Rea weathers storm in World title quest
Jonathan Rea predicted storms and inclement weather in Malaysia for this weekend's 10th round of the World Superbike Championship, and that's exactly what forced the Ulsterman to sit out yesterday's second free practice session.
The 28-year-old factory Kawasaki rider, who has one hand already on this year's title thanks to a massive 125 point lead, was third fastest in the opening session behind Italian Max Biaggi - making another wildcard appearance for Aprilia - with Welsh ace Chaz Davies third on the Aruba.it Ducati.
Rea's factory Kawasaki team-mate and closest rival in the championship Tom Sykes was fourth quickest in FP1, with the heavily depleted wet FP2 session headed by Davies - a double winner last time out at Laguna Seca - with fellow Brits Alex Lowes (Suzuki) and Leon Haslam (Aprilia) second and third.
Rea can mathematically win the title this weekend, should he leave the Sepang circuit with at least a 151-point lead over Sykes.
In the British Superbike Championship, Newtownards-based Aussie Josh Brookes led the way yesterday at Thruxton during the early sessions.
Brookes was a double winner last time out at Brands Hatch, and with rumours circulating that his Milwaukee Yamaha team have not been chosen to represent the Japanese manufacturer next season in World Superbike, he will be looking for more of the same to put himself in the shop window.
It was a tough opening day at Thruxton for local team Tyco BMW, with Tommy Bridewell (18th) and Michael Laverty (24th) totally out of sorts.
In the British Supersport class, Carrick's Glenn Irwin was third quickest in the FP2 session and near neighbour Andy Reid in seventh.
Reid enjoyed two podium finishes during the last round at Brands Hatch with his TTC Yamaha squad, and is hoping for something similar this weekend.
"Brands was an awesome weekend for us and I want to try and build the momentum from there and carry that on into Thruxton this weekend," said the talented racer and Tattoo artist.
Looking ahead to the fast-flowing Thruxton circuit layout, he added: "The R6 handles the track very well at Thruxton and it suits our bike because we seem to have a little bit more top speed than the Triumphs do, but they have a lot of grunt out of the corners, so it kind of levels things out.
"In saying that, it's a really fast and fun circuit to ride and always seems to throw up some really great battles.
"Points make prizes and after missing out at Knockhill I really needed those two solid thirds at Brands to make up some ground.
"I'll be aiming high again this weekend to reduce the deficit further."
Reid currently holds sixth place in the championship standings after the first six rounds with Gearlink Kawasaki-mounted Irwin third in the Supersport class.
Another pair of Ulstermen fighting for a British title this year are Ballinamallard's Josh Elliott and Carrick's Alastair Seeley.
The 21-year-old Elliott is the current leader of the Pirelli National 1000cc Superstock class, but with just 22 points separating the duo, this weekend should produce another epic battle.
British Superbike qualifying takes place at 4pm, followed by the 12-lap British Supersport Sprint Race.
An intriguing full race programme will follow tomorrow afternoon.