Outgunned down the massive straight, and on even the smaller ones at Chang, Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea dug in to the task at hand like the world champion he is, to the point of even making accidental contact with eventual race winner and his early season bête noir, Alvaro Bautista.
Rea said, after hearing that Bautista was unhappy with his inside pass, “Unhappy? He came past me so fast and with my fighting spirit he went wide and I went on the inside - and unfortunately when I was finishing my corner there was contact. I was on the inside, he was outside me. It was a racing incident.”
When told that Bautista likened his pass to a block pass in motocross, Rea stated, “It was a pass! This is Superbike racing, you know what I mean? We have these kind of passes. For me it is normal. I was on the inside and it was not like I came from nowhere. I rode along the inside and it was unfortunate there was contact. It wasn’t planned. I do not mean to hit any rider. It does not deserve too many words.”
Rea admitted he rode to his and his machine’s full ability for most of the race, but in the end Bautista caught and passed him and then set a pace Rea at first could not match - and finally did not try to match.
“I decided not to ride to that intensity to the end,” said Rea. “I was riding over the limit just to stay there and asking a little bit too much of the front tyre in some areas. There were definitely some areas we can make a small improvements tomorrow but I feel we really got the best out of the package today.”
Rea heaped praise on his bike and its set-up, despite another runner-up finish. He went at lap record breaking pace until Bautista beat it, but it was all to no avail.
“When I rolled off that little bit I lost the slipstream and when I do not have the slipstream here we are gifting Ducati too much time,” said Rea of his final lap decisions. “There was no reason to keep pushing.
“If you watched the race you understand the story of the race and I am proud of my effort. I enjoyed it, and felt like I love riding at that level but unfortunately the result did not reflect that effort.
Right now Ducati just have too much of an advantage. But I am really happy to pick up the rest and I felt great with my bike.
“From a chassis point of view the bike is turning good, stopping good, and maybe tomorrow in the sprint race I can ride at that intensity for ten laps. But to keep that for 20 laps is taking too much risk.”
In specifics, Rea explained what the current Ducati advantage is, not just on the long straights, but exiting onto all the straights. “Power,” said Rea. “It is very easy to see the two long straights, but in between every corner there is a straight where you can use power and this is where they have too much of an advantage, not a small advantage.
“I do not want to complain, because it sounds like I am complaining and you guys are writing like I am spitting my dummy out. I am really happy with my effort, my team, the bike and things. But it is clear to see right now on the straight that we have a disadvantage. That is how it is right now. Ducati has done a great job with their bike and Alvaro is obviously riding very good as well.
We cannot just magically find 25bhp to compete. It is how it is right now. I can fight with him in the corners; I can’t fight with him in the straight.
“He should enjoy this moment because he is doing a really good job. But when we have the tools to fight we intend to make his life a little bit more difficult.”