Jonathan Rea inspired for Portimao

Ten Kate Honda

After the opening round of this season’s FIM Hannspree World Superbike championship at Phillip Island in Australia last month, Jonathan Rea and Max Neukirchner head to Portimao in Portugal for this weekend’s (26-28 March) second outing at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve.

The flowing 4.592km circuit has become a firm favorite with riders since the inaugural World Superbike championship race at Portimao in 2008 and it boasts a stunning combination of changes in elevation and fast and slower corners.

Jonathan Rea was in scintillating form during a Portimao SBK test at the end of January setting the fastest time before heading to Australia for the opening round of the 2010 series. The 22-year-old from Northern Ireland took fourth and sixth place finishes, including a stunning ride from last place in the second WSBK outing.

Hannspree Ten Kate Honda teammate, Max Neukirchner, 26, had not raced for nine months before the Phillip Island meeting following the two major injuries he sustained last season. The German was unable to overcome set-up woes encountered during WSBK practice and qualifying, eventually posting results of 12th and 16th, which disappointed both him and his SBK team.

Jonathan Rea Quote

"It’s been a busy time since Australia, getting back into training, buying a new house, spending some time with my motocross team and acting as crew chief to my brother, Richard, who races a Superstock bike in the UK and Ireland. Australia was tough, but still satisfying – it was important to come away from there with some solid points, so a fourth and a sixth wasn’t too bad. I feel like we’ve blown the dust off the season now and it’s really got started, especially now we’re heading back to Europe."

"I’ve been working hard away from the track on my fitness and conditioning and I know that the guys have been working equally hard back at the workshop, getting a bike together that we know can work at European tracks. I like Portimao, and we had a good test there in January, so we’ll be looking for podium finishes as that’s what we need to be doing consistently now. I’ve got some new electronics to try on Friday and we’ll decide quickly whether to carry on with them because we know the bike works there already. I’m not naïve enough to think anything’s going to be easy, but I’m optimistic for the World Superbike weekend."

Max Neukirchner Quote

"My problems in Australia didn’t finish with the races, which didn’t go as I would have liked. We then had a problem on the way home with the plane – a new A380 airbus – and we were delayed for 11 hours in Melbourne, along with Max Biaggi and Nori Haga, and missed the connecting flight in Hong Kong. I spent some time thinking about what we could do together as a team to get round the problems we had at Phillip Island, and I spent some time in the mountains in Austria, which was good for me."

"I’m now really ready for another Superbike race weekend in Portimao – it’s a track that I like very much and we have tested there twice. We found something in the very last hour of the last test which we think will work there, but there are some new electronics to try as well. Of course, I am looking for an improvement on the results in Australia – a very big improvement."

Ronald ten Kate Quote

"Clearly our results in Phillip Island SBK weren’t what we were hoping for, although Jonathan’s ride in race two showed that he is ready to challenge for the top positions. On top of that, we have had two good tests at Portimao so I believe that we have a package to do well there."

"For Max, we’ve been studying a lot the data from WSBK Phillip Island and we’ve worked hard back at base on new parts and suspension settings to try and give him the feeling that he needs. His riding style is very different to Jonathan’s, so comparisons are very difficult. For sure, we’re all looking for a good step forward from Max."

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One of the few moto journalists based on the East Coast, Ron Lieback joined the motorcycle industry as a freelancer in 2007 and is currently Editor at Large at Ultimate Motorcycling. He is also the author of 365 to Vision: Modern Writer's Guide (How to Produce More Quality Writing in Less Time).