Jonathan Rea relishing the launch of his hunt for fifth world title after 'valuable' two-day test
Four-time champion Jonathan Rea declared himself satisfied after World Superbike pre-season testing came to an end yesterday at Phillip Island in Australia with the top five riders all unofficially under the lap record.
It was new boy Alvaro Bautista who used the power of the new Ducati V4 to top every session.
Yesterday, the Spaniard was a quarter of a second ahead of Tom Sykes (BMW) with the Kawasaki Racing Team of Leon Haslam and Rea third and fourth respectively a third of a second behind Sykes, and Marco Melandri the fastest Yamaha in fifth.
Several red flags during the day, frequently due to wild geese walking onto the circuit, upset the rhythm of riders and teams.
Ulsterman Rea said: "This has been a really positive two-day test and we have been able to see exactly what the track needs ahead of racing.
"Phillip Island is so unique with the high-speed third and fourth gear corners putting extra load onto the rear tyre.
"Unfortunately, because of the red flags and a sprinkling of rain from time to time, we were not able to complete a long run, but everything we have gathered will prove very valuable for the weekend races."
Fellow Ulsterman Eugene Laverty had a difficult day, ending in 16th on his new Team Goeleven V4 Ducati which suffered a mechanical problem late in session one. That kept him sidelined for the final session, losing him valuable track time as he gets to grips with the machine.
Alex Lowes had a day to forget after suffering a huge crash at the high-speed Turn 1, luckily walking away and back out quickly on his second Pata Yamaha. He then had a much slower tumble late on, again unscathed.
The new BMW of Sykes came with a late surge to nail down the second fastest time of the day, a real confidence boost for the man replaced by Haslam alongside Rea at Kawasaki.
All eyes now turn to the weekend and the first round of the 2019 WSB Championship, with Rea looking to take an unprecedented fifth successive world title.
With a new three-race format to contend with, the Templepatrick man said: "We need to be clever with the timetable, especially with an extra sprint race on Sunday, which will be a very tight day for many reasons.
"The racing itself, trying to get food and media commitments, it's going to be hectic. I'm quite relaxed and happy with how things are and can't wait to get started on Friday."