2019 starts well for the WorldSBK quadruple champion, but he isn´t on top just yet…
Reigning four-time WorldSBK Champion Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) started his season off in fine style, finishing the first day of the 2019 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship in second position. The Northern Irish rider was in the leading positions right from the start of the day, as he pursues a record-making fifth consecutive title.
Having finished FP1 on top at the picturesque Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, Rea could only be toppled by WorldSBK Rookie, Alvaro Bautista (ARUBA.IT Racing – Ducati). With five of his 71 race victories coming in Australia, Rea will go in search of adding to that tally – something he failed to do in 2018.
Despite being toppled at the top of the timesheets, Rea maintained that one lap pace was not the only thing that counted for the opening round: “I feel good with our bike, we made a big step from the test and I feel comfortable. Today, in FP1 and FP2 we tried two options of tyres to understand their life, the performance, the drop. It is quite clear I prefer one option more than the other.
“I’m very happy with the work we have done today, we have a lot of information and I am proud of my team. After the two-day test on Monday and Tuesday they put a lot of good information together, so it has definitely been a positive first day.”
Rea was noticeably losing out in the final sector, costing him bragging rights in his battle with Alvaro Bautista: “Alvaro has been very strong in the final sector, of course it helps having an absolute rocket to get you down over the finish line! We are closing that gap; we focused a lot on turn 11 and turn 12 and we found some improvements with ZX-10 RR. The single lap pace is not my biggest concern, at the end we were able to put in a new tyre and I was able to be fast.
“The biggest thing is to be able to work for the weekend, everyone is on different strategies, but tomorrow is when you see who has done their homework the most. It looks like it is going to be a nice fight for the podium for sure, I hope to be amongst that but there’s plenty of other riders right down the list.”