Belfast Telegraph

Jonathan Rea 'proud' despite second best World Superbikes opening round

Jonathan Rea celebrates finishing second in Race 3 of the World Superbikes Championships at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit on February 24, 2019 in Phillip Island, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Jonathan Rea celebrates finishing second in Race 3 of the World Superbikes Championships at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit on February 24, 2019 in Phillip Island, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Jonathan Rea had a battle on his hands with new teammate Leon Haslam (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Northern Ireland reigning Superbike World Champion Jonathan Rea said he was proud of his opening weekend performance despite coming out second best at Phillip Island after a storming debut by Alvaro Bautista.

Bautista had a dream debut securing victory in both of Sunday's races after his win in Saturday's opener making him only the second rider in history to win his opening races.

Rea - looking for his fifth championship title in a row - had to tussle with his team Kawasaki team mate Leon Haslem for much of Sunday's 22- lap race with the reigning champion not having things go his way as he watched Haslem pull out a gap.

From lap seven, Rea began to close the gap to his new teammate down with just eight laps to go, the Northern Irishman made his move at Turn 1, only for Haslam to take him back at Turn 4 with a traditional block pass.

This started a succession of nine passes between the pair. Haslam put an audacious Jonathan Rea-style pass on the four-time champion at Turn 1, with Rea responding immediately almost every time. All while an oblivious Bautista put in a blistering and relentless attack to the finish line.

Rea eventually took second place ahead of Haslam to cross the line in second and 1.176 seconds behind the winner.

He said he was "very happy and proud" with the result given the circuit wasn't best suited for him or his bike. He said there was a big gap in power between his bike and the Ducati.

"I had no answer for Alvaro and Ducati this weekend, they have been super strong," he told Worldsbk.com.

"I feel we picked up the pieces and to be the best of the rest, I am very happy."

He added: "I've started the weekend better than I did last year and it set us up nicely for Thailand."

Jonathan Rea had a battle on his hands with new teammate Leon Haslam (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Jonathan Rea had a battle on his hands with new teammate Leon Haslam (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

He said it was nice to battle with his new teammate who had been like a "breath of fresh air" to the KRT team.

"He is a good guy to have around," he added.

"I hope to do the best I can but I wish him all the best."

Meanwhile Toome racer Eugene Laverty, took ninth place and his joint-best finish of the weekend.

At the end of week one in the championship Rea trails Bautista on 49points to the Spaniards 62.

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