After two strong 2018 pre-season tests, at Jerez and Portimao, Jonathan Rea is pretty much everyone’s nomination to be the world champion again on his factory Kkawasaki. He probably was before the tests too. Being three-time and consecutive world champion, and still on a roll, would also have something to do with that general impression.
With a ton of new rules coming into force in 2018, and maybe the most controversial being the drop in maximum allowable revs that has affected Kawasaki the most strongly already, Rea’s biggest problem may be more about regulation changes than some of his rivals’ capabilities. So far, the regulatory drop in Kawasaki revs to 14,100 has not slowed him down at all.
If he goes ‘too fast, too often’, or even any other Kawasaki rider in the paddock scores well instead of him, a complicated new algorithm in the organisers’ computers will kick in to declare the Kawasaki will get penalised with a further 250rpm drop. Or two or three more drops, if he sums come out that way periodically through the year. Same potential rule interventions for Yamaha, Ducati – anybody of course - but Kawasaki looks the most likely to take the first in-season rev hit.
All the same, the general view in the paddock appears to be that Rea will be long gone up the championship table before anything too drastic happens. He is still the title favourite but does the man himself think that too, after such strong test showings?
“The last three years I can understand why people would think that, but I just want to worry about myself, and not worry what the others think,” Rea told bikesportnews.com.
The new rules may be a point of focus for him to think about. So is he concerned?
“Concerned? Of course we have to be concerned,” said Rea, “especially as the organisers can introduce a drop in revs, even if the balancing figures do not demand it. The balancing rule can come into effect and that can happen just at the discretion of the organisers, not even with the algorithm they have designed,” explained Rea. “Unfortunately this is a difficult rule because right now I am riding really strongly, everything is going really good, the bike and team is going really good and I have made a huge step in the winter in myself.”
Rea also introduced another discussion point… It won’t just be him that gets a drop in revs if it is applied, as the rules govern manufacturers not individual riders. “We have to think that when I get penalised all the other Kawasaki riders get penalised. I am not sure that is quite fair.”
Even with a new and much lower season-starting limit of 14,100rpm from his Kawasaki’s race engine this year, Rea has had no problems with one lap or race pace performance in tests. So at what point might -250 revs, and another potential -250, etc, start to bite? Rea and some other riders in green must surely hope they never get to find out.