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Gearing up: Jonathan Rea is out testing at Phillip Island

Gearing up: Jonathan Rea is out testing at Phillip Island

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Gearing up: Jonathan Rea is out testing at Phillip Island

Jonathan Rea finished the opening day of testing at Phillip Island in Australia in fourth position after focusing on tyre performance over long distances ahead of this weekend's first round of the 2020 World Superbike Championship.

On an exciting day, five different manufacturers were in the top six positions and covered by less than half a second, with record-breaking five-in-a-row champion Rea (Kawasaki) putting in a 41-lap shift of the spectacular 2.778-mile circuit.

Eugene Laverty of BMW Motorrad WSBK, ahead of his race debut for the Shaun Muir-ran factory team, was eighth fastest at the end of day one just 0.589 seconds behind compatriot Rea, the Toomebridge man using the two 90-minute sessions to concentrate on race runs and to get as much dry track time as possible as he dials in his new machine.

Turkish rider Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha) was the fastest of the 19 runners after setting a one minute, 30.740 second lap, which edged him clear of the factory BMW of Tom Sykes by 0.022 seconds.

Top independent rider Loris Baz, on his Ten Kate Yamaha, secured third spot just 0.013 seconds behind Sykes, followed by Rea.

Then came Leon Haslam on his HRC Honda debut with a fine performance in fifth, less than half a second behind his ex-team-mate.

British Superbike champion Scott Redding's much-anticipated World Superbike debut on the factory Aruba.IT Ducati saw the ex-Grand Prix rider finish in sixth position and 0.496 seconds behind fastest man Razgatlioglu as he used the test to do some initial race runs.

Testing continued into the early hours of this morning with sessions three and four.

Meanwhile, 12-year-old Alexander Rowan from Dromore has become the first to have the full support of the new Team Wood Motorcycle Youth Academy.

He will have use of a new Tianda TDR 300 machine to compete in the MOTO-ONE class at Ulster Superbike and Mondello Park events.

This is an entry level class with a purpose-built racing machine and he will have a race suit from First Choice gear, Arai Helmet, boots and gloves from Ernie Coates Race Support and support from IFS Global Logistics.

Four other riders - Martin Burnett (15), Kai McClintock (13), Robert Ronan (13) and Lee Hara (13) - will also benefit from the new initiative of the Motorcycle Road Racing Club of Ireland, promoters of two major short circuit events, the Enkalon Trophy and David Wood Memorial races at Bishopscourt.

The MCRRCI recognises that youth is the future of the sport and a six-man committee was set up with the aim to help parents and guardians with their knowledge and support to give young male and female competitors between the ages of 12-15 an opportunity in motorcycle racing at a lower cost and to receive the right training and technique.

The Academy is also to encourage the youth in local Mini Moto and Pit Bike racing that they can have a go at National Racing from the age of 12.

Rowan had a stellar 2019, taking 15 wins from 15 starts to claim two Pit Bike 125cc MMRCI Championships. He also triumphed in the Ulster and Irish Junior gearbox pro class Irish Mini Bike Championships and took third position in the KTM 65cc Championship with five wins and seven other podiums.

Rowan said: "I am really excited to be given this opportunity in Team Wood Motorcycle Youth Academy.

"It's a fantastic chance to represent and be associated with the prestigious David Wood name, a man who did so much for our sport over the decades."

Belfast Telegraph