In winning his second WorldSBK race of the year, Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea had to come from what he considered a long way back on Friday morning, with numerous problems evident with his overall gearing - gearing is this year’s tech watchword; you have been warned…
To win on Saturday was all the sweeter because of his early toil, and even more satisfying because he and his crew had to work correctly in every session to find him a victorious bike for the first race in Spain. His task was complicated in race one by having periods of wet on day one, in the first and third FP sessions.
“After FP1 I was really frustrated with the level we arrived here with, compared to last year,” said Rea, who’s bike has lost well over 1000rpm compared to his 2017 rocket. “The changes we had to make with the final gearing - I was so in between gears - but I am really proud of where we have come from. I was really pissed off after Friday morning. Step by step we found small improvements and every change we made was the right change.”
The set-up work was not even complete before the final session on Saturday morning. Rea and his crew opted for a development Pirelli front tyre that he had not used before. “I also ran the new front that they brought this weekend,” said Rea of his pre-race change.
“I used it in the morning for the first time, in FP4, so it was a little bit of a gamble to use it in the race as I had not done any runs. But it gave me the confidence I needed. It was a little bit like the SC2 but it is more solid. It turns better than the SC2, so for me it’s a good step. Good job Pirelli.”
Overall Rea knew he was going to have a good day after that FP4 session, and he admitted to having a strategy to keep his powder dry in the first sections of the race, and make his fast steering, yet stable, bike finally slip away with some margin of safety from the rest in the twister parts of the Motorland circuit.
But Rea thinks it is going to be a busy year in the pits, even from race to race, and more.
“This morning I was real happy because I felt that I was beginning to enjoy riding the bike again. And starting to understand that we cannot expect to turn up every weekend and have the same bike or performance, but to try and find the same performance in a different way.”
And because of the new tech rules for 2018 it may even be all-change again for Sunday’s race, if conditions are contrasting enough.
“It is not even coming to new tracks,” said Rea. “Tomorrow the temperature should be much higher, the sun should be in the sky and I am sure it will be a completely different race again. I am nervous about tomorrow because today will mean nothing if we have 30 degrees C on the track.”
In race one track temps were around 18°C.
Rea and his crew, led by former racer and long time WorldSBK crew chief Pere Riba, are possibly rummaging in their expansive trophy cabinets for some old data sheets, as Rea explains.
“This corner speed way I am trying to learn quickly,” he stated. “Kind of like 2015, when I arrived at Kawasaki. I rode this way. And then the 2016 bike was completely different, like Tom Sykes bike, a stop and go bike, so for two years I have been learning how to ride that one. So now it is like - with no top power any more and no real acceleration - I am going back to like 2015 style. I am trying to re-jog my memory now. At 31 that is not easy.”
But it is a winning strategy, as his race one success at Motorland proved.
He moved 14 points clear of Marco Melandri after race one, 17 clear of Chaz Davies.