Jonathan Rea eager to boost bid for fourth World Superbike title at favourite haunt
Less than a week after recording first and second-place finishes at Aragon in Spain, Northern Ireland's Jonathan Rea - the three-in-a-row World Superbike champion - has headed to Assen in the Netherlands for round four of the Championship.
Rea brings a 12-point Championship lead into Assen, affectionately known as the Cathedral of Speed, and today begins practice and qualifying ahead of races tomorrow and Sunday.
Assen has been a happy hunting ground for Rea, who has won no fewer than 11 races - seven of them in a row - around the 2.8-mile Dutch venue.
Rea said: "I really enjoy the Assen track and in the past it has been kind to me. The weather forecast for the weekend is hot and with the really flowing track I am looking forward to the challenge.
"The nature of the track tends to see a group of riders together and as I have done a lot of laps around the circuit, racing and testing, I know some special tricks for the last lap."
Rea's win at Aragon was his 56th in WSB - he's now just three shy of Carl Fogarty's record of 59 - with the Isle of Man resident aiming for his fourth crown, having made history by becoming the first person to land three consecutive titles.
As his Kawasaki team come to terms with new regulations, 31-year-old Rea has had tough challenges in the opening rounds and is still looking for his first double win of the season.
The opposition will be tough with his team-mate Tom Sykes, Ducati trio Chaz Davies, Marco Melandri and Xavi Fores and local boy Michael van der Mark and Yamaha team-mate Alex Lowes sure to be among the front runners.
Andrew Irwin has had a tough introduction to World Supersport in his debut season, but Assen is a track he knows well from British Supersport, so he can concentrate on adapting to his CIA Landlords Insurance Honda without having to learn a new track.
Closer to home, tomorrow's third round of the AJ Plumbing Ulster Superbike Championship is promoted by the Temple Club at Bishopscourt, where Temple Golf Club/Caffery-sponsored William Dunlop makes his first local appearance of the season on R1 and R6 Yamahas as he prepares for the opening road race of the season next Saturday.
Organisers will present the Temple 100 Cup tomorrow, a reminder of the first ever Irish road race which ran from 1921 until its demise in 1999.
Entries include current USB Championship leader Gerard Kinghan - who won both races at the same venue on Easter Saturday to lift the Enkalon Trophy - defending Irish Superbike champion Charles Stuart, Alistair Kirk and Adam McLean, fresh from his podium at Brands Hatch last weekend.
With defending Supersport champion Jason Lynn competing at Oulton Park, the McGreevy brothers Korie and Kia will be out to extend their lead in the Championship, although Dunlop, Mark Conlin, Joseph Loughlin, Simon Reid and Christian Elkin will be chasing podium places.
For what should be a thrilling 16-race programme including Supertwins, Pre-Injection, Production Twins, sidecars, Lightweight Supersport and Moto3, practice will commence from 9am followed by racing.
Admission is £10.