Jonathan Rea leads way at Imola in Italy, World Superbike leader Alvaro Bautista fourth

World champion Jonathan Rea topped the times in both free practice sessions at Imola in Italy on his Kawasaki ZX-10RR on Friday.

Jonathan Rea set the pace at Imola in Italy on Friday.

Rea clocked a time of 1m 46.363s in FP1 to lead from Ducati pair Chaz Davies and title leader Alvaro Bautista, who is making his racing debut at the Italian circuit.

Rea also held sway in the afternoon, posting a late time of 1m 46.374s, which was slightly slower than his time from the morning.

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Davies was second, 0.155s behind, with BMW Motorrad’s Tom Sykes progressing to third ahead of Bautista, who was 0.7s down on Rea’s time.

Ulsterman Rea is still chasing his maiden victory of the season and will feel he has an excellent chance at Imola, where he has won seven times before.

“We didn’t really change much (in the break), other than I had a really nice rest at home with my family and training a lot,” Rea said.

“But at the track, the bike is quite similar and at this track, the character is really different. This was the place last year where we started building momentum with the first double win of the season and I feel already this year that we have made a small step forward.”

Rea will bid to capitalise on his excellent record at the Italian track and make his experience of Imola count in Ducati’s back yard, where Bautista is competing for the very first time.

“This is one of the main points, although they (Bautista and Davies) were here testing last week, it is a tricky circuit with a lot of undulations and in general – not your typical circuit and it is very unique to World Superbike.

“Experience is key but at the end of the day, we all started from zero.”

The 32-year-old devoted plenty of time to evaluating the Pirelli tyre allocation and ended the day feeling satisfied with the data he gained.

“We tried to focus on understanding the different combinations of front and rear Pirelli tyres we have this weekend,” he said.

“We have some good information for tomorrow, especially looking through our split times. We still have a margin to improve in some splits where we are missing something, although we are not too far off.

“We will try not to compromise too much by looking for more in the other areas. At the end, I felt comfortable on the bike on used tyres and I tried hard, especially when I saw that my name was not on the top,” added Rea.

“It shows that it is there, the bike is there, and we will put everything together tomorrow. I feel comfortable with the bike making this rhythm.”

The four-time champion is 53 points behind Bautista, who has won the first 11 races of the season.