WSBK: Jonathan Rea makes flying start during free practice at Phillip Island

Jonathan Rea in action on the Kawasaki ZX-10R at Phillip Island.
Jonathan Rea in action on the Kawasaki ZX-10R at Phillip Island.
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Jonathan Rea heads into Superpole qualifying at Phillip Island on the back of an impressive performance during free practice in Australia, where the Ulster rider was third fastest on the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R.

The defending world champion lapped in 1m 31.324s to claim a provisional front row start, with Frenchman Sylvain Guintoli (1m 30.865s) leading the way on the Pata Yamaha from Honda’s Michael van der Mark (1m 31.249s).

However, Rea’s race pace during his long run on the ZX-10R was especially eye-catching and the 29-year-old is feeling upbeat ahead of Saturday’s opening race (4am GMT).

“I am really happy to get the first race weekend of the year started. We have been lucky because having a test here earlier in the week means we already have a good base,” said Rea.

“Pere (Riba) and Paolo (Marchetti) and all the guys have worked really hard in the test to analyse many things and we arrived here today with a good starting point. We are fine-tuning now.

“The track temperatures today were a lot lower than during the tests so the race simulation we made in the afternoon was a little bit faster,” he added.

“Pirelli has also brought a new race tyre and they asked me to make a run on it.

“It has good potential and we will check it again in the cooler conditions. I am quite happy to go into Superpole tomorrow with a bike that is comfortable to ride.

“The new system in practice is OK, just fine, and I was always looking to race on Saturday, because the guys normally make a good set-up and we can be quite quick. I am excited to wake up tomorrow for the first race of the year.”

Tom Sykes was fourth fastest on the second of the KRT machines ahead of fellow Briton Leon Camier (MV Agusta), with WSBK newcomer Nicky Hayden completing the top six on the Ten Kate Honda.

Reigning British Superbike champion Josh Brookes was 18th fastest on the Milwaukee BMW.