Jonathan Rea will be aiming to make strides in final free practice and qualifying today at Most in the Czech Republic after finishing fifth fastest on the opening day yesterday.
The six-time World Superbike champion was almost four tenths of a second slower than Pata Yamaha’s Toprak Razgatlioglu, who set a new unofficial lap record of 1m 36.506s to lead BMW Motorrad’s Scott Redding by 0.227s.
Rea had earlier topped the morning practice session by 0.035s from his Yamaha rival.
Michael Ruben Rinaldi was third quickest ahead of his Aruba.it Ducati team-mate and Championship leader Alvaro Bautista, with Kawasaki’s Rea next.
Spaniard Bautista holds a slender 17-point lead over Rea going into the first race today (1pm BST) at the sixth round of the series.
Razgatlioglu is a further 26 points back in third place after rekindling his hopes of retaining his world crown with a maiden career treble at Donington Park two weeks ago.
The Turkish rider is on the crest of a wave and will be eager to reduce the deficit further this weekend before the Championship enters a summer break, with the seventh round not taking place until September 9-11 at Magny-Cours in France.
Rea is also determined to sign off on a high before the summer recess as he bids to cut Bautista’s advantage further.
“Most is an exciting one because it is the last race of the first part of the season,” said Rea.
“It is important to go into the summer break with a good feeling and some momentum. It was a new circuit for everybody last season so we had a lot of learning to do. We hadn’t tested there so it was a more difficult weekend.
“Armed with all the data we gained last season, and the improvements in the Ninja ZX-10RR, I expect to start strongly.
“I enjoy the circuit and they have worked really hard to improve it and re-asphalt it in a lot of areas. I am expecting quite a different Most than in 2021 — I expect a lot of local fans.
“I know when we used to race in the Czech Republic in the past they turned out in their thousands. It will be amazing to see ]that support from the Czech fans.”
The 35-year-old agreed a new two-year contract extension with the Kawasaki Racing Team at Donington Park and will remain in World Superbikes until at least the end of the 2024 season.
Reflecting on his undiminished desire to challenge for even more success despite already securing his legacy as the most successful rider in the history of the Championship, Rea said he was “addicted” to winning.
“I think winning becomes really addictive and of course it’s got to be instilled in you from when you were a child as well, because there are plenty of riders who have done a lot of winning and then just fall off the wagon, and it doesn’t mean so much,” said Rea. “But I’m constantly invested in myself as well, trying to make myself better as well as the bike, and that’s important.
“I think also when I win, it’s never like a landmark thing — I always look to the next challenge and never really look back, I always look forward and I think that helps as well.”
County Antrim’s Eugene Laverty was down in 15th place in free practice on the Bonovo Action BMW. Hs team-mate, French rider Loris Baz, was sixth quickest on the combined times.
After today’s opening race, the Superpole Sprint race tomorrow is scheduled for 10am with race two at 1pm.