Catalunya WorldSBK test: Rea ‘recovered a tenth’ with 200mph top speed

| | WorldSBK
Picture: GeeBee Images

With a faster engine under him for 2021, six-times WorldSBK Champion Jonathan Rea was the quickest man in testing at Barcelona, and didn’t use a qualifying tyre to set his fastest time. He did use a qualifying tyre at one stage but did his 1’40.262 on the final day on a soft race tyre, the SCX.

This was another refinement test for Rea, confirming some items on the bike and trying some new setup stuff before he went for a race simulation and then a fast lap on the final day.

“We tried some things that were chassis items really,” said Rea about the main testing work. “On the front area of the bike, stiffness wise. On the rear side we tried some different linkages just to understand the grip platform of the bike. How we can improve the transition from off-gas to on-gas, to give me a more progressive feeling, if you like.

“We got some positive and negative feedback from each of those items but, generally pretty satisfied with that. On the engine side we worked more on gearings, to understand final ratios. The internal gearbox ratios I feel quite confident with but just at this track, it’s understanding final gearing from the sprocket side.

“After that, electronically, I tried some different throttle mappings. So, little things, small everyday things, but it worked. From the afternoon I tried a new Pirelli front tyre, and then another one again right near the end. I did not do so many laps on, but the thinking is to improve the SC1 tyre with more stability, but keep the grip platform that the SC1 has. We got some good info from that.”

The ZX-10RR engine is different this season, higher revving as a stock bike than before, and Rea explained the new motor’s character. “There are some parts inside the engine we can change but I have settled on what I like from an internal point of view, so the character and feeling on the throttle is more throttle mappings that we are working deeper with now and that is something that my electronics guy Davide has been working with, together with KHI, to try and improve it.

“We had like a step one, and I was very good with that, but I think they are still trying to improve it further. There are a few items that are designed to give us more tyre longevity, but we also need to not lose a really strong point of our bike, which is to get the best performance out of a new tyre. But consistently, and over one lap, I felt quite good.”

Rea was asked about what was reported as a 201mph top speed for his new bike at one stage of the test, and then how much of the previous performance differential to the fastest bikes has been recovered and he replied, “I think I did that one time in Rabat’s slipstream. Generally we still lose a little bit… last year was maybe 2 to 2.5 tenths in sector one, which is the straight and chicane, and this year it is more like one tenth. So we have recovered a little bit, which is positive.

We still have the strong parts of our Ninja and we haven’t lost anything there. Good job, but it is still a case of we still need to improve in the speed area. When you see all the Ducati and all the Honda riders… Ducati riders like Chaz and Scott, they are not like Bautista and super-lightweight, yet still they are really fast. That’s how it is. We can’t do much about that, but we will just keep working.”

Race pace was a strong point for Rea, not just his single lap pace. He said, “I did not look at everybody’s race pace but I did a long run - although I was interrupted during it - when I did 13 laps and I was really fast. I felt good.

“I just focused with the standard race tyres all test and then at the end I felt good on the bike, the bike was talking to me, and we put on an SCX tyre. Also, I tried a qualifier, but I aborted the lap straight away. It didn’t feel right, but all-in-all, it was positive. I do not know the other riders’ pace, but I could see from the monitors that Gerloff looked quite good and consistent.

“But you never know how many tyres they are throwing, or maybe they are not throwing tyres and they are really fast? Maybe we need to be faster? Everyone is on a different schedule during a test. I think we are pretty satisfied with our work.”