Jonathan Rea says the fear of losing is what keeps him motivated as the three-time World Superbike champion aims to defend his title for a fourth consecutive season in 2018.
Rea received the newly-commissioned Joey Dunlop trophy after he was crowned the Cornmarket Irish Motorcyclist of the Year for the third successive time in Belfast on Friday night.
The Kawasaki rider made a flying visit to Northern Ireland during a short break in winter testing and was back in the saddle again on Sunday at Portimao in Portugal for a further two-day winter test.
Phillip Island in Australia hosts the opening round of the new season next month from February 23-25 and Rea is leaving no stone unturned in his preparations.
“It’s been really good so far and I was so busy at the end of last season and as soon as the BBC Sports Personality of the Year finished, I went straight back to Australia to start my preparations straight away,” he said.
“I’ve been a bit of a recluse and that has been really nice because I feel like I’m in a great place physically and mentally.
“I feel good to go into round one straight away and the first few rounds are pretty good races for me, so I’m excited to get going really,” Rea added.
“At the track we’re leaving no stone unturned and I’ve never done race simulations until Phillip Island before but now I have two under my belt, so it’s been good training for me as much as it has been good information-gathering.”
Rea can equal Carl Fogarty’s record of four World Superbike titles this year but the 30-year-old says it is the fear of losing, rather than the opportunity to make more championship history, that spurs him on.
“It’s more that fear of not winning than trying to get a fourth title that drives me,” he said.
“I took a good look in the mirror at the end of last season and tried to further improve on what I’m doing. I feel physically I’m in a better place this year because I worked on some things from last year.
“I’ll try and do as many laps as I can in testing so I’m ready for that first round because I have broken the back of all three of my championships in those first races so it’s important to hit the ground running and get points on the board early.”
New individual rev limiter regulations have been introduced this year, restricting the Kawasaki to 14,100rpm, but Rea has met the challenge head on.
He topped the times during the November test at Jerez in Spain, was second quickest behind team-mate Tom Sykes at the same circuit last week and headed the times on day one at Portimao.
“The new rev limit has changed the character of the bike quite a lot but for me I almost prefer this style of riding,” said Rea.
“What we need to understand is the implications of the balancing rules during the season and keep an eye on how the organisers implement that and see how that will work.”