Champion Jonathan Rea embracing new race challenge as Argentina hosts maiden World Superbike round
Newly-crowned World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea is braced for a new challenge this weekend as he aims to increase his eight-race unbeaten streak.
The penultimate round of the series heads to Argentina for the first-ever South American event in the history of the series at the all-new El Villicum near the city of San Juan.
Rea made history with a fourth successive world crown in the previous round at Magny-Cours in France, where he claimed his fourth consecutive double on the Ninja ZX-10RR.
The 31-year-old has had little opportunity to soak up the moment after launching his autobiography, Dream. Believe. Achieve, in Belfast and fulfilling a host of media obligations since his latest title triumph.
However, the quadruple champion is back in race mode as he prepares to tackle the new circuit for the first time.
The Ballyclare man, who is now back living in Northern Ireland after basing himself on the Isle of Man and in his wife Tatia’s homeland of Australia, is also targeting his own record haul of 556 points, which he set on his way to this third title in 2017.
Rea can also better the long-standing of 17 World Superbike race wins in a single season. He has currently won 14 times this year, with four races still remaining.
The Ulster rider said: “I am really excited; firstly to go to a new track and to visit South America for the first time. It is great for the championship and also really nice to visit a new country with World Superbikes.
“Of course, since Magny-Cours I have not had much time to digest winning the championship but I am extremely happy and proud of our efforts to date this season. But the season is not over and we are going to attack this race weekend like any other. We will try to put celebrations on ice until the end of the season,” he added.
“We won’t have too much set-up data this weekend so we will start FP1 with a blank sheet of paper. Fortunately our Ninja ZX-10RR has a great base setting so it is up to me to learn the track fast, and hopefully enjoy it. I am looking forward to meeting all the Argentinean fans.”
Kawasaki can also win the Manufacturers’ Championship this weekend and currently leads the table by 87 points, with a maximum of 100 points left for any manufacturer capable of winning all four remaining races.
The first ever Argentinean round could arguably prove to be the most open and unpredictable of the season, with none of the World Superbike riders yet to compete at the brand new facility.
Tyre choice and machine set-up will be pivotal when free practice commences on Friday.
l County Tyrone rider Michael Owens has secured the final nomination for the ‘Young Racer of the Year’ award in the Dunlop Masters Superbike Championship.
The teenager (18), who is the son of former 125cc rider Phelim Owens, finished on the podium in both Supersport Cup races at Mondello Park after progressing through the ranks from the Junior Cup class this season.
He joins seven riders in total who are on the shortlist for the award, who will now go forward to the end-of-year shootout, when they will have the chance to battle for the 10,000 euros prize provided jointly by Mondello Park, Dawn International and EICL.
Ther other nominated riders are Aaron Wright, Caolan Irwin, Jamie Lyons, Eoin Collins, Kevin Baker and Nathan McGauran.
The date for the final shootout is due to be announced shortly.
World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea has won the past eight World Superbike races in a row