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Jonathan striving to keep his hat-trick bid in top gear

By Paul Lindsay

Motorland Aragon in northern Spain will offer up the next challenge for Northern Ireland's reigning double World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea and his factory Kawasaki team this weekend, during round three of the 2017 season.

Rea's immaculate start to his hat-trick bid, taking four wins from four starts, has seen him rack up a perfect 100 points from the opening races in Australia and Thailand.

He also scorched to pole position in qualifying at both venues, but now in Europe, Aragon will present a whole new challenge for the ZX-10RR Kawasaki-mounted, No.1 plate holder.

Since being introduced to the World Superbike calendar back in 2011, five different riders and as many different manufacturers have tasted success at the 5km circuit.

Rea himself was a winner in 2015, but if he's to keep his 100 per cent record intact he will have to produce two more faultless performances.

But as the Isle of Man-based Ulsterman explained, it will not be a straightforward task. The circuit has been known to suit rival team Ducati, and especially Welshman and title hopeful Chaz Davies, who has won the last three races there.

"I've always enjoyed racing at Motorland Aragon and I've had one win there, but it has never been one of my strongest venues. I'm looking forward to the challenge and taking our current form there this weekend," said Rea, who, after a lengthy spell in Australia over the winter period, is delighted to be back racing in Europe, where his wife Tatia and sons Jake and Tyler can again join him trackside.

"After the two flyaway rounds it was nice to get home and back into some domestic normality, especially with the kids.

"I have also enjoyed a few days out riding motocross, so I have been having a really nice time away from the racetrack, but now it's back to work for round three."

After some solid testing at the Alcaniz-based circuit over the winter with his Kawasaki Racing Team, and having shown just how much he is at home aboard the Japanese manufacturer's evolutionary ZX-10RR, do not be surprised if the 30-year-old's imperious form continues during round three.

"Our first winter test was held there in November and we seemed to have a really good steer on things back then," said Rea, who further explained his love for the new 'green machine', which he is currently riding with immeasurable confidence.

"I enjoy riding the Ninja ZX-10RR and it seems like we have been in the ballpark at two different circuits this year in Phillip Island and Chang International.

"I'm now excited and intrigued to get under way at Motorland to see where we stack up."

While Rea will be looking to maintain his Championship lead at the very least, and potentially add to his 42 career wins and 92 podiums in the Superbike series this weekend, spare a thought for Eugene Laverty, who could do with a solid weekend with Milwaukee Aprilia.

The Monaco-based Ulsterman has been dogged with mechanical problems and set-up issues during the opening two rounds aboard the Italian factory's all-new RSV-4 RF machine, and will be hoping Aragon is just the tonic his team needs to get their season fired into life.

Practice for round three gets under way on Friday morning, with the all-important races on Saturday and Sunday.

Both are scheduled to begin at 12pm UK time.

Belfast Telegraph

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