Qatar WorldSBK: Tyre gamble pays off for Rea

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Picture: GeeBee Images

It has been almost a clean sweep of WorldSBK championships for Kawasaki in 2019, after Jonathan Rea’s race one win at Losail. He wrapped up the Superpole Award ahead of Alvaro Bautista, but his 15th actual win of the year saw him elevate Kawasaki to the status of champions in their own Manufacturers’ battle with Ducati.

Riders’, Manufacturers’ and Team Award for KRT – all of them for a fifth year in succession. Even Kawasaki Puccetti rider Toprak Razgatlioglu won the Independent Riders’ championship on his Ninja this year, so it has been almost all green glory for in the end after the early Ducati/Bautista dominance.

Alvaro Bautista has won the Pirelli Fastest Lap award on his Ducati long ago but part of the reason Rea won his historic fifth title is that he and his team can make hard decisions on machine or set-up changes and deal with curve balls better than ever.

Race one was not perfect for the Irishman but he beat Chaz Davies by 2.7 seconds after taking a gamble with the front tyre.

“I used my least favoured front tyre – the 1071 - which has a little bit harder construction and less grip because around here it is very abrasive on my front tyre,” Rea told

“While the feeling wasn’t as good it stayed very stable and constant to the end. Massive kudos to Pirelli for bringing two options that we really considered. For the Superpole Race I think we can get away with the standard option 417.”

Finishing corners better is also on his final Saturday shopping list, and some braking issues need fixing. “Coming out of Turn Three I had some head shakes, when you pick the bike up, and then when you go to four my lever comes quite far back, and then I found the level quite far away when you went to five. So we will try to sort those consistencies out a bit. We are already using he brake cooler system so we need to look into why that is happening.”

Rea also made an error that the following Ducat’s Davies could have capitalised on had it been any worse. “I made one critical mistake with four to go.

I took too much kerb on the left with too much spin and then it hooked up and fired me forward. Normally my riding style I sort of flick the bike on top and then the engine braking catches it and hooks me in, but this lap I really hauled up a spin in the kerb and it fired me forward. So a few mistakes.”

The five-time champion, who saw off the early challenge from Lowes and then a later challenge from the remarkable Davies, said of the red rider’s pressure, “I saw 0.7 seconds, then I put my head down and then it went 0.9, 1.5 and I do not know what it was in the end. My pit-board signals were really good.

“Alex rode really strong in the beginning and I was 0.2. 0.3. 0.2. 0.3, until I broke about half distance. I dunno what time Davies passed Alex but my guys were giving me perfect information so I knew how to control the race.”

Rea now has seven Tissot-Superpole winner’s wrist watches from 2019, as he has made a big improvement in his pre-race performance, all while still concentrating on race wins. “Our bike really gets the best out of the tyre but I have never fancied myself as a real one lap guy. This year I have converted a lot of pole positions, so I am really happy with that.”