 12th win of the season by snatching victory from Davies on the final lap of the opening event, having executed a superior tyre management strategy than most of the field.
Sykes looked set to return to winning ways by scorching into the lead on the opening bend and pulled out a three-second advantage, with Davies and the fast-starting Rea slipping back into their own tussle for second position.
Sykes began to suffer rear tyre problems in the final five laps however and plummeted down the order after being swallowed up by the chasing pack.
Davies held off Rea until the last lap, when the former Honda rider went underneath his rival into the turn four left-hander.
Rea, having struggled on the brakes into the final turn, proceeded to out-brake himself once again, allowing Davies up the inside just metres from the chequered flag.
Rea got the better drag to the line however and took victory by just 0.121 seconds, with Italian Max Biaggi third, Sylvian Guintoli fourth and Sykes in fifth.
English pair Alex Lowes and Leon Haslam were sixth and seventh.