For WorldSBK championship leader Jonathan Rea, it was one more important race win in the opener at Imola today, as he beat his team-mate Sykes by almost four seconds.

Of his front running race, at a circuit you get no rest around, he said, “I had a good rhythm, a solid rhythm and it was enough. If the bike is working really good, it is actually fine. When you are fighting against the bike it becomes a really difficult lap.

“And our bike was working really good. Just with the temperature increase today compared to the rest of the weekend, I struggled a little bit with entry traction, and I had a lot of backing-in. I played around with engine management in the race a little bit to try to ease that but still it was quite inconsistent, locking and pushing going into the corners. We will see tomorrow what the temperature is but the base of the bike is good.”

With so few engine upgrades and other performance parts allowed in WorldSBK nowadays, a recent test at Brno allowed some other kinds of left-field set-up thinking to help Rea at Imola. “I want to say thanks to the team, especially to Pere. He had the idea to change the bike a lot in Brno and he has put the bike in a different area for me. I feel quite good with it.

“We did not go with the bigger (profile) new rear tyre. Theoretically the tyre should have better distance but at the end I could do, if I wanted, a 1’46s. I am sure even the ‘small’ tyre was quite consistent to the end. We did a simulation with the big tyre yesterday but when we went through all the chances of direction, all those chicanes, the smaller one was that little bit better.”

But after the 25 points and post-race Prosecco spraying, he feels it may be much more difficult to win race two on Sunday.

Even after seemingly cruising to a race one win, the split grid rules will make things tough for Rea. All four of his wins so far in 2018 have been in race one, which appears to prove his point.

“You just try to do what you can do but you have to keep in mind that the guys in front are a little bit slower. While you have to respect them, you have got get through. So tomorrow is about taking calculated risks to try to arrive. T

he top four have got pace but after that there is a gap in pace. Race one is the one you want to twin. With Chaz on pole position tomorrow, my gut right now that it is a race for second from the third row, with his pace. Unless we can find something miraculous on that first lap to get through, it is one of them.”

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