Even with Alvaro Bautista being so much stronger than anyone else in the first two sectors on day one of WorldSBK practice at Chang, quadruple champion Jonathan Rea was in defiant mood on day one.
When asked if it was possible to fight against Bautista at this round Rea simply stated, “100 per cent”
He knows this was not really possible in Australia, but he also re-iterated that Phillip Island is a very particular kind of track.
“Australia is completely unique,” he told bikesportnews.com. “I do not think we need to change our strategy too much, or my riding style, for example. Especially when we go to classic Superbike tracks like Assen or Imola, Laguna Seca, Jerez. Real stop-and go-circuits where the benefit of my riding style should come through.
“I feel that already here, in all the parts where you really have to ride the bike, I am fast. Unfortunately down the long straight we are losing two to three tenths per lap. And that is just, just, a little bit too much here.
“I do not think that any of the Superbike guys need to panic just yet. He is doing a good job, and did a good job in Phillip Island, but it was the best circumstances for that.”
Rea’s inability to keep with the all-new Ducati down the straights is doubly irritating for him as his own bike is better in that regard in 2019 than it was in 2018. “Of course we have made improvements and compared to last year we are much, much stronger, when we compare the data.
“But we are competing against big competition this year. So we can be happy with our improvements but there is a long way to go to be satisfied.”
Rea feels his riding is at the required level, but he needs to get the bike fully sorted in all areas before the first race. “There are a few areas of the track I need to work on, mainly on rear traction in some of the longer corners where I am spinning just a little bit too much,” said Rea.
I am keeping the tyre really good and we only used two tyres today, two rear tyres, and I was able to be quite fast over race distance on each tyre.
“The problem is not the speed at the end it is just how the bike is behaving – just a little bit too much spinning, and lowering a little bit too much. It is a work in progress.”
With front tyre wear also a potential factor at Chang, Rea tried out some other possibilities.
“I tried another option front tyre and to be honest it was two slightly different feelings and we will sit down and understand what we need for tomorrow,” he said.
His early set-up and tyre work was helped by a racing surface that was in much better condition than it had been in some previous seasons. “The track is OK, it was clean at the start and that has not been like previous years where we have come and we have had bad patches, or whatever. The grip level is OK and it is like normal.”
Rea and his fellow Superbike riders will now face FP3, Superpole qualifying and then race one on Saturday afternoon, before the short sprint race and then a second full distance contest to close out the second weekend of the year.