Jonathan Rea is confident he will be featuring at the front of the World Superbike grid in 2009 after making a strong impression with Ten Kate Honda during testing at Kyalami.
Coming after making his WSBK race debut at Portimao last month, Rea was back in action around the South African circuit this week, but after a slow start on Wednesday, he would go on to be classified fourth quickest of the 13 riders overall.
Immediately placing him ahead of his more experienced team-mates Carlos Checa and Ryuichi Kiyonari, Rea was pleased with the feeling he was getting from the CBR1000RR already.
As such, he is already turning his attentions to the start of the 2009 season at Phillip Island in March, where he predicts he can be amongst the frontrunners straight away.
“The test has been really, really good and a lot of fun. We got through a huge amount of work and did a lot of laps. I'm in pretty good physical condition so I'm not suffering too much, but I'm pretty tired mentally.
“After my first World Superbike race in Portugal, which was pretty intense, it was good to get a bit more of a good feeling for the bike and I think that, with two tests still to come, we can be up at the front next year. It's going to be a really exciting season but it's clear we'll have to be on it every weekend because the competition is going to be really strong.”
Checa, meanwhile, was classified just behind in fifth, although the Spaniard admits he spent the three days attempting to eradicate the chatter that was stymieing his progress.
“We did a lot of work here but we were not helped by some chatter which was difficult to dial out. It was my first time at Kyalami and, while the circuit is a lot of fun to ride, it's very bumpy and one or two of the walls are a bit too close!
“The track surface is not everything it might be, especially at the chicane but we were able to try some different setups and some new parts to find a good direction. It was a bit difficult because of the chatter, but it should be fixed by the time we get to Portimao for the next test in January.”
As for Kiyonari, the Japanese rider admits he enjoyed riding Kyalami, but lamented the fact he wasn't on the pace.
“I like the circuit here but I was too slow! It was definitely coming better towards the end and I did more than 80 laps each day, I think. We tried some old settings to compare with the new components that we were testing and we began to find a good direction I think.
“I'm looking forward to a holiday back in Japan and then getting back to some more testing in Portugal in January.”