Jonathan Rea expects the limit of performance with the new Kawasaki ZX-10R to be much higher compared to his World Superbike championship winner of last year and the Northern Irish says this will be vital against a more competitive grid in 2016.

With the return of the Yamaha factory outfit and a step up in efforts by BMW, Ducati and Honda, Rea says he is anticipating a tougher challenge to defend his WSBK crown after completely dominating in 2015 with 14 race wins and missing out on the rostrum on just three occasions all year.

Kawasaki is also rolling out its own improvements with the launch of the new ZX-10R which Rea and team-mate Tom Sykes have been keenly testing in racing trim ahead of the season opener at Phillip Island next month.

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Assessing his 2016 campaign, Rea feels he needs to keep pushing to maintain a gap to his rivals and hopes his 'natural' bond with the Kawasaki continues with the updated model.

"It will be more competitive this year," Rea said. "Last year it wasn't easy as such but it seemed like it came naturally. But I understand my riding, my level, and I understand the bike. We have a new bike now and the limit is that much further so I expect to be even stronger than 2015."

Rea and a number of WSBK rivals are undergoing a two-day test a Jerez on the 26-27 January and having got to grips with the new bike the 28-year-old says now is the time to bring all the upgrades together to start finding the new bike's limits.

"Last time we evaluated all the new components so this time we're starting to concentrate on putting it all together," he said. "Continuing doing race simulations...it's a new bike and we need to find riding at the limit very comfortable. Right now we're still understanding some issues we've been having."