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Rea isn't hitting the panic button after rival shines in practice duel

 

Jonathan Rea
Jonathan Rea

By Roy Harris

Jonathan Rea was bested by major rival Alvaro Bautista yesterday after the pair went head-to-head in the first two practice sessions ahead of the second round of the World Superbike Championship at the Chang Circuit in Thailand.

Ulsterman Rea, who saw Bautista dominate round one in Australia on the new Ducati V4R, played second fiddle yesterday, a third of a second down after the pair had completed 80 laps.

But Rea, going for a remarkable fifth world championship in a row, believes he can take the fight to the Spaniard in the races today and tomorrow.

"Absolutely," was his emphatic answer. "No need to panic just yet. Yes, Alvaro is doing a good job, but it is early days. We got off to a good start and step-by-step we improved the bike. On all the parts of the circuit where you have to really ride the bike I'm fast, but unfortunately down the long straight I'm losing two or three tenths per lap."

Rea and Bautista swapped places throughout the first session, the Spaniard getting his nose in front on his final lap. In session two, he consolidated his position with a 1m 32.971sec lap while Rea, a seven-time winner at the track, finished the day with a 1m 33.269mph.

Bautista said: "I believe Rea will be closer this weekend, but he will have to go to the limits to beat me. We are struggling in the last two sectors to make the bike turn and this gap is more a normal gap - what happened in Phillip Island was exceptional."

Eugene Laverty, on the Team Goeleven Ducati V4R, finished eighth and said: "We have continued our forward progression and I'm content. The aim is to move forward into the top six."

Meanwhile, on the final day of the BSB test at Monteblanco in Spain, Scott Redding on the Be Wiser Ducati V4R was top, a fifth of a second clear of Jason O'Halloran and his McAms Yamaha team-mate Taz Mackenzie.

A second covered the top seven with the Irwin brothers sixth and seventh, Glenn (Quattro Plant Kawasaki) a tenth faster than Andrew (Honda Racing Fireblade).

Josh Elliott and Superbike debutant David Allingham were 14th and 17th respectively.

Alastair Seeley topped the Supersport class while Graeme Irwin was sixth in Superstock.

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