After a two-month sabbatical, the 2018 Motul FIM Superbike World Championship roars back into life at the undulating Algarve circuit in Portimao, Portugal this weekend (September 14-16) – with Kawasaki juggernaut Jonathan Rea out to strengthen his already vice-like grip on proceedings.
All the action can be seen live on Foxsports Australia wide, this Saturday and Sunday evening.
The three-time defending WorldSBK champion has already enjoyed another outstanding season on the ZX-10RR, winning 10 of the 18 races, with factory Ducati pair Chaz Davies and Marco Melandri and Dutchman Michael van der Mark (Yamaha) the only other multiple winners.
Rea now leads the championship by 92 points with four rounds – or a maximum of 200 points – remaining.
“I am very excited to go back to Portimao because it is a circuit that I really enjoy.
It has been a really long summer break so the test at Portimao a few weeks ago really helped to whet my appetite to get back. We worked on a range of different chassis items and also some Pirelli tyres but the real work will start this weekend when we look to get the set-up of the Ninja ZX-10RR dialled in for the circuit conditions, and then try to do the best job we can.
There is a lot of support coming from back home and I am really excited about that. The target is clear – to try and win two races.”
The 2017 WorldSBK races at Algarve were won by Rea, while at the two-day test in late August the 31-year-old eclipsed teammate Tom Sykes’ current lap record and circulated nearly a second faster than Alex Lowes (Yamaha), followed by van der Mark, Melandri, Davies and Xavi Fores (Ducati).
Sykes was absent from the test after injuring his ankle in a training accident, while Davies and Leon Camier (Honda) have also had injury concerns during the break in the WorldSBK calendar – but no such concerns for Lowes and van der Mark who joined Katsuyuki Nakasuga to win the famed Suzuka 8-Hour world endurance race in Japan.
Rea finished third in the 8-Hour alongside his new WorldSBK teammate for 2019 – the returning Leon Haslam.
Davies will also have a new teammate in 2019 as Ducati debuts its new Panigale V4 machine – current MotoGP rider Alvaro Bautista.
Rea leads the 2018 WorldSBK title on 370 points, ahead of Davies (278), van der Mark (248), Sykes (218), Melandri (193) and Lowes (193), Fores (164) and the improving Eugene Laverty (Aprilia), who has been on the podium twice in recent rounds.
Loris Baz (BMW), Jordi Torres (MV Agusta) and Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia) will also be shooting for top 10 finishes at Algarve this weekend.
After Algarve, the championship heads to Magny-Cours, Villicum in Argentina for the first time, and then concludes in Qatar from October 25-27.
The countdown will then begin for the 2019 season opener at Phillip Island from February 22-24, which will be the 32nd year of WorldSBK competition.
Tickets will go on sale in mid-October 2018, with updates on the Yamaha Finance sponsored event available at www.worldsbk.com.au