Jonathan Rea prepared for season-long World Superbike title fight
Reigning champion Jonathan Rea expects this year’s World Superbike title battle to go right down to the wire.
The Kawasaki Racing Team rider will kick-start his bid to seal a magnificent seventh successive world crown in anger on Friday, as free practice for the opening round of the series commences at Motorland Aragon in Spain.
Rea has been in fine form throughout pre-season testing on his new ZX-10RR Ninja machine and the 34-year-old is prepared for a season-long scrap in his quest to retain the title he has made his own since 2015.
“I think it’s like 2020 – just expect the unexpected,” said Rea, who is also on the brink of a milestone 100th WSBK career victory this weekend.
“There were a lot of race winners last season, seven different guys winning races, and I expect the championship to go to the last round, with a lot of competition.
“I expect unpredictability but together with my team, we will do the best job that we can in 2021.”
Rea threw down the gauntlet in his final pre-season test at Aragon, dipping under the pole lap record, but the steely Northern Ireland man says the real business begins this weekend.
“We did quite a lot of private tests when many of our rivals weren’t there, so it will be interesting to see where we stand when we are all on track together at Motorland,” Rea said.
“I don’t like to pick names because it can be disrespectful and you can leave guys out, but I think the main threat will come from Ducati, inside the Ducati box.
“Whether that’s the satellite bike of Chaz (Davies) or the factory bikes of (Michael Ruben) Rinaldi or (Scott) Redding, you never know - anything can happen.”
Rea and team-mate Alex Lowes have an improved package from Kawasaki at their disposal this season, with the latest ZX-10RR featuring engine, chassis and aerodynamics enhancements.
The extra speed is a welcome benefit for Rea, but he is mindful that Kawasaki’s rival manufacturers will also have made progress during the off season.
“I feel good with the bike and we have some improvements this season, with the engine and different aerodynamics, but whether that will completely bridge the gap to the Ducatis on speed we will have to wait and see,” he told the News Letter.
“The other manufacturers will have made steps as well so it will be nice to be on track with everyone together at Motorland and see where we stand.”
Last year, World Superbike newcomer Scott Redding emerged as Rea’s chief challenger after he joined the Aruba.it Ducati team following his British Superbike title triumph in 2019.
Redding proved a worthy contender during the condensed seven round championship, which was run predominantly in Europe due to the coronavirus pandemic, and is likely to prove the biggest threat again.
Rea’s team-mate Lowes, Redding’s new Ducati team-mate, Michael Ruben Rinaldi; Pata Yamaha’s Toprak Razgatlioglu; HRC’s Alex Lowes and Leon Haslam; BMW Motorrad’s Tom Sykes and Michael van der Mark and American Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha) are among the opposition.
Welshman Chaz Davies will also be out to prove a point on the Team Go Eleven Ducati, while Co Antrim’s Eugene Laverty is targeting a return to the rostrum after joining BMW satellite team RC Squadra Corse.
The first free practice sessions take place on Friday followed by final qualifying and the first race (13:00 BST) on Saturday.
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