Jonathan Rea signs off dream 2016 on a high at Jerez

World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea
World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea

Back-to-back World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea ended 2016 in sensational style as the Ulster rider topped the times during testing at Jerez, dipping under MotoGP star Valentino Rossi’s pole lap from April at the Spanish circuit

Rea, who captured his second successive world crown in Qatar last month, set his best lap on Thursday in 1m 38.721s to lead the way by four tenths from Ducati’s Chaz Davies.

However, he also outgunned the MotoGP riders participating in the private test, with new Aspar Ducati signing Alvaro Bautista slotting into second place on the time sheets, a quarter-of-a-second in arrears.

Rea set his fastest time using a Pirelli qualifying tyre but regardless, it was a stunning effort by the 29-year-old, who certainly caused a stir at Jerez and gave his World Superbike rivals plenty to think about heading into the winter break.

Poor weather blighted the final day of the test yesterday, but Rea achieved his aims and is already full of confidence for his defence of the title in 2017.

“It has been a very successful test with three days of very consistent weather. We also got a morning of wet conditions in which we confirmed a few things, especially a new Showa rear shock,” he said.

“We did two race simulations on Thursday that we were very happy with. We can go into the winter in great shape and with a lot of confidence for next season.

“Having the new Ninja ZX-10RR has let us fix some of our weaker points, as our engine is a little bit stronger than before, with some extra RPM. That is always an added bonus,” Rea said.

“We can be optimistic for 2017. Looking back on 2016 it has been an incredible year to finish off here with a successful test.

“I want to say thanks to all my team and all my crew, everyone inside KRT and KHI for these last few days.”

Rea evaluated a new specification chassis and engine parts for the new ZX-10RR and had two bikes to test, allowing him to complete important back-to-back comparisons.

His team-mate, Tom Sykes, set his best lap in 1m 34.961s to end the test as the third fastest World Superbike rider behind Rea and Davies, slotting into fifth overall when MotoGP riders Alvaro Bautista and Loris Baz were factored into the equation.

The Kawasaki team’s next winter test will be held from January 24 before Rea takes time out of his busy schedule to jet into Belfast for the annual Cornmarket Irish Motorcyclist of the Year Awards.

The glamorous biking bash is the biggest night on the Irish motorcycling calendar and Rea is an overwhelming favourite to lift the famous Joey Dunlop trophy for the second year running.

The event will take place at the Ramada Plaza Hotel on Friday, January 24, where Rea is guaranteed to receive a hero’s welcome in front of an appreciative home crowd.