After the disappointment of being punted off track in WorldSBK race one and then crashing on Saturday, and finding out about the sad passing of his maternal grandmother, Jonathan Rea was highly motivated to do well in the sprint race and the second long race at Phillip Island.
The Superpole race was to provide his best shot, as he won a really tight fight with Toprak Razgatlioglu after taking an adventurous inside line into the final corner and then staying out wide across the stripe.
“I got a good start in the Superpole race and put my head down,” Rea told bikesportnews.com. “It seemed like I was really setting the rhythm with a few laps to go. Toprak was showing me his front wheel, so I knew he was there.
“On the last lap, throwing the bike down the inside line, I knew I had a little bit more traction. I really wanted to win that Superpole race for my family.”
Rea’s emotional win was followed up just a few short hours later by the start of race two, in reality the second long 22-lap race, not the actual second race, which was his winning sprint.
He would nearly win again, but not quite. “It would have been nice to do it again in that second one but it was very strange race,” he said, as everybody slowed early one to save their tyres in the hotter temperatures, then went or dropped back late on depending on how well their tyres lasted. I was not sure how the bike would be.
The temperature went to 45°C on track today too. Nobody seemed to want to come through and do the work. The reason the group was so big was that you can’t ride fast in the long race. You can’t draw a trend from this one race at all.”
He continued, “I set about my rhythm and with five laps to go I put my head down - but as soon as I completed this lap I felt a drop in the tyre again. Alex got by me and made a gap and although I had a close ride up to him on the last lap it was just not enough to get to the line first.
“We got to Qatar now and see what that brings. Yesterday we were 25 points behind, today we are 19 behind, so a positive day all-in-all after yesterday.”
Rea used all his race craft and knowledge of Phillip Island to make his winning run. “The Superpole race was good because I made a good start and put my head down,” he said. “Toprak was showing me a wheel into turn one but my line into turn four meant that I was leaving the door open but I could counteract those passes at the Hayshed up the inside because my bike had so much traction from T6.
“On the last lap at the last corner I knew I had a little bit more traction than the Yamaha on the exit. I put it in there and hoped to have the traction to the line. In the Superpole race, with the tail wind, it helped our speed because you didn’t have as much wind to break down the start finish straight. That certainly helped getting over the line in the Superpole race.”
Of race two, Rea said, “I didn’t know what to expect from the tyre in the race. We had done 22 laps on a tyre during the tests but never in one go and with this high a track temperature of 45°cC. I was riding so slow at the front and doing all the work but it seemed like no-one wanted to come through and do the work.
“Loris had a go in T4, just block passing. I came through I didn’t have the heart to sit behind him because my bike was so much faster! With five laps to go I put my head down and once I completed this one lap I could feel the tyre drop again. The guys behind were obviously conserving their tyres a lot more and benefitting from the slipstream.
When Alex came past into T1 I was forced wide by him being on the inside and also the wind. When Alex got in front he put his head down and attacked for a couple of corners to open a gap. I was caught behind Mickey through T2 and T3 but already the gap was too big. I closed right up on the last lap but it wasn’t enough to to get to the line.
“I tried to have a run on the last corner but he just stopped right in the middle of the corner and I almost touched him, almost touched the exhaust so I had to get on the outside, the least preferred line.”
Despite his Saturday fall Rea was almost entirely positive about his PI race weekend. “We are in a much better position than we were last year. Last year we were 15s from the race win so I feel competitive. Unfortunately yesterday we lost some points but it was a 220kmph crash but I walked away with relatively little injuries. I’m looking forward to Qatar because today we did the best that we could.”