Jonathan Rea is looking forward to the beginning of the European rounds of the World Superbike Championship in Spain in April after earning a brace of top six results at Phillip Island.
The Ballyclare rider declared himself ‘reasonably satisfied’ with his sixth and fifth place results in the two races in Australia on the Ten Kate-run Pata Honda Fireblade SP and believes his team is much further ahead than they were at this point in the championship last year.
Rea made a good start in race one and was battling for much of the race with Kawasaki duo Loris Baz and Tom Sykes, with Baz eventually taking fifth ahead of Rea, who managed to keep reigning world champion Sykes at bay to secure sixth.
The 28-year-old made another fast start in race two and Rea was involved in an intense scrap for the top three places early in the race before losing touch with the leading group.
The race was stopped prematurely after Eugene Laverty’s Voltcom Crescent Suzuki suffered an engine failure, with Rea taking fifth place in front of team-mate Leon Haslam, who crashed out of race one.
“I guess we have to be reasonably satisfied with the result here because we’ve made a big improvement over last year here at Phillip Island,” said Rea.
“It’s clear which areas we need to work on and it’s mostly mechanical grip. In race one, some of the guys struggled with tyre problems because it went the full distance, but I was able to look after my tyre which was a good thing.
“But we still need to make improvements in that area because the guys at the front had no problems,” he added.
“Race two was unfortunately stopped early because I think I was probably conserving my tyre a little more than I should have been.
“[Tom] Sykes passed me into turn one but kind of stopped up in the corner and I lost a lot of places and lost touch with the group so the last few laps were quite boring.
“But I’m quite happy with everyone on my side of the box – we’ve been making good linear progress. They’re not results to jump up and down about but it’s a good way to start the season,” said Rea.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to some more conventional circuits in Europe and aiming a lot higher.”
The second World Superbike round is at Aragon in Spain on April 13.
Meanwhile, Jack Kennedy was permitted to compete in the Supersport race after fracturing his ankle during the Phillip Island test.
The Dubliner battled through to 13th from last on the grid but was ruled out of the race when the engine of his CIA Insurance Honda expired.
The race was restarted as a five-lapa sprint, with Jules Cluzel giving MV Agusta it’s maiden WSS victory.