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World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea keen to strengthen his title advantage

By Paul Lindsay

Published 29/04/2016

Out in front: World champion Jonathan Rea has already reached 181 points in the opening four rounds of his title defence
Out in front: World champion Jonathan Rea has already reached 181 points in the opening four rounds of his title defence

World Superbike champion and current series leader Jonathan Rea will be looking to extend the gap at the top of the standings this weekend at Imola.

Round five of the WSB championship takes place at the famous Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit in Italy.

Leading the standings with a tally of 181 points from a possible 200, Rea has finished every race on the podium with his factory Kawasaki team and having posted a double last time out at Assen in the Netherlands, he is the man to beat around the 4.9km Italian circuit.

The Isle of Man-based Ulsterman has clearly made a strong start to his title defence, but feels there is more to come from Kawasaki's all-new ZX-10R.

Having won the last four World Superbike races at Imola, and taking the incremental improvements with his new machine into consideration, it looks like a daunting prospect for his rivals tomorrow and Sunday.

"I have always been really lucky to receive a great reception from the Italian fans," said Rea who is much admired wherever he goes these days.

"I enjoy riding at Imola. The culture, the food, the parkland track itself; everything seems almost perfect and the layout is like the tracks I grew up on in the British Superbike Championship.

"In the past I have had some good results at Imola and some memorable race wins. We had an amazing weekend at Assen extending our championship at the last round, but it is back to business this weekend.

"Our target at every round is always to trying to improve our championship position.

"It is not just Imola, but these next three races are important because the races are week-on/week-off. We must remain healthy throughout and score points. The key to the weekend now is the set-up. We have seen how critical it has been in Aragon and also Assen."

Closer to home, the KDM Hire Cookstown 100 gets under way today with practice and qualifying. Local team Cookstown B.E Racing will be a big draw with leading contenders in the Superbike, Supersport and Supertwin classes with Dubliner Derek Sheils and new kid on the block Malachi Mitchell-Thomas.

Roads close today at 12pm for practice and a four-race programme. Roads close tomorrow for a packed 15-race programme from 10am.

Belfast Telegraph

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