WorldSBK series leader Jonathan Rea left Portimao with a 91-point lead in the championship but says wrapping up a record fifth title at Magny-Cours in three weeks is too much to ask.
Rea pit in one of his best rides of the 2019 season the final race in Portugal and it was not even a race that he won.
Alvaro Bautista was that winner, but both riders had to stretch themselves fully, with Rea making up ground on Bautista so well in the final laps that he got to within 0.111 seconds of him at the flag. Rea was not sure that he would get quite that close at the end.
“I felt strong with the bike. Behind Alvaro, I was pushing and where he was gaining time on the front straight and the top straight, coming out of T5 I almost felt that he was increasing the gap,” Rea told bikesportnews.com.
“But when we went into T14 I had already eaten up that advantage he had in the first sector. It was enough motivation to keep pushing. He was making a few mistakes and it was enough for me to think, ‘Keep the pressure on.’
“You never know what can happen and I could see the gap to Toprak was increasing in those last six laps. Like I said after the Superpole race, we went with the set-up we had in FP3 just to conserve the tyre a little bit better.
“The strategy in the race changed because yesterday I ate too much tyre in the beginning and then I was in the 1’44s at the end. Today still on lap 19 I could be in the 1’43.2s. That was the key to the race that set-up change. Being a little bit softer in the rear, not pushing the tyre too much and being more smooth and clam on the throttle.
I felt that we got the best out of the package to be honest. Barring riding straight through him I was never going to get to the finish line in front. At least I had to make it look like I could try.
“As soon as I got to the hill I kind of knew then. But I got so close because when he sat up sat up straight after the flag I almost went straight into the back of him! I enjoyed that final race; we had a fight. I am proud of myself because I had fight.”
Rea really had to give it everything and today was a close as we got to a race long race between Rea and Bautista since they both met up on track in February in Australia.
“I have not been in a position to fight like that for a long time. Either I have won the race because of whatever reason, or I have been beaten badly, so that was the first time this year that I have really dug in lap with the belief to win and close the gap down. It was a nice feeling.”
With Rea 91 points ahead, and nine races left, he feels it is too early to talk about winning the World Championship at Magny Cours next time out.
“That is a little bit too unrealistic a target to be honest. But now we are close and doing everything right, and the trend of the championship has been good in the last five or six races. So I feel if it does not come of now the buck stops at my feet.
“It is up to us and we have a lot to lose. That is why this weekend I did not really want to think about managing (the gap). There was some conversation inside the team about the long game but that was in my brain on the grid and then when I went for the first corner it was try to win the race.
“Winning the championship is the goal and it does not matter where. What matters is that we get there but the position that we were in in May, compared to now is incredible. I can’t believe it. From being a completely unrealistic target, to being a realistic target is just the strength of our team but the mental strength to just never give up.”