Jonathan Rea, the 'other' rookie race winner in World Superbike this season alongside title leader Ben Spies, admits to feeling 'goosebumps' ahead of WSBK's race return to the legendary Imola circuit, in Italy, this weekend.
The Hannspree Ten Kate Honda rider is galloping up on third in the championship Michel Fabrizio after scoring 67 points - including his second win of the year – during the last four races, compared with just 32 by the Italian.
Rea is now within 45 points of the factory Ducati rider, with six races and 150 points remaining, making third in the final standings a realistic proposition – especially as the 22-year-old was fastest in July's Imola test.
“The CBR1000RR is a race-winning package now,” said Rea, who clashed with Noriyuki Haga on his way to victory last time out in Germany. “It's all positive for Imola and I'm looking forward to heading back there – there's so much motorsport history, you can't help but get goosebumps.
“We'll look to confirm the setting that we finished the July test with and then try to get down to some serious lap times and fine tune things for Sunday. It was a good test that we had there and I hope we can turn that and recent form into some decent results,” he added.
The only riders to have scored more points than Rea in the last two rounds are Max Biaggi (69) and Spies (70).
Meanwhile, after a poor start to the season, 37-year-old team-mate Carlos Checa has scored just one point less than Rea in the last four races, when he has stood on the podium three times. The Spaniard's season has been transformed by the switch to Ohlins suspension in June.
“The last few races have been good for me and for the team and it has felt really nice to be up on the podium again,” said Checa. “We have found the right balance with the bike over the last few races and I would say that 70% of the improvement has been down to the way we have been working as a team and with the new suspension technicians.
“Electronics have improved, too, and the faster tracks seem to suit our bike a little better,” he continued. “It's a good thing that the last three rounds are all at those kind of circuits. We had a good test at Imola and the recent improvements and results have given us a momentum that we want to continue and given me a renewed confidence for the remainder of the season.”
“We are in a position now when we can hopefully see both Jonathan and Carlos battling for podium finishes or race wins in Imola this weekend,” declared team manager Ronald ten Kate.