Pata Honda’s Jonathan Rea is expecting the action to be hot and heavy as the World Superbike Championship gets under way this weekend at Phillip Island.
Rea ended the official two-day test in Australia in ninth place on the time sheets, with world champion Tom Sykes leading the way ahead of Voltcom Crescent Suzuki pair Eugene Laverty and Alex Lowes.
However, with less than a second covering the top nine, Rea said: “It’s clear that we’re starting the season in much better shape than last year but it’s so, so competitive.
“There are a few guys who’ve got a bit more ultimate pace than me, but Phillip Island is a race where you really have to work for the full 22 laps.
“The weekend should be quite exciting because nobody is head and shoulders above anyone else - it’s very tight at the top.”
Rea, whose best time over the two days was 1m 30.813s, added: “We still have some work to do - quite a lot with the chassis to find a good balance for the circuit which demands a unique style of riding compared to European circuits.
“I also need to sort the final sector because until that point on the track I’m quite competitive. But with everything so close, I can’t afford to give away three tenths in one sector. We’ll take a good look at that and see what’s what.”
Sykes was credited with the fastest lap overall on his Kawasaki ZX-10R in 1m 30.239s with Laverty managing a time of 1m 30.513s and his team-mate, Lowes, lapping in 1m 30.528s.
Northern Ireland star Laverty was unable to better his time from the opening day of the test, but only dropped one position to second place overall.
“We’ve been trying a lot of things and probably the biggest step we made was right at the end. In the last 15 minutes we made a big improvement with the rear settings so I’m really happy to finish the test on a high and to make good lap-times in the high temperatures,” said Laverty.
“We have some detailed stuff to try over the race weekend but in general I’m very happy to be riding the Suzuki and we’ll keep pushing hard to improve further.”
The top six was completed by new Aprilia signing Marco Melandri, Davide Giugliano (Ducati) and Sykes’ Kawasaki team-mate Loris Baz.