Jonathan Rea has sent out an ominous message to his World Superbike rivals after topping the timesheets in the final pre-season test at Phillip Island. The reigning champion outpaced Marco Melandri and Chaz Davies on Tuesday in Australia with Kawasaki and Ducati set to do battle once again in 2017.
Rea has looked strong throughout pre-season testing in Europe and believes he will be starting the new campaign on a higher level than he finished in 2016.
“Now we have picked the bike we will use for race weekend and put the package together. 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. 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.”
Team-mate Tom Sykes was fourth fastest at the end of the two-day test and the Yorkshireman acknowledges that he will need to improve on his previous Phillip Island form in order to start the season well.
“We had a lot better weather today than yesterday. We lost a bit of time in these tests but it is not the end of the world not to be the fastest rider in the timesheets. The good thing is that we understand where we are and where we need to find a clear improvement. So that leaves me relaxed going into the first race weekend of the year. We can make improvements in every corner so if we can find those our lap times should be nicely improved too. I had a small crash today, such a small crash, but the bike got tied in knots in the gravel and that left the lads in the team with a lot of work to do. We just need to make a good opening race weekend and leave here with more points than we have done in the recent past.”