Rea sealed a landmark 100th victory at the corresponding round in 2021, winning two races and claiming a runner-up finish to begin the season on a high.
The Kawasaki rider has fired a warning shot across the bows of his rivals after leading the times during the final two-day test at Aragon on Monday and Tuesday, while Rea also set the pace on Friday in free practice on his Ninja ZX-10RR by 0.3s from Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Ducati), with reigning champion Toprak Razgatlioglu third.
After seeing his record-breaking run of six successive World Superbike crowns halted by Turkey’s Razgatlioglu last year, the Ulster rider is bidding to regain the number one plate with a seventh title triumph in 2022.
Only 13 points separated the championship’s top two when the campaign concluded last November at the new Mandalika circuit in Indonesia, and another epic duel appears to be in prospect after Rea and Pata Yamaha sensation Razgatlioglu took centre stage during the winter tests.
For Rea, the opening rounds on the calendar present an opportunity for the 35-year-old to steal an early march on the reigning champion, with Assen in the Netherlands – a favourite hunting ground of Rea’s – hosting round two from April 22-24.
“There are so many riders that are capable of fighting for victories, fighting for championships and that’s what makes it exciting – that’s what keeps Superbikes exciting for not just the fans, but the riders as well,” said Rea.
“I’m so excited to go out there and fight with everybody and see where we can be, and of course the objective is to try and win.
“It’s a nice track and I really enjoy riding here in Aragon. I’ve had mixed results all through my career here but last year picking up that 100th Superbike win was a nice moment to start the year.
“If we can start this season in similar fashion, that would be incredible and just try to have a solid weekend, get as many points on the board as possible and then move on,” he added.
“I feel ready to race.”
Bautista, an old sparring partner of Rea’s who was in contention for the title in 2019, could emerge as the biggest challenger to the championship favourites after making the move back to Ducati from Honda.
He replaces Scott Redding in the factory squad, who will spearhead BMW Motorrad’s assault this year.
Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Ducati) plus Razgatlioglu’s Yamaha team-mate Andrea Locatelli, Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team) and the USA’s Garrett Gerloff (GRT Yamaha) are also leading contenders, while new HRC Honda men Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge could be dark horses.
Eugene Laverty is another rider who will be keen to make his mark after a nightmare season last year, when he was left without a ride after the RC Squadra Corse BMW team pulled out before the fifth round due to internal issues.
Laverty was handed a lifeline in the Bonovo Action BMW team and admits he will have to deliver if he’s to retain his seat.
Race one takes place on Saturday at 13:00 BST with the Superpole race on Sunday at 10:00 BST and race two at 13:00 BST.