Jonathan Rea fired up to take on the world
Pata Honda World Superbike star Jonathan Rea will celebrate his 27th birthday on Sunday just three weeks before the opening race of the 2014 WSB season at Phillip Island in Australia on February 23.
It will be Rea's sixth straight season in the Superbike class with the Dutch-based Ten Kate squad.
But the Ulsterman is under no illusions how difficult the task will be to unsettle the factory backed Aprilia and Kawasaki teams this term – as he looks to better his best finish of fourth overall which he achieved back in 2010.
Speaking en route to his home in the Isle of Man, prior to next week's final European test at Jerez before heading back Down Under – where he spent the winter with his wife Tatia and their new son Jake – Rea explained: "We are definitely in better shape.
"Last year at the start of the season we were in no shape to challenge for podiums at the start of the season.
"We are in a much stronger position and the boys have worked pretty hard during the winter break," Rea explained.
Recounting the positives from a recent test in Portugal, he added: "At Portimao I felt that the electronics package is now at quite a good level compared to where we finished off last year.
"We did a lot of work in five days, but it's one of those situations where we don't know how the new regulations will affect others – but we don't expect the factory teams to take a step back," said Rea (right).
The new regulations will restrict teams to just eight sealed engines during the 2014 season, which if paddock rumours are true, could affect the factory backed efforts of Kawasaki and Aprilia the most.
Both were reputed to be using three engines per weekend in 2013 – which equates to a crazy figure of around 40 for the whole season per rider.
Anyone requiring additional engines in 2014 will be forced to start from the back of the grid for two individual races. A price cap has also been introduced on suspension and brakes and teams will be restricted in the use of gearbox ratios and will also be forced to use homologated standard airboxes.
It all sounds very technical, but if policed correctly, I asked Rea, will it give the privately entered teams like his Ten Kate Honda effort, a better chance of running at the front on a regular basis?
"Hopefully we can be pretty close to the front. I've never ever doubted my ability. I know last year I didn't have the best package to go out and win, which is frustrating, but over the years I've learned to accept that if I give one hundred per cent it's all I can do," he said.
"It can be frustrating when you see how easy it is for others but world championships aren't dished out for free – you have to work hard to win them no matter what bike you are on. But, yes, hopefully the new rules will be beneficial."
After breaking his femur last September at Nurburgring in Germany, the Ballyclare lad has worked tirelessly to get back to full fitness, but accepts there's always a bit of doubt about how well you have recovered until you have that first crash.
He said: "I'm always worried about that first big crash after coming back from injury, but the leg is in good shape. I've just spent a few days with my fitness trainer Darren Roberts and my level is really good – probably as good as it has been going into any season. So we're good to go."