All systems go with Rea out to land historic third title in a row
After an intense winter break which included a plethora of PR duties on both sides of the Atlantic - after landing his second consecutive World Superbike title - reigning champion Jonathan Rea is now all set to again defend his crown.
Rea will be bidding to land a coveted third consecutive title in 2017 - a feat that has never been achieved in the history of the global Superbike series.
Having topped all the pre-season time-sheets, which included a window of opportunity before Christmas to also overshadow a few MotoGP regulars who got the chance to share the same track as the factory Kawasaki World Superbike star at Jerez, it's now all systems go for the Ballyclare lad who is back in his adopted home at Phillip Island in Australia, where the first round of the 2017 WSB season takes place in just a fortnight's time.
Having recently turned 30, Rea's last bit of public relations before the lights go out for round one was in Barcelona at the Cine Comedia, where he was joined by his team-mate Tom Sykes and KHI (Kawasaki Heavy Industries) top brass, to launch the all new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR KRT race bike which was also sporting the colours of team partners Motocard, Elf Total and Monster Energy.
Speaking at the launch, Rea said: "It is really nice that every year KRT really pull out all the stops for our team launch.
"The last few years it has been in beautiful iconic spots in Barcelona and again this year we are in this really cool cinema, pretty much in the heart of the city.
"It is always nice to jump into my new leathers, see the finished bike livery and have so many other people around to share in the excitement of a new season," he said.
"After celebrating the championship I have just re-focused on testing since then.
"We have had such a productive off-season and now I am excited for the year to start."
With the European winter testing season now complete the final pre-season tests will be the official organisers' two-day event, on February 20 and 21 at Phillip Island. Only a few days later the new season will begin, with the first two race days unfolding on Saturday February 25 and Sunday February 26.
The championship will take on a whole new dynamic in 2017 with the introduction of some new names and the return of a few familiar faces, most notably former runner-up in the series Eugene Laverty.
After two seasons in MotoGP the Monaco-based Ulsterman returns to World Superbikes, where he will be gunning for title success with British-based team Milwaukee Aprilia.
The 30-year-old who has won 13 World Superbike races in his career to date, will undoubtedly be one of Rea's main rivals this season.
l TOOME man Laverty outlines his aspirations for the World Superbike season ahead in tomorrow's Belfast Telegraph, and also tells us, why he believes he can win on the opening weekend in Australia.