Rea fired up and out to narrow title gap
Following a month's break, Ulstermen Jonathan Rea and Eugene Laverty are back on the World Superbike trail this weekend for round five of 13 at the iconic Imola Circuit in Italy.
The Ducati V4 of Alvaro Bautista dominated before the break, so rival manufacturers and riders will be hoping to bridge the gap.
Rea in particular has an impressive record around the 3.085-mile parkland circuit with 12 podiums and seven race wins, including a double last year on his way to his fourth successive world title.
However, he trails the undefeated Spaniard by 53 points and will be looking to try and get one over on Bautista this weekend.
Rea said: "After a great few weeks at home, I'm recharged and ready to attack this mid-part of the season.
"After four rounds we have understood and evaluated where we need to improve and we approach Imola trying to make another step in my riding and the performance of the bike.
"I love racing at Imola, it is steeped in history and is a fun track to ride. It is unique with a lot of undulations and you need to feel at one with the bike to push to the limits. I see Imola as a track where we can be competitive and try to change the momentum of the Championship."
For Laverty's Go Eleven Ducati team, this is their home round. A few technical improvements have been made during the break and they are ready for FP1 today.
The Monaco-based Toomebridge rider said: "We have been making progress and it is now time to start looking for podiums and elusive race wins."
Meanwhile, the launch of the second Omagh District Council-sponsored Enniskillen Road Races took place last night and it has been confirmed that the meeting on June 28-29 will have highlights broadcast on BBC NI.
Club Chairman Rodney Shaw said: "We are delighted to confirm that Greenlight TV are on board with a highlights programme on BBC NI and around the globe. We are also thrilled to have BBC Sport NI on board."
This means all Ulster road races in 2019 will have Greenlight TV and BBC Sport NI involved.
Tonight, a charity chat show in aid of the NI Air Ambulance takes place in Armagh City Hotel in conjunction with Dungannon firm Greiner Packaging, with some of Northern Ireland's top motorcycle competitors taking part, including former Grand Prix winner Jeremy McWilliams, NW200 Superbike winner Glenn Irwin and former Isle of Man TT winner Phillip McCallen.
It will be hosted by well-known former works Suzuki rider, now TV pundit, author and practical joker Steve Parrish.
Admission is £10 at the door.
Meanwhile, Adam McLean had a seven-and-a-half hour operation on Tuesday to repair his arm, collarbone and pelvis after a crash at the Tandragee 100.
Everything went well, and he is already up and walking.