Reigning World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea says the next few rounds will be pivotal in understanding who will be the biggest threats to his crown in 2018 as he gears up for the return to Europe.

After the unpredictable opening two rounds in Australia and Thailand saw three different winners from four races, Rea heads up the early standings by two points from double Phillip Island race winner Marco Melandri, while 12 points covers the top four.

After the technical regulation shake-up for 2018 with maximum rev limits, a concession points system and approved parts, Rea sees it as a “huge challenge” to maintain his dominance of the World Superbike championship having set multiple records last year including the highest ever points tally in a year.

With the series returning to Europe this weekend, with Aragon and Assen hosting back-to-back rounds, Rea sees the next few rounds as vital in understanding whether the rate of different winners will continue or the rise of title challengers.

“People can be fast to jump to immediate reaction but we need to see the lay of the championship after a few more rounds,” Rea said. “It is cool that there are three different winners in the opening four races but we will have to wait and see if that continues.”

Rea says he appreciates his Kawasaki squad’s frustrations at the new World Superbike rules which appear to have halted the Japanese manufacturer’s recent domination of the championship but concedes a balance is required to ensure the series remains competitive.

“The rules are there to make things even, of course we’ve had an incredible bike over the past few years, so there is reason for people to feel a little bit victimised,” he said. “Kawasaki put the most effort into World Superbikes and their bikes are at an incredibly high level as a stock machine and at Superbike level all over the world.

“To be penalised for success isn’t sporting but as we were explained to in private meetings we are in the entertainment business. From a sporting side it isn’t the best way but from an entertainment side it is great.

“I don’t look at it as a negative I look at it as a huge challenge. I also feel it was disappointing to see that fans thought the championship was boring, I never found it boring because I was winning, and that is the most fun part.”