Rea faces late hurdle in World title defence
Reigning World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea will take in the opening race of the penultimate weekend of the 2016 championship today in Spain, with just one thing on his mind - to retain the title for his factory Kawasaki Racing Team.
The Isle of Man-based Ballyclare ace holds a 47-point lead going into this weekend's action at Jerez, and despite only posting the ninth fastest time during yesterday's free practice sessions, the 29-year-old remains philosophical prior to Superpole this morning, followed by the opening race at 12pm (UK time).
Speaking of his opening sessions, Rea said: "The last thing on my mind was Superpole. We changed the bike quite radically and it didn't really work. We are suffering quite a lot with traction control interference at this circuit. We need to analyse what that is and pull the rabbit out of the hat in Superpole."
Rea's team-mate and main rival Tom Sykes is not prepared to let the Ulsterman retain his crown without a fight. The 2013 champion set the fastest time at Jerez in the WSB class, with Welshman Chaz Davies keeping him honest in second place aboard the aruba.it Ducati.
Closer to home, 13-year-old Scott Swann, who has just completed a dream year in the Santander Consumer Finance KTM British Junior Cup, taking third place overall, will now turn his attention to the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup selection in Spain next week.
The Carrickfergus College student will be joined at the three-day test in Spain by Monkstown schoolboy Aaron Wright (15), - who won this season's KTM British Junior Cup at his second attempt - where they will pit their skills against 114 other hopefuls from the four corners of the globe.
This is a similar series that current World Superbike champion Rea and Ducati MotoGP star Eugene Laverty applied for to start their careers which, with the support of Red Bull, has taken both Ulstermen to the very top.
The strength of the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies selection process was again manifest this season when a former rookie won the Moto3 world title, and with last year's Moto2 World champion Johann Zarco - himself a former Rookie - set to move to MotoGP, the summit of world motorcycling.
Whittled down from thousands of applicants, the 116 riders selected to test will be on track at Guadix in Spain on October 18, 19 and 20.
Speaking of the opportunity, Scott Swann, who also recently competed in the KTM RC Cup World Final in the Netherlands, said: "I know it is going to be really difficult and almost impossible to get picked, as there are so many good young riders coming from all over the world.
"But we will have a go and give it our best shot," smiled the baby-faced young man from Maghermorne, near Larne.