WSBK: Jonathan Rea fastest in final test at Phillip Island

Jonathan Rea during the final pre-season test of 2017 at Phillip Island in Australia.
Jonathan Rea during the final pre-season test of 2017 at Phillip Island in Australia.

Jonathan Rea topped the times during the final pre-season test at Phillip Island as the reigning World Superbike champion set out his stall ahead of this weekend’s opening round in Australia.

The Kawasaki rider was second fastest in mixed conditions on Monday behind Spain’s Xavi Fores on the Barni Ducati, but Rea climbed to the top of the times in dry conditions on Tuesday after lapping in 1m 30.545s, which put him ahead of series returnee Marco Melandri, who was only 0.258s behind on the Aruba.it Ducati.

Ulsterman Rea, who hopes to become the first rider ever to win the World Superbike title three times in succession, has been in ominous form during testing, setting the pace in every test he has participated in on the new Ninja ZX-10RR.

“Now we have picked the bike we will use for race weekend and put the package together,” Rea said.

“I have had such a good off-season; I feel I have done a really good job with my personal condition and I have managed to stay healthy so far.

“Every winter test we’ve done we have been working step-by-step. We understood at the end of last year, when we made a huge change for Qatar, I could race the bike again. So during the winter tests it was not about re-inventing the wheel.

“Already the ZX-10RR has given us some more potential. We were already at a high level,” added the 30-year-old.

“This winter was about building the package, building momentum and confidence. Now I feel like I have it so I just hope we can stay safe and bag some big points at the start of the new season.”

In contrast, Northern Ireland’s Eugene Laverty endured a difficult two days on the Milwaukee Aprilia.

Laverty, who returns to the class after two years in MotoGP, was left baffled by a ‘fundamental’ problem with the Italian machine on Monday.

The Toome man fared somewhat better on the second day, but Laverty – 12th fastest with a lap in 1m 31.881s – still has work to do ahead of race one on Saturday.

“Today was better for us in terms of both the weather and the running we did, and we made some good progress in the morning on the set-up and other things we tried,” he said.

“The afternoon unfortunately was tough and we had a small crash, and it was hard to get the bike working how I wanted it to.

“The good thing is that we now have time to look at what we’ve learned in this test, and hopefully we can put it to use and be strong this weekend.”

Welshman Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Ducati) was third fastest on Tuesday (1m 30.893s) followed by Tom Sykes (Kawasaki), who lapped in 1m 31.044s, with the top six completed by day one pacesetter Fores and Britain’s Leon Camier on the MV Agusta (1m 31.293s).