On a day of raging controversies and cloak and dagger meetings, the first 21-lap WorldSBK race of the weekend went ahead, if not quite as planned as one rider was missing through injury (Loris Baz) and another six – Davies, Camier, Laverty, Melandri, Cortese and Kiyonari, elected not to ride because of the poor track conditions.
Jonathan Rea was one who did race, even though he described the track conditions as not ideal and admitted he felt under pressure to take part.
“In reality the condition on the racing line wasn’t ideal, but it was certainly able to race,” Rea told bikesportnews.com. “The problem in a racing situation is that if you run off line a little bit and make a mistake it can not just penalise yourself, but the riders behind you.
“I had a moment this morning where Rinaldi lost the rear in front of me and Marco sat up. I almost hit both of them. So that is the conditions we faced.
I felt I was under pressure to ride from other sources. Also, to save face, and I think also for the championship, we should at least try. But it was far from ideal conditions. I am very disappointed. The track is an incredible layout and it is really nice to come here, but just for some reason the surface is not rubbering-in as it should.”
Exactly who Rea felt under pressure from he was not saying. “I do not want to talk about that,” was his polite but final statement. “I do not want to throw people under the bus.”
The question was then how did WorldSBK arrive with this track problem in place?
“I understand it from all situations. You cannot put systems in place… there has to be an element of trust and going on words. I feel like, of course, we have been let down a little bit, not from a championship point of view or an FIM point of view, but we should be here and the track should be done and ready, and at least some activity on track.
But we found a track on Wednesday and Thursday that was really dirty. It is hard to say that that is not acceptable, but I think we deserve better as a World Championship. To come to a track and it be ready. Really ready and rubbered-in.
“Everyone is here doing their best - the organisers - but it is twice now here that it has happened - last year with the stones coming up - but I have no answers. It is really, really tough. I feel for all concerned but I certainly do not want to point fingers.”
Rea would not answer the question of if all the riders had agreed to not ride, or had had a meeting together, or formed a WhatsApp group, by saying, “That’s personal.”
In the race itself, a belter for a time between Rea and eventual winner Bautista, Rea said, “It was a very difficult race.” An understatement perhaps given the conditions. “As we know the conditions were not the best so it was more a case of managing myself and the bike inside the limits. But of course I got excited a few times because I could see my pace compared to Alvaro was quite similar.
I was much stronger in a lot of the circuit and there were a couple of key areas where he was that bit stronger. I was just riding on the limit to be there so that meant when you take liberties in all the critical areas of the track I was making some mistakes - and just running onto the dirty stuff penalised me a few times.
“There are lessons to learn for tomorrow. Pere and myself made a last minute change, just before the race, to forget about out-and-out pace and to look after the tyre. That was the biggest thing because we knew the tyre was going to drop. So massive kudos to Pere because the change was quite significant. I felt like in the end we looked after the tyre a little bit, but too many mistakes penalised us.”