After all the new bikes and rider combinations had their final pre-season test outing at Phillip Island, Jonathan Rea – WorldSBK champion for the past five years – was again the name on top of the single best lap times.
Impressive as ever despite spending his time sorting out the issues with machine manoeuvrability that held him back at the opening round in 20219, Rea is working on turning his Kawasaki ZX-10RR.
“We have been working a little bit under the radar doing runs on tyres but not doing a full simulation really,” Rea told bikesportnews.com a few days before racing starts for real.
“It seems like the bike is very user friendly. In the beginning, and when the tyre drops. Last year I had to spin the tyre a lot to make the bike turn. I was always turning with the rear. All that we learned in the past we are making the bike turn.
“The focus today was trying to improve in sector four and we managed to do that, I think there were a couple of areas where I felt better, ten to 11 and tipping into 11, on the last corner - just getting the bike to turn.”
There is possibly a temperature issue related to relative performance already at work in the 2020 season prepartions
“A strange one because it seems that when the temperature goes up we are a little bit better than the rest,” said Rea. “When it is cooler there is so much grip out there, especially when some of the other guys are looking quite fast in the cooler conditions. So we need to keep an open mind.
“The wind was changing today. In the beginning it was ahead, and in the end of the day the wind picked up and it was a complete crosswind. It changes the character of the lap so we will pay attention to that on the weekend and I see Pirelli are bringing a different rear tyre on the weekend. Today I confirmed both front tyres. SC1 and SC2.
“Both have positive feelings but they are working differently. I will understand the new rear tyre on the weekend and then make a compromise.
But we are still looking for a little bit of front feeling on the last part of the brakes, when I am putting the front under load I need some more feedback. The balance of the bike is a little bit high in this area.”
Rea’s stealthy and steady approach to practice saw him find improvements end up fastest of all, but of his potential rivals for the race wins come the weekend, he was initially reticent, but finally encouraged to say that, “Van der Mark seems quite solid. For me he is the guy that is standing out more during this test.
“There are a lot of them, a lot of guys are working. The thing about testing is that you do not understand the schedule. There are a couple of guys just throwing tyres and making lap times, but when you look lap-by-lap it looks like AP (crew chief Andrew Pitt) and van der Mark are working in a good way. With the race in mind and that is also like us, trying to think about lap 21 and 22 as opposed to making fast times.”