Losail, Qatar – Jonathan Rea celebrated the final outing of his record-breaking third consecutive World Superbike Championship season by scoring his sixth double of the year.
Rea won 16 of the 26 races in the 2017 series and finished off the podium only twice, smashing Colin Edwards’ 2002 record for the most number of points in a season with a final tally of 556.
South African Sheridan Morais finished a hard-fought seventh in the Supersport race, to end the season fourth overall in the championship standings, with eight podiums in 12 races.
Rea produced a masterclass in the Qatari desert, getting away brilliantly from pole to dominate the race and cross the finish line a clear 4.944s distance ahead of Ducati Team-mates Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri.
Having set a new outright circuit record lap in Superpole earlier in the evening, Rea pushed his Kawasaki ZX-10RR to the limits over the course of the 17-lap contest around the 5.380km Losail International Circuit.
Davies did his best to chase Rea down but would eventually finish a lonely second despite his best efforts, with team-mate Melandri a further five seconds down.
Eugene Laverty produced an excellent ride to fourth, missing out on the podium by less than two seconds, whilst his Aprilia team-mate colleague Lorenzo Savadori just behind him.
Tom Sykes on the second works Kawasaki, Jordi Torres (BMW), Kawasaki privateer Sylvain Guintoli, Leon Camier (MV Agusta ) and Roman Ramos, also on a privately entered ZX-10RR rounded out the top 10.
Davies made an incredible start as he shot from eighth on the grid to first within the first two corners, but Rea soon took control of the race on lap four and he didn’t look back from there.
Davies survived a huge wobble on lap four, pulling off the save of the season, and held his nerve to stay on the pace and ultimately wrap up second in the race and second in the championship.
Lowes got the better of factory Yamaha team-mate Michael van der Mark in the second half of the race and finally finished 1.658s ahead, to claim the final podium position of the year.
Ducati privateer Xavi Fores ended the season on a high in fifth, 5.688s ahead of Melandri, while Laverty passed Guintoli on the final lap to take seventh by less than half a second, overcoming the Frenchman on the last lap, and Camier completed his last race with MV Agusta in ninth place, just ahead of Ramos.
An enthralling race saw the title fight go right down to the last lap, as Yamaha factory rider Lucas Mahias clinched the crown with a narrow (0.023s) victory over Honda privateer Jules Cluzel. Comeback hero Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki) performed brilliantly to finish third – but it just wasn’t enough for him to keep the title he had won on five previous occasions.
Mahias’ team-mate Federico Caricasulo finished a close fourth, being beaten across the line by the gritty Sofuoglu.
Mahias, Cluzel and Caricasulo had contested the podium spots for most of the race, though Mahias led the way for the majority of the 15 lap battle. Sofuoglu was caught up further back in the field, fighting with the likes of privateer Yamaha team-mates Sheridan Morais and Niki Tuuli, Kyle Smith (Honda) and PJ Jacobsen (MV Agusta) as he made his way through the pack to fourth and then chased Caricasulo down in the final stages.
It was incredible that Sofuoglu had even made it onto the grid after suffering a triple hip fracture in France little more than a month earlier. He bravely made a comeback far earlier than expected, as he did his best to defend his title. It was an outside shot as he went into the race 20 points behind Mahias, but it was a hugely valiant effort by the five-times World Champion, who even set a new Supersport lap record on lap 12.
Anthony West (Kawasaki) finished fifth, followed by Tuuli, Morais, Luke Stapleford (Triumph Daytona 675), Gino Rea (Kawasaki) and Smith, to make up the top 10.