Jonathan Rea warmed up for Saturday's opening World Superbike race at Magny-Cours with a strong performance in the wet in free practice.
Rea topped the times in FP2, which was held in extremely wet conditions. The Ulster rider was seventh overall on the combined times from the opening day after FP1 was held on a slightly drier track at the French circuit.
An improved forecast is predicted ahead of Saturday's first race (13:00 BST), when Rea will be aiming to stretch his advantage at the top of the standings.
He currently leads Spain’s Alvaro Bautista by 91 points and has his first mathematical chance of securing a record fifth consecutive world crown, but it is more likely that Rea will have to wait until the penultimate round in Argentina or the final round of 2019 in Qatar next month to be confirmed as the champion once again.
After a testing first day at Magny-Cours, Rea said: “Overall I am happy with the day because normally with the forecast to be clear tomorrow, and Sunday being even hotter, it is hard to be fully focused on building a set-up.
“We changed some things with the engine brake settings and we just needed to confirm them in the wet. This morning I was not so happy and this afternoon we worked to confirm something a bit better in the set-up.
“The bike is behaving a little bit different to how it has in the past in the wet, especially in how I am loading the front,” he added.
“If we should face any more wet weather over the weekend we need to work on stopping the bike in the last part of braking. But I was happy to be fast in full wet conditions.
“This morning there was a dry line coming up near the end so a lot of people went fast right at the end. It was a positive day.”
The 32-year-old emerged unscathed after a small slip off in FP1, with title rival Bautista also crashing out in the morning session unhurt.
Rea had a bigger scare in FP2, when he lost the rear of his Kawasaki at Estoril corner. Fortunately, he managed to regain control before going on to set the fastest afternoon time.
Dutchman Michael van der Mark was fastest overall based on his time in a damp FP1 session on the Pata Yamaha, which left him 0.2 seconds clear of Rea’s team-mate, Leon Haslam. Italy’s Marco Melandri was third quickest on the GRT Yamaha, almost eight tenths slower than van der Mark. Eugene Laverty was 10th on the Team Go Eleven Ducati in FP1.
Van der Mark said: “The podium is our goal. This is a track where I always have a good feeling, good results and also good memories so our goal is to fight for the podium.
“This morning, even though the conditions weren’t really great, I felt really good with the bike straight away so this is promising for the rest of the weekend.”
In the afternoon, Rea set the pace in very wet conditions on the Ninja ZX-10RR by 0.2 seconds from Tom Sykes (BMW Motorrad), with Haslam third fastest ahead of Ryuichi Kiyonari (Moriwaki Althea Honda).
The Superpole race is scheduled for 10:00 BST tomorrow with the second race following at 13:00 BST.