Rea steps up pursuit of stunning title hat-trick
Jonathan Rea set the fastest time during yesterday's opening sessions for the third round of the World Superbike Championship at Motorland Aragon, leaving the reigning world champion in a great position to take his third straight pole position and fifth consecutive win of the season today.
With four wins from four starts so far in 2017, the 30-year-old factory Kawasaki rider was in confident form as he approached the second free practice session, having led the first.
A late fall of rain, in two short-lived showers, meant not every rider was able to improve their previous best times in the all-important final few minutes of free practice, but Rea and his KRT team-mate Sykes both managed to jump up as the session drew to a close.
Rea - chasing a world title hat-trick - has scored a perfect 100 points from the opening two rounds, and holds a 30-point championship lead coming into round three over nearest rival Chaz Davies of Ducati.
Of his first day in Spain, Rea said: "We did set-up and tyre checks and then a long run and a fast lap.
"That's how it worked out. We got up to speed quite fast and pretty much reached the limit of what we needed for the bike set-up. I don't think we've see the full picture of everybody's potential from day one, as I think Saturday's race can spring a few surprises. In saying that, I'm not thinking about the others - I am just trying to make things as good for myself as possible."
Fellow Ulsterman Eugene Laverty had a busy day verifying a number of upgrades on his Milwaukee Aprilia RSV4 RF, including a new engine specification and exhaust. After showing solid progress in pace over the day's two practice sessions, the Monaco-based Toome man was able to finish free practice two in ninth position, to reach the pole position shootout for the third consecutive round.
"It's nice to make it through to Superpole 2 again, especially when the rain started at the end of the second session and things got quite close," said Laverty.
"It's easy to get caught out in mixed conditions but we timed the tyre change right.
"In the morning we didn't make as much progress with the bike as I expected, but we made some changes in the afternoon and it improved quite a lot.
"Yes we've still got work to do, but there is reason to be optimistic for the rest of the weekend. We've got hopes for a top five finish and I think that's achievable if we have a good Superpole session."
Former 250cc Grand Prix champion Marco Melandri was second quickest in qualifying yesterday aboard his factory Ducati, just 0.099sec behind Rea, with his Welsh team-mate Chaz Davies fourth.
World Superbike race one takes place at Aragon today at 12pm, with race two tomorrow at the same time.
Ulster duo Glenn Irwin (Ducati) and Michael Laverty (Yamaha) finished eighth and 13th during yesterday's opening sessions at round one of the British Superbike Championship.
Topping the early sessions was circuit specialist Leon Haslam aboard his JG Speedfit Kawasaki.
His team-mate Luke Mossey continued the imperious form that he displayed during Spanish testing to post the second quickest time, just ahead of 2015 BSB champion Josh Brookes aboard his TAG Yamaha.