Honda Racing's Jonathan Rea says he is taking risks and pushing 'past the point of being fun sometimes' as he battles to hang on to the coat-tails of the World Superbike Championship frontrunners.

Rea has been the only rider in recent seasons to remain consistently competitive on the CBR1000RR Fireblade. But he is only sixth in the early 2012 standings, with a best finish of fourth and already 35 points behind reigning champion Carlos Checa (Althea Ducati).

In contrast to the manufacturer-supported teams from Aprilia, Ducati, BMW and Kawasaki, Rea's Ten Kate team - although long established as Honda's leading WSBK entry - is not an official factory outfit.

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"All my crew are doing the best job they can, but we're not a factory team and we're not flooded with lots of Japanese in the garage like some of the other teams, which are manufacturer-supported," he said.

"Our budget firmly comes from Honda Motor Europe and it's a private set-up, so what we are doing as a private team based in Holland is a really good job."

Rea has won races and finished as the top Honda rider ever since joining WSBK with Ten Kate in 2009. However a season-long title challenge continues to elude him and his best championship position is fourth (2010).

The next highest Honda rider in the current standings is Rea's rookie team-mate and former 250cc world champion Hiroshi Aoyama, in 13th.

"I do feel as though I have to ride the bike harder than I would like to and it almost gets past the point of being fun sometimes because you are taking some risks, but I don't want to finish where my team-mates finish - it's not me and it's not the way I work," said Rea.

Rea insists that the Fireblade is capable of winning races this season, but a question mark hangs over its potential as a championship contender.

"I want to make a big effort and push the bike as hard as I can. On some days this year I feel that we are going to win races - there is no reason why not.

"The bike's good enough to be a race winner, but my concern is that over a season it's not a strong enough and consistent enough package to run with the front guys every weekend.

"But that is our target and we still have a lot of races left to play for."

Rea tested at Imola following the race and has also had the benefit of a two-day private shakedown at Assen last week ahead of this weekend's third round of the championship at the legendary Dutch TT circuit.

"We tested on the Monday [after Imola] and we were able to find a much better feeling with the front suspension, which gave us more confidence and allowed us to push really hard.

"We're definitely not where we want to be in the championship but it's not going to be easy because it's a world championship."

Assen has historically been a happy hunting ground for Rea, but the Ulster rider is taking nothing for granted after failing to register a repeat of his 2011 success at Imola.

"Assen has always been a good track for us but we thought that about Imola as well, because last year I pretty much dominated there.

"But the pace I had at Imola this year was the same, but [Tom] Sykes, [Max] Biaggi, [Carlos] Checa and [Leon] Haslam were just going that much quicker," he said.

"We've refined the fly-by-wire system a little bit, but basically we're turning up with much the same bike. I've got better suspension, but fundamentally the set-up of the bike is the same."

Rea has a base on the Isle of Man and took some time out at his apartment in Castletown over Easter, during which time he also returned to Northern Ireland to watch his brother Richard compete in the Irish Superbike meeting at Bishopscourt.

"I love being on the Isle of Man. My mum and dad were at the race at Imola but before that I hadn't seen them since November because I went out to Australia," he said.

"I'm a bit of a recluse on the Isle of Man because it's nice and quiet, but in saying that it's also nice to get away because I'm used to big cities and being around lots of friends.

"The Isle of Man is the perfect place to come back to because I can recharge and do my training. The cycling scene over here is massive so I really enjoy it.

"Plus it's cool when the TT is on as well because a lot of people I know come over," he added.

"In the last couple of years I got home during practice week and was able to see Superbike race one plus the Supersport and Superstock races so it's pretty cool."

Rea naturally supports his brother Richard's decision to try motorcycle racing for himself in Irish Superbikes and although he admits he offers words of advice, the World Superbike star acknowledges that Richard 'is his own person'.

"Richard is his own person and I give him a wee bit of advice here and there but he has to stand on his own two feet," he said.

"I started racing bikes when I was five in motocross and the only time I wasn't at a race track was when I was injured.

"Richard played around with bikes all his life and now he's giving it a go, but he's nowhere near as experienced as I am but he loves riding bikes and why not."

The World Superbike championship travels to Moscow in Russia for the first time in 2012 and Rea is excited by the prospect of showcasing the sport to a massive new audience.

"I've never thought of racing in Moscow before and it's nice that we are going. I learn circuits quite fast and it's motivating to be going somewhere new.

"I'm looking forward to that one and the track lay-out seems quite nice, so we'll just have to see really," he said.

"We've got a test there on the Wednesday before the race weekend and it's cool to visit a different country and take the show to a new audience."

The Assen WSBK weekend starts on Friday.