Rich Energy OMG Racing's Brad Ray now has one hand on the Bennetts British Superbike Championship trophy after taking his ninth victory of the year at Donington Park, extending his lead over closest rival Glenn Irwin to 66 points.
The Lydd kid headed into the penultimate round of the 2022 campaign under pressure, holding a 40-point lead over Tommy Bridewell, but after collecting a fourth-place finish in Saturday's opening encounter after a mature ride, he rounded the weekend off in style with a victory and a second-place finish.
And Ray admitted to BikeSocial's man on the ground in an exclusive interview after collecting his silverware that he feels that he, and his Rich Energy OMG Racing Yamaha team, are a ‘step ahead of everyone.'
"I'm super happy with it," he said. "There was obviously a lot of pressure coming into the weekend and firstly heading into the Showdown, but I came out of there with a 40-point lead due to the unfortunate events.
"But to be honest, I feel like we've had good pace anyway, so regardless of what happened to the other boys I feel we are definitely a step ahead of everyone. I tried to approach this weekend as I do every other weekend, risked the maximum to get the victory and that is exactly what we did.
"I was quite frustrated with not getting on the podium in race one on Saturday because I lost a few points to Glenn and Jason, but I got my head into gear for Sunday, I knew we had a job to do and we made the most of the opportunity.
"I was praying the bike was going to bring me home, avoided making any mistakes on the last few laps and it's going to be nice to head to Brands with quite a big buffer of a points lead."
Conditions in Sunday's races dictated that the switch to the harder option, SC0, rear tyre would be ideal for all riders, with track temperatures under 20 degrees, but many stuck with what they knew in the softer SCX tyre.
However, the ‘Milky Bar Kid' and his team made the decision to switch to the unfavoured harder option, proving to be the right decision allowing him to run at the front, and collecting a new lap record in race three to boot.
Although he expressed he felt he made a mistake when he saw his closest challengers running the SCX when he pulled up on the grid.
"After Oulton Park we knew we needed to do a little bit work with the SC0, we knew if the track temperature was below 18 or 19 degrees then we had to run the SC0.
"And when I rolled up to the grid in race one on Sunday I had a look around and saw that all of my competitors we're running the SCX and I thought ‘Oh Brad, you idiot, you've made a mistake here.' But I changed my mentality straight away, I dug in, a tyre is a tyre at the end of the day, you can still make it work, and it helped me at the end of the race.
"It was similar in race three, with the safety car and the red flag. The SCX doesn't like to be cooled down and then reheated again in a race, so I think we played a good, smart game in using the harder compound tyre. I don't feel like it lost me any time, and I managed to claim the lap record in the last race too, so it has really good potential and it is something that we can work on in the future."
After surprising many with his pace on the harder rear tyre, Ray then went on to say that if conditions dictate it, he'll be happy to use the SC0 again at Brands Hatch.
"We'll see what happens, but if it's anything above 22 degrees then we'll run the SCX, especially for the shorter race.
"But I feel that we can get some good pace from the SC0, even if the track temperature is high enough for the softer option, we might end up using the SC0 anyway. It's not something that we normally do, especially with the Yamaha, but it worked for me at Donington and it should work for me at Brands Hatch if the conditions dictate that."
With a 66-point lead heading into his home round, it's set to be the biggest weekend of Ray's career.
The 26-year-old could take the crown from his friend Tarran Mackenzie in Saturday's opening race at Brands Hatch, with a fifth-place finish or better, but he remained mature and refused to get ahead of himself.
"It does, it sounds great. I'm speechless really, but it's not done yet, and I won't be sleeping until it is fully done. My plan heading in to Donington Park was to extend my points lead, or even at worse case to keep the same amount of points gap, so to leave with an extra 26 points to what we started with, and with three races at Brands Hatch it makes me feels good. I had a nice bottle of red wine to celebrate last night, that's for sure.
"It's going to be hard not to think about it, people are already saying to me ‘you've got it in the bag,' but it's not over until it's over. I've got to stay focussed, continue being myself… and what will be will be at Brands Hatch."