Jonathan Rea out to shine in front of home fans
Jonathan Rea made a strong start to his preparations for this weekend’s British round of the World Superbike Championship on Friday at Donington Park.
The 34-year-old was second fastest after the first two free practice sessions, only three tenths down on impressive American rider Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha), who was making his debut at the Leicestershire circuit.
Title rival Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha) slotted into third, 0.2s further back, with Rea’s Kawasaki team-mate Alex Lowes next ahead of Scott Redding (Aruba.it Ducati) and factory BMW rider Tom Sykes as British riders filled four of the top six places.
Rea’s lead at the top of the championship was cut to 20 points by Razgatlioglu at round three of the series at Misano last month, where the Ulsterman finished third in all three races on the new ZX-10RR.
However, six-time champion Rea is determined to capitalise at Donington this weekend, where he clinched a dominant hat-trick in 2019.
“In 2019 it was a great year for me to do my first ‘triple’ at Donington and it’s a track that’s got everything, really nice fast-flowing changes of direction, the stop-go area in the last section and plenty of overtaking areas, so it’s a track I really enjoy and it suits our Ninja ZX-10RR,” he said.
“As far as the championship goes, they look like the guys that can string it together most weekends, or who’ve been the most consistent if you look at the championship positions.
“But it’s really early to start to think about the championship and even myself, we were very strong at the opening round, but at Misano I just wasn’t quite there to compete for the win, although we were very close in all three races,” added Rea, who revealed he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in April to cure a niggling injury.
“So it’s about trying to maximise our opportunities when they come and Donington is a good place to try to get back to winning ways and then we move into a busy summer, so we’re looking to try and take all the profit we can at these strong rounds for us.”
A limited crowd of 4,000 fans will be in attendance this weekend and Rea has welcomed the return of spectators after the British round was cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 impact, even if he would much rather be racing in front of a capacity crowd.
“The most notable thing here is that we have fans trackside and whilst I’m super-saddened that we can’t have a full attendance – as I know how much the British motorcycle fans want to be here – we have some fans.
“I’m happy for them but also sad for the people that can’t come,” he said.
“But I hope to put on a good show for everyone and it’s home race for many of the British riders and I’m sure we’ll give the fans something to shout about come Saturday and Sunday.
“It’s home race for many of the British riders and I’m sure we’ll give the fans something to shout about come Saturday and Sunday.”
Eugene Laverty was 19th overall after encountering technical issues with his RC Squadra Corse BMW.
The first race is scheduled for 14:00 on Saturday, with the Superpole race and race two at 11:00 and 14:00 respectively on Sunday.
Also this weekend, the second round of the National Superstock 600 Championship will be held on the support card at Donington, when Randalstown’s Eugene McManus and Simon Reid from Banbridge will be in action in three races.