Jonathan Rea gave a glimpse of his capabilities ahead of 2009 by taking a starring role during the first day of running around the new Portimao circuit in Portugal.
Having lost out on the World Supersport title in France, Rea has instead been offered the chance to graduate to Superbikes early in preparation for his full-time bow in 2009.
Although he is on a par with his rivals when it comes to learning the rigours of the undulating Algarve circuit, Rea was still given a tough task of readjusting to the Superbike in difficult weather conditions.
Nonetheless, the fourth fastest time in free practice represented his intentions, even if his hopes during provisional qualifying would be unravelled by a problem that caused his rear tyre to lock under downshifts.
Up to that point Rea had been fastest and still looked set for a provisional front row slot as the clock wound down, only for a flurry of late laps to bump him back down to seventh place.
Even so, the Northern Irishman remained the top Ten Kate Honda rider with Rea proclaiming his delight at proving immediately competitive on a Superbike again.
“I was enjoying myself out there but something felt wrong as I downshifted for the hairpin in my final stint, so I parked it there. The bike is such a pleasure to ride and I knew as soon as I went out this morning that next season is going to be a lot of fun.
“The weather was bad today but, if it's dry tomorrow, we should be able to get more of a base setting and push forward. The track is really nice and a lot of fun to ride. On wet and intermediate tyres, I know we can be near the front. The challenge is going to be keeping it there if it's dry tomorrow.”