Rea keen to edge closer to history with double victory
Jonathan Rea's quest for a record third successive World Superbike Championship continues this weekend, with round 10 of 13 taking place around the 2.8-mile Portimao Circuit in the Algarve.
The Kawasaki Racing Team rider currently has a 70-point advantage in the series over his team-mate Tom Sykes and has a liking for the venue, having won the last three WSB races held there.
The Ulsterman said: "This is a race weekend I really enjoy, the circuit has a lot of character and is fun to ride, although it has become very bumpy.
"We had a private test here in the middle of the season, so I'm sure we can go into free practice tomorrow with a good feeling. I have spent a few days in Portugal already with the family enjoying the Algarve weather and getting focused for what is an important weekend for me.
"The target is simple - to try and win two races."
Sykes commented: "I'm just looking forward to getting back in the saddle again, it seems like we have had another summer break since Germany.
"I have had to change my riding style to get that little extra from the bike and I know I'm capable of more. All I can do is try to win races."
Of course, Portimao is where Rea made his WSB debut back in 2008, the last weekend of that particular season, having stepped up from World Supersport. He put the Hanspree Ten Kate Honda on the front row after qualifying before finishing fourth in race one.
He is the only rider in the field to have raced in each of the 16 WSB races held at Portimao, and only three riders have recorded double victories at the circuit - Troy Bayliss (2008), Max Biaggi (2010) and Rea (2015), and all went on to win that year's Championship.
There has been recent speculation regarding the future of WSB thanks to the dominance of Kawasaki and Ducati. Rea said: "I've raced on both sides of the grid with a competitive machine and also one where you were always playing catch-up. WSB is primarily about production bikes and we are now closer to production bikes than ever.
"Whatever the technical people decide for next season, I'll be on the grid and ready to race. Chaz Davies, Marco Melandri, Tom Sykes and I are all going fast, but the gap to the rest is arguably too big, not that I'm complaining."
The big question is will Rea, contracted to Kawasaki for another year, continue in the series beyond 2018 or will the lure and challenge of a MotoGP factory ride initiated by Dorna, who own both series, prove irresistible?
One man aiming to build on his recent results is Milwaukee Aprilia's Eugene Laverty, still looking for that elusive first podium of the season.
The Monaco-based Ulsterman does hold one record around Portimao in that he has led more WSB laps there than any other rider (65 in total).
He has a good record around Portimao, winning on an Aprilia in 2012 and 2013, the year he lost the Championship by just 23 points to Sykes.
There have been signs recently that problems with the current Aprilia may be behind the team at last, with a podium place not out of the question.
WEST INDIES 1ST INNINGS
Total (57.3 overs) 123
Bowling: J A