WSBK: Champion-elect Jonathan Rea makes perfect start in France

Jonathan Rea set the fastest time during free practice at Magny-Cours in France on Friday.
Jonathan Rea set the fastest time during free practice at Magny-Cours in France on Friday.

Jonathan Rea made the perfect start to his record World Superbike title quest at Magny-Cours in France after setting the top time in free practice on Friday.

The Kawasaki rider set the early pace in FP1 with a lap of 1m 32.202s, which was under the lap record and ensured he remained at the head of the time sheets for the rest of the day.

His team-mate, Tom Sykes, was second fastest - 0.2 seconds behind - with Alex Lowes slotting into third on the combined times on the PATA Yamaha with a lap in 1m 37.489s.

Yorkshireman Sykes was fastest in FP2 from Lorenzo Savadori (Milwaukee Aprilia) and Rea, although the Ulster rider capped a strong opening day as he returned to the top of the pile in FP3, going close to his earlier benchmark with a lap in 1m 32.208s.

Rea’s main title rival, Chaz Davies, was down in seventh place overall, half-a-second in arrears.

Eugene Laverty was 11th fastest in the combined results from day one on the Milwaukee Aprilia, six tenths back on Rea’s fastest lap.

The final free practice session on Saturday morning will be followed by Superpole, with race one scheduled for 12:00 BST.

Rea holds an advantage of 116 points over Davies and is on the brink of a record fourth consecutive World Superbike crown, which would put him level with England’s Carl Fogarty on the all-time winners’ roll of honour.