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Rea getting ready to rock the world

Jonathan Rea

Jonathan Rea has set his sights on winning what he freely acknowledges will be a supremely difficult FIM Superbike World Championship.

The 23-year-old from Ballyclare knows some of his toughest competition will come from the other six British riders who are contesting the 13-round series which gets under way at Phillip Island in Australia this weekend.

Four British riders finished in the top nine of the standings last season and Rea, the highest placed in fifth, aims to begin in winning fashion during Sunday's opening two races.

The Hannspree Ten Kate Honda rider said: “My aim, my goal is to win the championship. It is also the team's aim, but this a very hard championship.

“We will be aiming for podiums at Phillip Island for sure, and we are optimistic about the season but we are not naive to think that it will just come. Everyone else has also upped their game this winter.”

He added: “I reckon that I have the bike to go out there and fight for the championship. I work well with them, have a good understanding, know what I want from the bike and that means a lot.

“It’s up to me to get my finger out and push for it. There would be no better feeling then to have a Northern Ireland champion.”

Rea, who has won two World Superbike races and finished on the podium on six other occasions, probably faces his toughest competition from last season's runner-up Nori Haga and his Ducati Xerox team-mate Michel Fabrizio, who finished third behind Haga and winner Ben Spies who has moved to MotoGP with Yamaha after his title-winning season.

The World Superbike series has

also attracted former MotoGP riders Max Biaggi, Carlos Checa and Sylvain Guintoli who will be racing for Aprilia, Ducati and Suzuki respectively.

The focus will also be on the expected continued improvement of the factory BMW under Troy Corser.

Among the six other British riders Rea will face is twice former World Superbike champion James Toseland who moved to MotoGP after winning his second title.

Two poor seasons with Yamaha in MotoGP have seen him move back to World Superbikes to head up the factory Sterilgarda Yamaha team alongside fellow Briton Cal Crutchlow, who won the World Supersport title for the same outfit last season.

Leon Haslam, sixth last season, has earned a place on the factory Alstare Suzuki team alongside Guintoli and is sure to be among the pacesetters from the first race on Sunday.

The British riders are completed by Checa's Althea Ducati team-mate Shane Byrne, factory Kawasaki rider Tom Sykes and Biaggi's Aprilia Alitalia team-mate Leon Camier who impressed on several wildcard appearances for the team last season.

Camier admitted he is staying away from any talk of a rivallry between the British riders.

“I haven't spoken to any of the other Brits, we're all left to our own devices,” he said. “We're all good riders, so I can imagine there is a rivalry to come between us.

“But to be honest I'm keeping totally out of it.”

Belfast Telegraph