Rea's Island paradise is perfect launch pad
Jonathan Rea is gunning for his fifth win in a row at Phillip Island in Australia tomorrow as the Northern Ireland rider commences his quest for an unparalleled fourth successive World Superbike crown.
Rea topped the final test ahead of the season curtain-raiser at the legendary circuit Down Under to set out his stall ahead of race one (4am start).
The Kawasaki star crashed twice during the two-day test earlier this week but fortunately emerged unscathed, and Rea is now primed to open his title defence on a winning note.
He won on his Kawasaki debut at Phillip Island in 2015 and has proved unbeatable at the spectacular circuit near Melbourne over the past two years, chalking up consecutive doubles in 2016 and 2017.
Victory tomorrow would represent the perfect start to Rea's bid to equal Carl Fogarty's all-time record of four World Superbike titles and the 31-year-old admits he is revved up to secure his fifth straight win in Oz.
"Of course the expectation is to at least challenge for the race win and, whilst it has never been a strategy to win, I have managed to win here the last few years which has been really nice because this is like a home race for me," said Rea, who has put down roots in north eastern Victoria with his wife Tatia, who hails from Phillip Island.
"It's about just trying to survive this weekend and again in Thailand before we get to Europe, because that's when everyone starts to find their place and the season kind of starts for real, but of course inside I really want to win.
"If the chance is there to win then we will try and do that but, if not, we will have to see.
"This race also provides a lot of excitement because the group is very big in the beginning because it's very easy to follow at this track," added Rea.
"Who wins this race is always the guy who has done their homework in the test and has a good bike for the 22 laps, so hopefully that is us."
Meanwhile, Eugene Laverty - a winner himself at Phillip Island in 2014 - will also have designs on the podium after setting the fourth fastest time in this week's test.
Laverty is now in his second season with Shaun Muir's Milwaukee Aprilia team and has made sound progress over the winter on the Italian RSV4-RF.
Race two on the opening weekend of the 2018 championship will take place at 4am on Sunday.