On an opening Imola WorldSBK day when he said he was working mostly on tyre options for the race on Saturday, Jonathan Rea still managed to be fastest for longest and then find pace on older tyres to run clear right at the end of FP2 and top the Friday time sheets by 0.155 seconds.
Rea said that he was happier on his factory Kawasaki than of late, feeling more like his old self as he laps the tricky Imola layout. It is the third most trophy-laden circuit on his CV and it showed on day one.
“I am pushing on the maximum every single lap, but at the end we did not put in fresh tyres and push for a time attack,” Rea told bikesportnews at the track.
The last few laps I made the difference a little bit more. I am talking to the bike a little bit better than I have been with the bike in the first races.”
Rea definitely has a connection to Imola, as he explained. “It just seems like this track last year was the turning point in my season,” he said.
“We had the test in Brno and then came here and dominated, so it seems like this weekend I have a similar feeling so hopefully I can continue. Of course everyone is that little closer but we will try to replicate what we did last year.”
When asked if Imola was the best chance of overcoming the seemingly unstoppable pairing of Alvaro Bautista and his new Ducati so far, Rea seemed to agree.
“I think if there is any opportunity this season then this is one of the best, because he does not have a lot of experience here, even though he tested here last week.
It is a real track where, with mileage, you understand there are some special techniques, special tricks. I expect him to arrive tomorrow, he is a top-level rider with a great bike and his consistency is very strong. We need to keep working but for day one, we are on the right way.”
With Chaz Davies improving solidly, and having to be displaced from the top spot in Friday qualifying right at the end by Rea, the four-times champion was asked about what he expected from Davies.
“I do not know what to expect from Chaz,” said Rea. “I know in this circuit he is incredibly fast in his previous years. It is clear from when you look at his team-mate how competitive the package he is on, so I think he is just putting it together.
“There is no way the difference between both riders is what it shows, so obviously it is taking Chaz a little bit longer to get up to speed. But I fully expect him to arrive because he is a top rider with a very good package around, so sooner or later he is going to be at the front.”