After a positive recent test session at Portimao KRT riders Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam will now restart their championship campaigns at the very same undulating 4.592km long Autodromo Internacional do Algarve circuit this coming weekend.
With the most recent points scoring WorldSBK event having taken place at Laguna Seca in the USA between the 12th and 14th of July, anticipation is high for the forthcoming event in Portugal. Race weekend will take place between the 6th and 8th of September and it will be the tenth round of a 13-round season.
After riding alongside Haslam to win the famous Suzuka 8-Hours race in late July, then joining Leon again the recent tests in Portugal, Rea is fully ready to try and extend his current WorldSBK championship lead of 81 points.
A strong recent run of winning form, added to his almost perfect early season podium-scoring, has given Rea his impressive lead with just four rounds to go. Race wins will be the immediate target, as ever, for Rea this weekend. He has already recorded nine individual victories this season and a remarkable 80 wins over his long WorldSBK career.
Portimao is clearly a happy hunting ground for Jonathan, who has won each of the past seven WorldSBK races he has competed at in Portugal – and all six races he has started there on a Kawasaki.
Haslam had much WorldSBK experience of Portimao before joining Kawasaki in BSB for the previous three years, ultimately winning the title last season. His recent successful test at Portimao was near perfect preparation for his racing return to Portimao for the first time since 2015. He scored a best finish of third on that occasion.
So far in 2019 Leon has recorded six podiums on his KRT Ninja ZX-10RR. He is looking for more this weekend, as well as his first win since his WorldSBK comeback. He is currently fifth overall, having broken through the 200 points mark at the most recent round in the USA.
As is the case at each round this year, there will be three points scoring races in Portugal. There will be two full distance contests over 20 laps (on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, respectively) and one ten-lap Tissot-Superpole ‘sprint’ race on Sunday morning.
Jonathan Rea: “I am really excited to get back into racing again. It has been such a long time since the last WorldSBK races and I can’t wait for the Portimao weekend. I love the track and after the tests we have a clear direction of the base settings that we will start with on the Ninja ZX-10RR. We will work step-by-step through Friday, trying to get a race package, and then focus on our qualifying to make sure we have a good race. I am going to have a lot of travelling support over from Northern Ireland and I cannot wait to get back to business. That race weekend feeling is something I really enjoy, together with all my team.”
Leon Haslam: “I have had several podiums with various manufacturers over the years at Portimao, and enjoyed some really good racing. The recent test was really positive for our team and on race tyres I think we were ranked 1-2. I was only one or two tenths of a second off Jonathan’s best lap time with a race tyre. It has been a tough year in some ways with a few injuries and having to learn some circuits. But Portimao is a circuit we have tested at now and every time I have done that so far I have made the podium. Obviously that is the aim but also I feel we can be even more competitive and challenge the front guys. That is the main aim this weekend and I am really looking forward to it.”