Jonathan Rea expects his World Superbike rivals to pose a bigger threat than last year, and doesn’t expect to be able to repeat his dominant 2015 campaign.
The Northern Irishman joined Kawasaki last year and finished his first 20 races with the team in first or second on his way to the title.
”Last season was incredible so it’d be quite foolish of me to think that we can aim to better this season or even match it,” Rea told Motorsport.com.
”We had only one retirement during the season in the very last race, our consistency and results were incredible.
”I expect our rivals have learned from our season a lot and be much stronger. That’s the feeling that I took into the winter to reignite my motivation, to come back and try to keep that number one plate.”
Sykes to be a strong rival
Rea will continue to have Tom Sykes as his teammate and the Northern Irishman expects him to be one of his main opponents.
”Tom’s been really strong in testing and he’s got a bike he is very comfortable on and his confidence is at an all-time high.
”I expect he’s going to be one of the strongest guys along with Chaz Davies and so many others – there is always someone you don’t expect to be there who steps up.”
The Kawasaki bike, which has been developed over the winter, kicked off the season by topping the first pre-season test at Jerez in the hands of Sykes.
Rea was suffering from illness in the subsequent test at Aragon, but was back on form at Phillip Island - falling just two tenths short of Sykes on Day 1 and then setting the overall best time on Day 2.
New bike already in good state
Rea admitted that Kawasaki still has a couple of areas to work on the bike before the season kicks off.
”Basically it’s a completely new bike, it’s got quite a different engine character and we’re exploring a lot of options with the chassis, which enables us to have a lot more adjustability within it.
”We’re working a lot with the electronic control that can make the power a lot smoother and especially for my riding style, I need a little bit more help from the engine and electronics combined.
”Also, from the engine brake side we’re looking to improve a little bit but generally the bike’s already in a pretty good area so we’ll just work throughout the weekend to make a good base setting and then hopefully we’ll have it all come Saturday, Sunday, to run right at the front.”
Interview by Jamie Klein