World Superbikes: Eugene Laverty quicker than Rea in Phillip Island practice

Jonathan Rea is the only rider to win three consecutive World Superbike titles

Jonathan Rea was fifth fastest in free practice in Phillip Island as he began his challenge for a fourth successive World Superbike title.

The Northern Irishman's time left him two positions behind compatriot Eugene Laverty, whose Aprilia team-mate Lorenzo Savadori was fastest.

Leon Camier was second quickest with Rea's Kawasaki team-mate Tom Sykes in fourth position.

The season's opening two races take place on Saturday and Sunday.

Toomebridge man Laverty was delighted with his practice showing after not managing to finish in the top three in any session in 2017.

"Even in the morning riding in the wet, the bike felt fantastic," said the 31-year-old.

"In the dry, we went out and within a few laps we were under the lap record. The bike felt incredible and I'm feeling really confident."

Another championship success would see Rea, 31, equal Carl Fogarty's record of four World Superbike titles - although the Englishman's titles did not all come in consecutive seasons.

As he prepares to try to add to his tally of five victories at the Australian circuit which traditionally hosts the season curtain-raiser, Rea's total of wins in the series stands at 54, five short of Fogarty's all-time mark.

The Isle of Man-based racer enjoyed double triumphs at Phillip Island in 2016 and 2017, having taken a win and a second place in his first year as part of the Kawasaki team in 2015.