Jonathan Rea insists past achievements will count for very little as he lines up for the season opener in Australia, and feels a continuation of his 'step-by-step philosophy' will aid another world championship bid.
Going into his ninth World Superbike campaign, Rea has the chance to claim an unprecedented third straight rider's title. Yet the Northern Irishman has put these thoughts to one side, choosing instead to focus on “chipping away” at improving the Kawasaki ZX-10RR throughout preseason.
The results have been impressive thus far. Fastest at each of the preseason tests he and Kawasaki attended, Rea praised crew chief Pere Riba for their winter strategy that has allowed the 30-year old to set a sting of fast times without “busting my ass.”
Responding to a question at his KRT team's launch in central Barcelona on whether he is aiming for that unprecedented third consecutive title, Rea said, “It's a question I've had a lot. I'm not thinking about three in a row. I don't think you can.
“I'm looking at it as 2017 and what I've done in the past, we've reset to zero. Last year, when I won, I really enjoyed winning it. I really made the most of it at home. I enjoyed putting my feet up, eating what I wanted and drinking what I want.
“When the time came to start focussing on training and performance I started quite early. Winter tests went super smooth and the bike's improved. Step-by-step I've got stronger as well. The relationship with the bike is even stronger.
“I'm just looking at this year as completely new. I forget what's happened in the past and everyone starts from zero in two week's time. That's so exciting. I understand how to win a championship. I know our strengths and weaknesses. We've just got to worry about ourselves.
“Like I've said tonight, we've had this step-by-step philosophy that we've applied from the start. Together with all my crew and Kawasaki, we'll work with that in mind to try and win the championship. At the end of the year we'll hopefully be there fighting for it at least.”
A stunning lap time, which clocked in faster than several MotoGP machines, was a stand out feat at a test at Jerez in November, but Rea has not relented since, posting fastest times at the Andalusian venue again in January and February shakedowns.
“It wasn't easy,” said Rea of his testing performances. “It feels like things are happening really naturally. I'm not going out and busting my ass for a lap time or when it comes to doing race runs. I did two in a day in November. I did another one in January.
“I feel like we've gone through the list of things we needed to test, analysed them clearly and double-checked some things. We're in an area with the bike now where I feel quite comfortable. It's been smooth and things have been happening quite naturally. Like I said, the relationship with me, the bike and Kawasaki is still building day-by-day.
“I have to thank Pere [Riba] for that. He's the guy that builds the strategy over the winter, in terms of what we're testing and when, what we don't do, what we do test. It seems to have worked and I feel quite confident now on the bike. We're still learning as well. Not making huge steps forward or backward. We've just been chipping away, and polishing the package.”
A change to the character of Kawasaki's ZX-10RR engine over the offseason led team-mate Tom Sykes to admit a change from his point-and-squirt riding style toward something more in tune with Rea's smooth, flowing lines is needed.
Asked whether he saw this as a compliment of his own on-bike methods, Rea responded, “Tom's been very strong in his opinions about developing the bike for many years.
“I've tried to refrain from putting that out there too much. It's very clear that the first time I rode the bike I was immediately fast and in the last two years he's learnt a lot from the way I've been riding [and] my data.
“Maybe now he sees that he has to improve some things with his style and his set-up. But for me I don't understand how it's going to work. He's got such a unique style that really, really works for him.
“He's not a guy that's going to come from tenth to first. He's right there. He has got so many positives with his style as well. To go away from that, it's his gig. For me, I worry about myself and I'm sure my data has been very, very useful to him anyway.”