WSBK: Jonathan Rea’s world title defence begins in anger at Phillip Island

Kawasaki World Superbike rider Jonathan Rea.

Kawasaki World Superbike rider Jonathan Rea.

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Jonathan Rea’s World Superbike title defence is about to begin in earnest as the Kawasaki star makes his final preparations ahead of next Saturday’s opening race of 2016 at Phillip Island in Australia.

The 29-year-old will put the finishing touches to his Ninja ZX-10R during a final official two-day WSBK shakedown at the spectacular venue on Monday and Tuesday after completing an extensive European winter testing programme.

Rea made a dream start to his Kawasaki career at Phillip Island last year, winning the opening race and finishing as the runner-up in race two to kick-start a remarkable title charge that saw him win a total of 14 races as he finished on the podium a staggering 23 times in 26 races to secure the championship in emphatic fashion.

The Ulsterman, who will ride with the number ‘1’ on his Kawasaki this season instead of his traditional ‘65’ plate, has been counting the days to the opening race and is itching for the serious business to commence at the weekend.

“I am really excited for the start of the season because it has been a long winter with a lot of testing,” said Rea.

“Now we can start putting all the pieces of the jigsaw together to start making our race package. We are really happy because the bike is at a very good level and we have had some good tests.

“We have had some more time on the dyno to perfect our engine mapping. All the major test items we have tried out are underlined now and we can start focusing on performance,” he added.

“We will make a race simulation at some point and adjust the bike for a race set-up. We also need to start to be more specific with electronics. We will try to use the smile-a-mile philosophy and enjoy it too.”

Rea is bidding to become only the second rider ever in World Superbike history to successfully defend the title, with English legend Carl Fogarty accomplishing the feat in 1999.

Under a new format introduced for 2016, race one will be held on Saturday (4am GMT) with the second race taking place on Sunday, also scheduled for a 4am start.