Jonathan Rea approaches this weekend’s opening round of the World Superbike Championship in Australia in a much better frame of mind following the conclusion of winter testing on Monday.
The Pata Honda standard bearer was sixth fastest overall on his CBR1000RR Fireblade at Phillip Island, setting a best time of 1m 31.356s.
Spain’s Carlos Checa – winner of race two at the awe-inspiring Aussie circuit in 2012 – somewhat surprisingly ended the two-day test at the top of the timing charts on the all-new Ducati Panigale 1199R for the Alstare Racing team.
Ulsterman Rea, who was less than half a second adrift of 2010 champion Checa’s benchmark lap, was in a positive mood as the official shakedown reached a conclusion after making significant gains on Monday’s performance.
This weekend’s season opener has added significance for the 26-year-old, who is poised to make his 100th World Superbike start in the second race at Phillip Island.
“It can be strange riding at Phillip Island, especially doing so many testing laps over four days,” said Rea, who also participated in a private, two-day test in Australia last week.
“The conditions can change so dramatically – yesterday [Monday] we had almost 60 degrees of track temperature and today it was less than 25.
“The wind changed going down the straight, from a tail-wind yesterday to being in our faces today, and the changing conditions can upset the chassis settings on the bike.
“Yesterday, I didn’t feel that good but today it was 100 times better. We’ve been trying to do a lot of laps on old tyres and we still have some tyre life issues to work on for the race weekend, but I think that’s a common problem up and down pit lane,” he added.
“The tests have finished positively, even though we didn’t get a chance for a maximum time attack.”
Rea and his Pata Honda teammate, Leon Haslam, are running a new HRC electronics system on their Fireblades this season and are slowly beginning to reap the benefits of the factory-supplied kit.
“The guys in my crew have been working really hard to get the electronics set up to my exact liking, especially the application of the traction control, but we’ve learned a lot,” said Rea.
“We still have a lot to do for the weekend – it’s clear that, if we want to go fast on a new tyre, we can, but Phillip Island isn’t about that.
“It’s about still having a good tyre on lap 22, so there’s still some work to be done.”
Haslam – a previous winner at Phillip Island – proved he is likely to push Rea harder than any of the Red Bull-backed rider’s previous teammates as he claimed the seventh fastest time at the test.
Meanwhile, Aprilia’s Eugene Laverty was eighth in the combined times on his factory RSV4.
Laverty’s fastest lap of 1m 31.452s puts him firmly in contention and he is in bullish mood ahead of Sunday’s race,.
“I think we’re ready for the race weekend. The tyre life is going to be the most important thing, but we’re still a long way from Sunday so we don’t know what the conditions will be,” Laverty said.
Combined times: 1 C Checa (ESP) Ducati 1m31.059s (Tuesday); 2 M Melandri (ITA) BMW 1m31.237s (Tuesday); 3 L Camier (GBR) Suzuki 1m31.243s (Monday); 4 T Sykes (GBR) Kawasaki 1m31.261s (Tuesday); 5 M Fabrizio (ITA) Aprilia 1m31.350s (Tuesday); 6 J Rea (GBR) Pata Honda 1m31.356s (Tuesday); 7 L Haslam (GBR) Pata Honda 1m31.396s (Monday); 8 E Laverty (IRL) Aprilia 1m31.452s (Monday).