Jonathan Rea ready to launch World Superbike challenge

Northern Ireland's Jonathan Rea
Northern Ireland's Jonathan Rea suffered injury setbacks in the 2011 season

Jonathan Rea is determined to launch a serious challenge for the 2012 Superbike World Championship after his injury-hit campaign last season.

Rea missed two months of the 2011 series but did manage to pick up two wins, and ended the season with an encouraging double podium at Portimao.

The Honda rider from Northern Ireland says he cannot wait for the 2012 term to start in Australia this weekend.

The 25-year-old says the early signs are encouraging for the new season.

"We are where we expected to be and we know that to win here is going to be a very big task," said Rea, aware of defending champion Carlos Checa's current fine form.

"We are still changing things on the bike because I am not 100% satisfied with the set-up.

"It has been really good just to be on track with the others though, and I am really enjoying riding the bike.

"I can really feel what the bike is doing and the electronics are working really well. I am looking forward to Friday's sessions."

Ballyclare man Rea, one of the brightest young stars in the series, had been seen as a potential 2011 title contender aboard his Honda.

But the team struggled to get the best out of the CBR1000RR and wrist, arm and collarbone injuries suffered in mid-season then kept Rea sidelined for two months.

He is partnered by former MotoGP racer Hiroshi Aoyama.

Spanish veteran Checa continues with the Althea Ducati team this season and was the class of the field for the majority of this week's pre-season test, despite his Ducati carrying a 6kg handicap in an effort to limit its superiority.

His principal title rivals from last season, Max Biaggi and Marco Melandri, will again look to be among the front-runners.

New Aprilia signing Eugene Laverty looks set to ride as he recovers from a fractured hand, having flown an Ulster-based specialist out to Australia to aid his recovery.