Jonathan Rea revving up for world title defence
Jonathan Rea will soon be heading Down Under for the opening round of the 2019 World Superbike Championships, in the hope of becoming the first rider in history to clock up five consecutive World titles.
In just over six weeks time, the Co-Antrim rider will be joining a strong line-up of World title contenders at the Yamaha Finance Australian Round at the spectacular Phillip Island circuit.
He will be hoping to over throw Italy's Marco Melandri, who scored a double success at the opening round in 2018.
In last year's two races, Rea finished in fifth place in race one before being pipped at the line by Melandri in race two, with just 0.021 seconds splitting the pair at the finish.
It's going to be a tall task for Rea in 2019 with this year's World Superbike line-up one of the strongest for many many tears, but Rea has the factory and the pedigree to conquer everything that might be thrown at him.
Rea remains with the Factory Kawasaki Team for 2019 and will be joined by the 2018 British Superbike Champion Leon Haslem in his stable, to make a formidable force.
Italian Marco Melandri spearheads the GRT Yamaha Team with Sandro Cortese, and again likely to be the man who can make a dent on Rea's plans in 2019.
Welshman Chas Davis, who pushed Rea all the way in last year's title charge, sticks with the Aruba.it Ducati Team.
Honda World Superbike Team will have Englishman Leon Camier and Japan's Ryuichi Kiyonari as their title hopes, while BMW have entered the game with former World champion Tom Sykes and Markus Reiterberger as their frontrunners.
Sykes will have a score to settle with Rea who took his title away from him in 2014.
One of the strongest challenges with come in the form of the Pata Yamaha pairing of Dutchman Michael Van Der Mark and England's Alex Lowes, both riders who are capable of putting the spanner into the works.
On paper, Rea looks to have all the credentials and the machinery to win just about anywhere, and the Larne-born rider has proven that in the past.
He can do it again, but this time around, it looks like being the biggest battle that the four-time World champion will have faced.