Belfast Telegraph

World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea: I can take my bid to retain the title up a gear

By Paul Lindsay

Reigning World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea had a dream start to the defence of his crown a fortnight ago, posting a faultless double victory at Phillip Island in Australia.

Now the Ballyclare ace and his factory Kawasaki team are looking to extend their 14-point championship lead in the second round of 2016 action at the Chang International circuit in Thailand this weekend.

The Isle of Man-based racer took pole position, won both inaugural World Superbike races and set the fastest laps in both for Kawasaki in Thailand 12 months ago.

This will no doubt inspire confidence heading into race one, which takes places as part of the new WSB schedule on Saturday morning (UK time 9am) - straight after Superpole for the Superbike and Supersport classes, which get under way at 6.30am and 7.30am respectively.

Having taken in a friend's wedding and enjoyed some quality family time in Bali before meeting up and having dinner with Kawasaki Thailand employees, a relaxed Rea said: "Going to Thailand off the back of an incredible start to the season, with a double win in Australia, just gives me a lot of satisfaction and motivation as well."

Looking ahead and with the new rules firmly implemented into his team's pre-race psyche, he added: "Friday is the most important day to understand the set-up because on Saturday we go racing with the new schedule.

"This means we have a little bit of a different strategy for our race weekends.

"We were quite lucky in Phillip Island with our pre-event tests, so in Thailand we need to make sure we can plan the weekend carefully.

"Hopefully, come Saturday and Sunday, we can have two good results again."

Rea seems to be enhancing his reputation every time he throws his leg over the Kawasaki Racing Team's ZX10-R; his victories at Phillip Island raised his career win tally in WSB to 31, which puts him equal with American Colin Edwards, the former MotoGP star who also took two World Superbike titles during his career.

It leaves Rea joint-fifth in the overall World Superbike race win table, which is headed up on 51 by four-time WSB champion Carl Fogarty, who will be the guest of honour at this year's Vauxhall International North West 200 in May.

Speaking of the North West 200, a number of its leading contenders decided to leave the cold UK weather behind last week, taking in the Spanish sunshine at various venues - Cartagena, Almeria and Guadix.

Alastair Seeley, the joint-record 15-time winner who will be gunning for the overall record this year, was making his first appearance with the RAF Reserves BMW team at Cartagena, which also saw 11-time TT winner Ian Hutchinson debut his Tyco BMW machinery, with Peter Hickman (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) and Dan Kneen (Mar-Train Racing) also onboard their new machinery for 2016 for the first time.

Michael Dunlop was out on Buildbase BMW bikes, posting some impressive laps times in between running in engines and perfecting set-up, as was Yeovil's Martin Jessopp - still the fastest man ever around the Triangle at a staggering 208mph back in 2012.

Both Kneen and Seeley suffered crashes at the Spanish circuit; thankfully both were able to continue, relatively unscathed.

Belfast Telegraph


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