Jonathan Rea heads into this weekend’s second round of the World Superbike Championship in Thailand high on confidence after making a stunning debut for his new Kawasaki team at Phillip Island.
Rea is the joint leader of the championship on 45 points with Leon Haslam after taking a win and a runner-up finish in Australia last month on the ZX-10R.
The picturesque circuit had never been a traditionally strong track for Kawasaki in the past, but Rea reversed the trend and was unlucky to miss out on a double after Haslam drafted past him on the run to the line on the RSV4 in race two.
Rea, who is aiming to become Northern Ireland’s first motorcycling world champion since Joey Dunlop, had not anticipated such a strong start to his title quest down under at a track where he had never before managed a podium result in World Superbikes.
It was a dream start for the Ulster rider and Rea is feeling optimistic he can carry his form into round two this weekend at the Chang International Circuit in Thailand, which will host a round of the series for the very first time.
“To be honest we had a much better start in Australia then we imagined,” said Rea. “I know we were quite reserved with targets at Phillip Island as it had not been a circuit that has favoured the bike but we managed the set-up quite well. I was surprised with our pace.
“What I did learn was that all week we had been having some problems but Pere, Paolo and the guys at Showa worked it out and on race day we had a package to ride a strong 22 laps each time. That really impressed me.
“In the end I had a bike that I was really happy with. That gives me a little extra confidence now and because things are still reasonably fresh for me, to have that feeling is good.”
Rea’s team-mate, Tom Sykes, will be keen to make amends this weekend after an indifferent start to the season in Australia, when set-up issues and an excursion off the track when he was pushed wide by Pata Honda’s Michael van der Mark made life difficult for the 2013 world champion.
Practice gets underway on Friday with final practice and Superpole qualifying taking place on Saturday. Sunday’s two races are scheduled to take place at 6.30am and 9.30am respectively UK time.