Belfast Telegraph

Rea and Laverty are poles apart after opening test in Oz

By Paul Lindsay

Ulstermen Jonathan Rea and Eugene Laverty had contrasting fortunes during day one of a two-day test at Phillip Island yesterday, prior to the opening round of the 2017 World Superbike season this weekend at the Australian venue.

Reigning World champion Rea took his factory Kawasaki to second place on the timing screens during day one, which saw inclement weather heavily punctuate the sessions that were eventually headed by Xavi Forés on the privately-run Barni Racing Team Ducati.

The Spaniard's time was some 0.4 seconds quicker than Rea, with former 250 Grand Prix World champion Marco Melandri - who is making a return to the WSB series in 2017 - third on the factory-backed Aruba.it Ducati.

After an early and positive session in the wet, however, Laverty struggled to find the form that has taken him to two career wins at Phillip Island and finished the opening day of the test in 14th place. More worryingly, he was over two seconds down on the pole time.

The 30-year-old Monaco-based ace still has a lot of work to do before Saturday's opening race, and with just two more days of track time before Superpole qualifying, the normally mild-mannered Laverty could be in for a few sleepless nights.

The Toome ace said of his opening day: "We didn't get much time on track due to the weather, and that hurt us a little bit. We've been working with our Portimao (the Portuguese track where he last rode the UK-based Milwaukee Aprilia of SMR Racing) set-up.

"So we have a number of things to work through ahead of this weekend. We need to focus on making the bike work better around here on day two of the test (today), and hopefully we'll have good weather to do that.

"I'm confident the guys will find some performance from the bike, and I'm looking forward to getting back on it again."

Josh Brookes, the 2015 British Superbike champion who has raised over $100,000AU (£61,625) to race his former British Championship-winning machine in a one-off appearance at his home venue, was 16th on day one, but the hard-charging Aussie is expecting more in the days ahead.

Testing resumes in the early hours of this morning at the 4.44-mile Phillip Island circuit, where Laverty will be looking for some form of mechanical inspiration from his factory Aprilia technicians as the opening race of the 2017 campaign looms large.

Belfast Telegraph

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