The countdown to the 2024 WorldSBK Championship is already well and truly underway as Jonathan Rea led a host of familiar faces in unfamiliar places during the first round of post-season testing at Jerez.
Just two days after the conclusion of the 2023 WorldSBK Championship at the Spanish venue, many riders were back to begin preparations for 2024, chief among them Rea, who got his much anticipated first outing on the Yamaha R1 underway in dry but cloudy conditions.
By the lunchtime break, Rea was fourth fastest with a 1m 40.302secs lap despite a small crash on a wet patch at Turn 13, behind pacesetter Remy Gardner, Michael Ruben Rinaldi - debuting on the Motocorsa Ducati - and Dominique Aegerter. As a reference, Alvaro Bautista’s sticky tyre Superpole winning lap on Saturday was 1m 38.635s.
Also making the headlines on the first morning of the two day test was Andrea Iannone, who made his first competitive appearance on a racing bike in four years following the end of his lengthy suspension for a positive substance test.
Ahead of his return to action with Go Eleven Ducati, Iannone got down to work and was lapping around two seconds off Gardner’s 1m 39.837secs timesheet topping pace.
Elsewhere, Axel Bassani was out on track with new team-mate Alex Lowes as he got used to his Kawasaki ZX-10RR machinery, the Italian around +0.6s off the Briton’s pace.
WorldSSP Championship winning Nicolo Bulega was also on track as he begins his new endeavour with defending champions Aruba.it Racing Ducati.
Despite missing the final round, Brad Ray was also on track aboard the familiar Yamaha R1, albeit run by the GMT94 team. The French team is yet to announce its rider for 2024, though it is understood Ray is in the running with Philipp Oettl and Loris Baz.
There was also an appearance on a Superbike for Tarran Mackenzie, who stepped up to ride the MIE Racing Honda CBR1000RR-R. The Scot has endured a difficult season on the underpowered Honda CBR600RR in the WorldSSP class, even if he did pick up a shock win in the wet at Most, but the 2021 BSB Champion is considered a strong candidate for a full-time WorldSBK ride in 2024.