Jonathan Rea says he is better placed than ever to kick-start his quest to clinch the World Superbike Championship as the series blasts off this weekend at Phillip Island in Australia.
The Northern Ireland rider maintained his excellent pre-season form during the final test at the spectacular Aussie circuit on Monday and Tuesday, ending the two-day shakedown second fastest on the factory Kawasaki ZX-10R.
Rea clocked his best time in 1m 30.880s and was only headed by Voltcom Crescent Suzuki’s Alex Lowes, who set the fastest time in 1m 30.859s.
The 28-year-old has joined a proven championship winning team in Kawasaki alongside Tom Sykes after an almost career-long link with Honda and will be keen to make a strong start at the opening round on Sunday at a track where Rea has never managed a rostrum finish.
However, it would seem the Isle of Man-based Ulsterman has everything in his favour to finally claim an elusive top-three result at a circuit he regards as he second ‘home’ race, given that his wife Tatia grew up close to the legendary circuit.
And Rea himself is high on confidence, admitting that he is about to begin a world championship season in a ‘better position’ than ever before.
“I am happy to go into race weekend like this, although we still have some things to work on. It is just a bit of an unknown really so I am just working with my guys on the bike and trying to focus on going as fast as we can for all 20-laps,” Rea said.
“I was able to do a long run today and was able to keep most of the laps in the 1m 31s. I do not know how competitive that is going to be but for now it is a start and we have that information to work with. We have done all the testing we can do, so I am happy that race weekend is coming.
“All the anticipation and excitement is there but we do not have to wait long now. I am looking forward to the lights going out on race day,” he added.
“Definitely, this is the best position we have ever been in at the start of a season.”
Aussie legend Troy Bayliss will make a sensational World Superbike return after being drafted into the Aruba.it Racing Ducati team as a replacement for Davide Giugliano, who was injured during a crash in testing on Monday,
Triple WSBK champion Bayliss last rode the Ducati Panigale during a test at Mugello last year but has unrivalled experience of Phillip Island and could spring a few surprises.
Red Devils Aprilia rider Jordi Torres is another rider worth keeping an eye on after the series rookie impressed during testing, with Rea’s team-mate Tom Sykes and Leon Haslam on the second Aprilia RSV4 also gunning for the top step.