Belfast Telegraph

Confident Jonathan Rea sure he can power to first win of season

On track: Defending champion Jonathan Rea is finding form at Assen
On track: Defending champion Jonathan Rea is finding form at Assen
Ulsterman Eugene Laverty

By Roy Harris

Jonathan Rea ended up second fastest at a cold Assen yesterday during the opening practice sessions ahead of round four of the World Superbike Championship - not behind the previously all-conquering Alvaro Bautista, but his old Kawasaki team-mate Tom Sykes, now BMW mounted.

In a phenomenally close second session three one hundredths of a second split the top five riders - Sykes, defending champion Rea, Leon Haslam, Markus Reiterberger and Mark Van Der Mark.

In what was a sensational session Bautista finished sixth fastest with seven tenths covering the Ducati back to Jordi Torres in 12th, boding well for a tremendous weekend of action starting today.

Four-time champion Rea led the way after free practice one with a lap of 1m 35.598secs, but in the second session Sykes upped the pace with a 1m 35.414sec lap, which Rea could not match, finishing 0.003sec behind as he chases his first win of the season.

Fellow Ulsterman Eugene Laverty improved his opening session time by 1.3secs in FP2, ending up in 11th, just eight tenths behind Sykes at the head of affairs.

Have new FIM regulations that kick in this weekend in which the rev limit for the Ducati V4 has been reduced by 250rpm had the desired effect of closing the gap between the Italian Missile and the rest of the field? The three races will determine that.

Rea said: "Assen is a track that I have been good at before (he has won 12 races at the Dutch venue), so I hope we can eat into the gap that has been there in the opening three rounds.

"It looks like a whole gaggle of riders in contention this weekend if practice is anything to go by.

"We have been making the bike more agile, which you need at Assen, and I have focused on my riding style to carry more corner speed.

"The biggest factor will be the cold temperature this weekend and we have been evaluating tyres in practice to get the right combination for the conditions. We don't hold sixth gear as long here, so top speeds should be much closer with the rider making the difference and not the horsepower."

The second round of the MCUI Irish Motocross Championship takes place today at the spectacular Tandragee MX Park, near Laurelvale.

After the opening round in Cork on St Patrick's Day the Premier MX1 class is led by defending champion Richard Bird (KTM), but only by two points from Kawasaki mounted John Meara with his brother Jason only three points adrift.

Ex-Irish and Ulster champion Robert Hamilton is tied with Jason Meara while fifth and sixth, also tied on points, are Dundonald hot shot James Mackrel and Ballymoney's Jordan McCaw.

Dubliners Jake Sheridan and David Galvin lead the way in Premier MX2 separated by seven points with Jordan Keogh, Jack Galvin, Mackrel (doubling up with MX1) and James Doyle completing the top six.

Full fields of Semi-Experts, Clubmen and Veterans will produce high-class action that commences at 11am with admission just £5 to witness the best racing from the best riders in Ireland.

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