Belfast Telegraph

Rea feels positive as he aims to close title gap

Raring to go: Jonathan Rea is fired up for Jerez mission
Raring to go: Jonathan Rea is fired up for Jerez mission

By Roy Harris

Jonathan Rea was third fastest in yesterday's practice session ahead of today's first race of the sixth round of the World Superbike Championship at Jerez in Spain.

The Northern Ireland ace, just back from two days of testing in Japan ahead of the Suzuka 8-hour race in July, is aiming to reduce the 43-point gap to Alvaro Bautista in the Championship chase as he hunts his fifth consecutive world title.

Rea won his first two races of the season last time out at Imola and would dearly love to continue his winning run in the three races today and tomorrow, and improve on his 73 World Superbike race victories.

Although Bautista ended yesterday top of the time sheets from Michael van der Mark (Yamaha), Rea's strategy was to dial laps in to find a good set-up for the races.

The four-time world champion set numerous consecutive fast laps in finishing third overall, a second off Bautista's time.

Rea said: "It was a really positive day in the end as we managed to turn things around.

"The biggest challenge was trying to acclimatise with the bike again after the endurance test in Japan.

"At the start I was a little lost with the Kawasaki, trying to find something. And since they resurfaced parts of the circuit the grip level is so, so high and it is an abnormal feeling riding on it as you do not understand the limit.

"I tried new tyre options and ruled one out fairly quickly. We had changed a few things during the recent Misano test, like my riding position, and reaffirmed that the changes still worked.

"We tried a lot of things to give me more confidence on the brakes. I was happy with where we were and I'm ready for Superpole and the opening race."

His arch-rival will be difficult to shift this weekend. Bautista said: "For me this is another home race and Jerez is a track I know so well from my Moto GP days. I hope things can return to normal after Imola, a circuit I'd never raced at before."

Meanwhile, Michael Laverty and his fellow Wepol Racing Endurance Team members Sheridan Morais and Danny Webb finished in third position after the first qualifying session for the Oschersleben 8-hour race tomorrow.

The team are currently in third position in the main Endurance Championship and lead the Independent Team category.

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