Rea is flying as he tests new bike ahead of title hat-trick bid
Reigning World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea has been involved in a PR roadshow since claiming his second successive title in Qatar last month.
The Isle of Man-based Ballyclare father of two has been in Italy and California to launch the all-new Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR with team-mate Tom Sykes, and stopped off in Spain earlier this week to test the bike that he hopes will deliver a third consecutive World Superbike crown in 2017.
The 5.077km Motorland Aragon circuit hosted the two-day test session for the official Kawasaki Racing Team with Rea fastest and Sykes second on the unofficial timesheets.
Speaking of Kawasaki's updated ZX-10RR and the test, which will be his penultimate piece of on-track action in 2016, Rea - whose best time of 1min 49.8sec was well under the official race lap record of 1min 50.421sec - explained: "The bike was working quite well here and the track was in quite good condition on both days."
Recounting his winter test in the Spanish sunshine, which was conducted on black liveried machinery and leathers, complete with winter testing icicle design, Rea - who will attend the SPARKS Action Medical Research gala black-tie dinner at the Culloden Hotel on December 9 as a star guest alongside John Surtees CBE - said: "We lost a bit of time on day one but on the second day we got really stuck into our test plan.
"Kawasaki have been working hard on the engine side of things and we also had some upgrades on the chassis to test, which were all really positive."
The test was set up for both riders to start making the transition from the 2016 machine to the upgraded 2017 ZX-10RR, which is effectively a polished version of the bike both Rea and Sykes spent this season developing into a World Championship-winning package - in fact, they delivered a one-two for Kawasaki in this year's World Superbike Championship. Speaking of the upgrades, the Ulsterman said: "Showa have been working well and brought a new shock and forks for us to try at Aragon.
"We are pretty happy and can continue our work on the suspension side when we go to Jerez next week. On the engine side of things, we have been much more consistent than we have ever been here with race tyres.
"We were able to do a lot of laps and it was a very encouraging test." Next up for Rea and Sykes is a second Spanish test, this time at Jerez de la Frontera, starting on Monday.
Four days of track action are planned in all, before both riders can finally start to plan their Christmas break, which for Rea will involve some warm weather down time with his family in Australia prior to the opening round of the 2017 season at Phillip Island in Oz in February.
Meanwhile, Carrickfergus ace Glenn Irwin started on the front row of the grid for today's 50th running of the Macau Grand Prix in the Far East after the rookie posted the third quickest time in qualifying.
Eight-time winner Michael Rutter (Bathams/SMT BMW) started favourite in today's 12-lap race, which got underway at 7.30am UK time. BMW ace Martin Jessopp started on pole after setting the fastest qualifying time.