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Rea is determined to kick on after fast start at Jerez



Need for speed: Jonathan Rea set the second fastest time during practice at Jerez

Need for speed: Jonathan Rea set the second fastest time during practice at Jerez

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Jonathan Rea

Jonathan Rea

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Need for speed: Jonathan Rea set the second fastest time during practice at Jerez

Northern Ireland's record-breaking five-time champion Jonathan Rea set the second fastest time during the opening two practice sessions as World Superbikes returned in the scorching sunshine at Jerez in southern Spain yesterday.

The first race action in five months - the Championship, of course, was placed on hold due to the Covid-19 outbreak - will take place today and tomorrow, and reigning champion Rea, as always, will be a major contender for podium honours.

Session one saw the two fastest times of the day in slightly cooler track temperatures, Frenchman Loris Baz on the Ten Kate Yamaha setting a time of 1m 40.249secs around the 2.764-mile circuit - less than a tenth of a second ahead of the Kawasaki of five-time world champion Rea.

Italian Michael Rinaldi was a surprise third on the Team Go Eleven Ducati Panigale V4 R. He suffered a crash in the opening session, but bounced back in the second outing to set a 1m 40.325sec lap, 0.014sec behind Rea.

And there were four different manufacturers in the top six as Alvaro Bautista (Honda) was fourth fastest, reigning British Superbike champion Scott Redding (Ducati) was fifth and his team-mate Chaz Davies in sixth.

The second afternoon session was held in hot and punishing conditions, with temperatures making the track much slicker, with only Rinaldi, Redding, Tom Sykes and Eugene Laverty improving their earlier times.

Sykes was the fastest of the BMWs in 13th position overall, less than a tenth of a second ahead of team-mate Laverty in 15th, with the Toomebridge man suffering a fall at turn one after losing the front in session two in which both set their fastest times of the day.

Rea, who is chasing his 90th WSBK victory and 171st podium, was reasonably content with his day's work.

"We still have some work to do, but I felt quite good out on track," he said. "Pirelli brought three possible tyres for the longer races, so we tried to understand what the best one would be. We did enough laps on each to draw some conclusions and we have narrowed it down to two rear options.

"We never really went for a time attack in the second session, so this was just a working day really to understand where we are.

"We have moved away from our base settings from the two recent tests at Misano and Montmelo (Catalunya) and have found that the bike is turning well."

Such is the competitiveness of World Superbikes in 2020, less than a second split the top 15 riders after the two sessions.

In fact, a mere three-tenths separated the top 10, with Leon Haslam (Honda) ninth and Rea's Kawasaki team-mate Alex Lowes in 10th, the pair separated by three one thousandths of a second.

Today sees the third practice session and a 25-minute qualifying session before the opening race at 1pm, when Rea, in fourth position in the Championship on 32 points, will be looking to close the gap to Lowes (51pts), Redding (39pts) and Toprak Razgatlioglu (34pts).

Eunan McGlinchey (Team #109 Kawasaki), in his debut season in World Supersport 300, was 23rd in session one and 22nd in session two in his group despite improving his lap time by one and three-quarter seconds.

Today, he has a final practice session and a possible 'Last Chance' race to make tomorrow's race grid if he doesn't qualify straight through.

The Aghadowey man's best lap was a 1m 56.975secs compared to the second fastest yesterday, Tom Booth-Amos on a time of 1m 53.756sec.

Road racer Danny Webb, on the James Toseland-managed WRP Wepol Yamaha, was just outside the top 10 during World Supersport practice.

Meanwhile, it was yesterday announced by Motor Sport Vision that spectators will not be allowed to attend either of the opening two BSB rounds at Donington Park and Snetterton in August after consultations regarding the UK government's postponement of the latest lockdown easing guidelines on Covid-19 outlined yesterday.

In a statement, MSV said: "We understand this news will be hugely disappointing and difficult to understand for our spectators.

"We were looking forward to welcoming fans to these events, so this development is very frustrating for the entire MSV team."

It serves as a reminder that, unfortunately, coronavirus has not gone away just yet.

Belfast Telegraph