Reigning WorldSBK king Jonathan Rea, along with every other rider bar three, opted for a full distance rear tyre in the opening 25-lapper at Laguna Seca which played some part in his victory but his eighth win of the year, and the 79th of his career, coming after a Superpole win that took his career total up to 20, was all about Rea, his well set-up bike and his ability to perform when the pressure and expectation is on.
Rea had both factory Ducatis on his tail for the early laps then Davies alone quite close and finally Rea had the track to himself, overcoming rear grid drop off not as severe as that experienced by Davies, who like Eugene Laverty and Tom Sykes had opted to use the Pirelli SCX rear tyre.
Really designed for ten lap races, and even Superpole for some, but Davies went for it – although Rea did not now that as they raced together. “No, I had information on the grid that we expected everybody to use the same tyre, the new 446 rear, so I did not know. It was a brave choice…”
When asked what he thought when he came round and saw ‘Bautista Out’ on his pit board, he said, “To be honest I didn’t think much, I just thought about the race. I thought it was one less person in the group. I was getting a lot of signals like plus 0.2, plus 0.3, 0.2, 0.3 Davies and one more. So I knew the group was two.
I saw Bautista was out so the one vanished and I knew it was me and Chaz, so it let me strategically plan the race a little bit better. It felt like a bungee cord a little bit and I wanted to snap it as fast as possible and do my rhythm. In my last laps I could increase the gap quite a lot because he it looked like he was in more problems than I was, even though I was struggling.”
For Rea he extended his championship lead and with a good margin, but is taking nothing for granted. “As Alvaro has demonstrated the margin is never big enough. Anything can happen and there is a lot of racing left, three races in a weekend so I just need to keep doing my job.
“I feel like tomorrow we can try to capitalise again, approach every race like normal. But this situation is super-nice because in April this year I was very flat. We never give up but I could not see the possibility to win the championship. Now we are leading the championship, with some margin and going to the summer break.
“But there is a lot of racing left. Don’t think about the championship because Alvaro can be super-strong on his day. We never gave up but we understood that it was going to be very difficult. It felt like we were fighting uphill but now I feel like I am at the top of a hill, so you can manage situations a little bit differently.”