Jonathan Rea has admitted that it has been hard to not take notice of the confidence shown by Tom Sykes over the winter months as the Northern Irishman prepares to defend his World Superbike title.

Fourteen-times a race winner in 2015, Rea was quietly confident of his capabilities through the offseason, while stating that he never felt the need to fit a qualifying tyre to secure an eye-catching lap time.

Both he and KRT Kawasaki team-mate Sykes placed second and first in the final preseason test in Phillip Island, and Englishman Sykes has expressed his liking of Kawasaki's new ZX-10R Superbike from the off.

Asked on Monday evening whether Sykes' positive comments on the machine, which he feels works better on used tyres than the '15 model, had proved to be good motivation going into the 28-race season, Rea responded, "It's hard not to take notice of that to be honest.

"He seems so confident. It looks like he's really happy with the bike Kawasaki have made. I try not to focus on that. Sure, it's hard because he's had a couple of winter tests and he's riding really well.

"But the race is the race. If I can prepare myself the best I can do and the bike is as good as it can be and he beats me then I'll be the first guy to shake his hand on the podium and say, 'You did a great job.' I don't know how I'll take that but I'm just motivating myself to do my own thing."

The 29-year old placed an uncharacteristic seventh at a test in Jerez at the close of January as he sampled a variety of settings on the new machine.

Although not always at the top of the time sheets, Rea was insistent that he always had a strong base setting and saw little point in fitting a qualifying tyre to shave tenths of a second off his lap time before the season gets underway.

"The base has always been there. I felt like if we had to put everything together any time in the winter we could make something good.

"In winter tests people were getting excited and throwing a qualifier in. I didn't want to do it. I didn't feel it was the time. Even today at the end of the day we had five minutes to make a time attack. I preferred to go out and just make a start. It's just different approaches.

"[In Jerez] I didn't use a qualifier. Sure, I was pushing with a race tyre. I think before qualifying tyres went in Chaz was fastest with me just behind. In January I didn't feel the need."



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