Until the second race of the Assen WorldSBK weekend, nobody had got as close to the runaway championship leader Alvaro Bautista as Jonathan Rea.
The four-time champion had scored second place, and nothing but second place, since round one. At Assen in race two he had to accept third, after local boy Michael van der Mark found enough to get by in his Yamaha, and even resist a strong late counter-challenge from Rea to stay there.
Rea described the initial pass from VDM, which caused an unexpected mini-drama for him.
“I think I have taught everybody that pass now for many years,” he said. “He beat me at my own pass! But to be fair our bike wasn’t geared to be really strong there.
“We were kind of in between fourth and fifth gear at the right before. It wasn’t a surprise that he came past there, but I got a surprise as he came past because his pass created loads of turbulence and the bike almost tucked the front, so it will be interesting to see the replay back.”
Rea had made an epic move forward in the first lap, from eighth to the lead in a few corners, but he had to give way at the end, even though he left tyre marks on VDM’s leathers with has own attempted re-pass.
Rea enjoyed two big races in a day, like everybody used to. He also felt that as his team had maximised the potential of his bike, having to take third had a kind of inevitability about it.
Rea used an SC1 rear, not the SC0 most of the others did. “I stuck to my guns and I felt that the grip level was really good and unfortunately just at the end when the tyres were dropping I lost a lot of grip.
Apart from that I was very impressed with the potential of the tyre and I as able to run quite consistently in the start to the middle of the race at 1’35.0. I am pretty content.”
His front, like some others, showed more signs of hard use at this particular venue. “I had a pretty severe wear band on the right hand side on the front. I saw also the Ducati had a little bit. That is the nature of this track. A little bit of that is cold-tearing but also the nature of the track.”
Bautista was closer to the chasers at Assen than most other circuits so far, but Rea explained it is as much to do with Assen as anything.
“Only because of this kind of track,” said Rea. “We see sector two is only acceleration, from turn four or five until the flip-flops. And consistently they are one or two tenths faster per lap. That is only in one evident sector.
“The rest of the track it is the same story. That is why I felt really good in the fight. I could make the difference. My team gave me a good bike to really fight with him for a little bit and keep the gap quite stable.
But as soon as I realised I was not getting anywhere, the smart part of my brain was just telling me to stop taking risks – you are going to crash - and brought the bike home where we could.
“We have to try to close the gap even more. Right now it is still a little bit too much. I am sure he (Alvaro) can be faster. 100 per cent. Where they are making the time I do not feel like they are at full potential. Certainly Imola is a very tricky circuit, very unique. We will see.”
Looking forward, after four events, Rea was asked if he could see a circuit where he could beat the Ducati.
“Right now, no,” he said. “Right now we are too far in performance, from a machine point of view. Also Alvaro is riding very good, so when you have both combinations working good, the result is how it is. It should be this way, you know, kinda…”