Jonathan Rea hails dream start at Phillip Island

Kawasaki rider Jonathan Rea clinched pole position at Phillip Island
Kawasaki rider Jonathan Rea clinched pole position at Phillip Island

Jonathan Rea made the perfect start to his Kawasaki career as the Northern Ireland rider clinched pole position for the opening round of the World Superbike Championship at Phillip Island in Australia.

Rea put the factory ZX-10R in the premier position on the front row in a dramatic Superpole qualifying session, which was halted with around five minutes remaining when Spaniard David Salom suffered a nasty-looking crash on the Pedercini Kawasaki.

Salom was treated at trackside following a heavy high-side but it later transpired that he had escaped serious injury, sustaining a fractured finger and concussion.

However, the session was declared a result, giving Rea - who has joined 2013 champion Tom Sykes at Kawasaki after an almost-career long association with Honda - the pole spot after a lap in 1m 32.212s.

Welsh rider Chaz Davies was second fastest for the Ducati WSBK team, only 0.026s behind, with Leon Haslam completing an all-British front row on the Red Devils Aprilia RSV4.

Rea, who finished third overall last year in the championship, is aiming for his maiden rostrum finish at Phillip Island on Sunday.

“It was a strange way to end the session. From my point of view we did a good job with a race tyre in the high temperatures and the Kawasaki is working very well,” said Rea.

“We made a good set-up breakthrough in free practice four. I am really happy with pole position because it is the best possible result from qualifying.

“I also wanted the chance to use the qualifying tyre, however, because I know the Kawasaki uses the ‘Q’ tyres very well too, so the lap time could have been quite good. But this is still the best possible result for me after Superpole.”

The series rookies fared impressively, with World Supersport champion Michael van der Mark fourth quickest on the Pata Honda as he heads up row two from Voltcom Crescent Suzuki’s Alex Lowes and newcomer Nicol Terol on the Althea Ducati.

Jordi Torres, another exciting rookie, was seventh fastest on the second of the Red Devils Aprilia machines followed by Yorkshireman Sykes and current world champion Sylvain Guintoli, who has switched to Pata Honda after clinching the title for Aprilia last year.

Matteo Baiocco (Althea Ducati), the injured David Salom and Barni Ducati rider Tati Mercado qualified on the fourth row of the grid.

Australian star Troy Bayliss, who is standing in for the injured Davide Giugliano in the Aruba Ducati team, was 14th fastest as he returns to World Superbikes for the first time since 2008.

The three-time champion qualified ahead of Britain’s Leon Camier, who is riding for MV Agusta.

Bayliss was involved in a big crash during FP4 but luckily walked away unharmed and the 45-year-old remains confident of sealing a solid result in Sunday’s two 22-lap races.

“Today was certainly an improvement over yesterday. I’ve had time to get some good laps in and felt a lot better on the bike,” Bayliss said.

“I did have a crash in the free practice, it was a big high-side but I landed ok and was fortunately unhurt.

“I’m confident that we’ll be able to make further improvement tomorrow. The high temperatures forecast for tomorrow will definitely be a factor but it’s the same for everyone so we’ll just have to see what we can do.”

The first race is at 1am on Sunday (UK time) with race two at 3.40am.