Rea feeling positive after electronics shakeup

| | WorldSBK
Picture: GeeBee Images

Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea was in a confident mood as he concluded WorldSBK testing at Portimao on Wednesday.

Just 0.009s separated him from Ducati’s Alvaro Bautista at the close of the final afternoon on the Algarve, with a similarly minute margin between the pair, and Michael Rinaldi, on day one. A positive two days on track and the new electronics setup in the KRT box added to the confident manner of the six-time Superbike champion ahead of the opening round of 2023.

“Conditions are much better here than in Jerez,” Rea commented after day one and the move across the Iberian peninsula over the last two weeks. “Better temperatures straight away, like from 1030 this morning we could start. We had some big items to test, like chassis components and one was very positive. It brought some really good feelings on the edge of the tyre entering the corner. We made a really positive step with that, the other one not so positive.

“Working with electronics, we made some really good improvements there from power delivery side, the bike feels a lot more manageable than it has done around here. Quite a busy track, especially on the gas because it’s so undulating, so that was positive. We worked all day with a base rear tyre and at the end we used the softer rear, the SCX compound and I was able to be fast enough with that.”

While the KRT squad had a raft of items to test from Kawasaki, a new electronics crew was bedding in. Christophe Lambert taking up the overseeing position of Electronics and Data Engineering Co-ordinator while Sander Donkers replaced Davide Gentile on Rea’s side of the garage.

“Good!” Rea confirmed, when asked how the change in personnel was going. “If anything just a bit slower than normal, just understanding them guys getting up to speed first with the different system. Although it’s Magneti Marelli and they have good experience, our software is quite different. It’s been designed by Kawasaki. But a really big positive is I feel the changes Sanders is making. I really feel the changes from a power point of view, negative torque, engine brake, so that’s really positive, so we can make steps. Compared to last year, improvements or feedback was small, and it’s hard to feel so maybe he just has bigger changes you know, and then I can feel it but we’ll get into a good way.

“We have more of an understanding, I would say good understanding already,” he continued at the end of day two. “Still, of course work in progress. With the new electronic influence in the garage, there should be, well, I would like to think that we’ll have some electronic updates throughout the year but basically what we’ve decided now, we will start the year with and work from there.

“From technical side and testing side, today we had some development tyres from Pirelli to test in the rear - last week in Jerez I did the front tyres, this week it was two different options of SCX I guess for the future. The track was strange shape because I was much better with hotter compound tyres here than soft, every time we put a soft tyre in, trying to make a time attack, the lap time wasn’t coming. The nature of the track and also the temperature the track, the tyre was just moving, flexing a lot. We tried, especially from a chassis point of view, we tried a couple of new items this test that influenced the bike in a really positive direction. So I feel just with that we have made a step.

“I know it’s clear that looking from the others, everyone’s fast. Especially both the factory Ducati guys have been lap-after-lap very competitive. You never really know until the lights go out but I think we’ve had a decent winter, albeit short. So quite happy with the two day’s work.”

While the size of the Algarve International Circuit meant there was little opportunity to check out his rivals in action, Rea has a handy partner in crime within the team.

“Alex [Lowes] is a good teammate because he’s competitive so you can always pick up something but this test wasn’t really that, we never really got to the really nitty gritty performance side,” he admitted. “I think from a clicker point of view, or spring rates, we’ve changed nothing. It’s just been hard test items back to backing. It’s very hard as well because sometimes you get a positive feeling with a setup change but you’re with an old tyre, then you have to recheck it with a new tyre again and so we consumed tyres, but also we have to understand if the changes we make are good with a new tyre or they’re good with an old tyre, you know, so just covering all bases.

“There’s only so much you can do, there has to be a point where you draw a line under everything and go racing. It’s a shame because what we really needed was really hot off-season testing. Would have been nice to put everything in flight boxes and go to Australia or go to South Africa or somewhere that we know it’s going to be hot. That’s the area that threw up a few curveballs for us last year.

“Phillip Island test is always the best test because it’s so easy to make a mistake now, at this time of year. You’re in cold conditions, sometimes it’s raining, Jerez last year was wet. So it’s important to arrive there healthy at least and then work from there. It’s two good days, although its split in sessions but everyone, they think about race runs there because you can’t just smash a tyre for 20 laps at Phillip Island. So it’s more about trying to find the correct setup for the track and to go racing.”

Picture: GeeBee Images