WorldSBK Catalunya: ‘Bautista in a different race’ - Rea| Gordon Ritchie | WorldSBK
Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea left his team’s home WorldSBK round with two podiums from three races at Barcelona.
When Rea looked at Catalunya he saw one of those tracks that was maybe going to be a bit tricky for his KRT squad, despite a very good hot weather test there in the summer. When he looked at the tyre wear issues that Montmeló usually throws up to all, he had something else to think of in detail. But in all the three races at Catalunya he finally attended two podium ceremonies as runner-up, and then only a late false neutral left him out of the fight for some kind of podium place in Sunday’s long race two.
Rea’s final race day was difficult despite his measurably good results, yet it was hard work for his mechanics again.
“Constantly changed,” said Rea. “We changed the chassis setup a little bit to try to conserve the rear tyre. I felt this morning in warm-up wasn’t a step forward, so we went back to the race, but with small setup changes just in the front forks like the suspension setup, not to stress the front tyre. Also we tried to get the weight into the rear and I could finish the corner better.
“The Superpole race went as planned,” he explained. “I got an incredible start, one of the best starts of the season for me, which has been a tough area. That changed the dynamic of my race because I was in good track position straight away.
“Alex’s pace was amazing in the Superpole race,” he said of teammate Lowes. “So, I was just there. I could see after ten laps that I still had good tyre even compared to Alvaro [Bautista], so I was quite optimistic going into the long race. Then, of course the temperature was almost ten degrees hotter in race two, eight degrees hotter than yesterday. So, I expected a tough race, but honestly, the rhythm was more consistent, potentially faster than yesterday. I need to check my own pace.”
He knew he had no chance of a race win after practice and Bautista’s pace on Saturday in winning race one.
“He was in a different race today,” agreed Rea. “But, I think my rhythm was better than yesterday. So, that was positive. I felt that coming to Barcelona, I expected a very tough weekend with the tyre consumption, with speed, with everything. Finally, we got out with a two-two-four which is better than I expected. If you gave me them results at the beginning of the weekend, I would have - reluctantly - shook your hand and took them.”
“We ended up fourth in race two, with six to go going into T7, I found a false neutral,” Rea explained of his late issue and then run-on in race two. “So, in T7 I had no engine brake. The bike was free-wheeling in there at 100 miles an hour or whatever and the front was jumping. I was trying everything not to crash so when I made the corner, I was on the green and then I stayed off the gravel. I banged it into gear, and that’s when [Axel] Bassani went past. I made quick work of him and I just tried to focus on Toprak [Razgatlioglu] to salvage something, to see if I could salvage a podium, but I ran out of laps. My rhythm was a bit better in the end, but not enough to catch them guys and do anything. Frustrated, because I felt like we deserved a little bit more. It wasn’t to be.”
Given the fact that Bautista was so untouchable, even after Rea and his crew had tested at Barcelona this year again, in hot conditions, was that test really valuable? Race two was warm and sunny compared to Saturday, but still Bautista escaped and Rea was fourth.
“Honestly, I felt like it really helped,” said Rea of the summer test. “We’ve got to say that this weekend I felt a step ahead of Yamaha. The last year, and especially previous years with [Garrett] Gerloff as well, it’s been a super strong track for them. I think the test proved, also with Alex as well being very competitive this weekend, that we’ve made an improvement with the bike; just not enough.
“It’s very clear to see where we’re struggling. I don’t need to harp on about it. But, we’re struggling in very clear areas that it’s very difficult to improve.”
Mostly, that is engine performance compared to the high-revving Ducati. The next few races look a mixed bag for Rea, but Portimao, the very next one, looks good, maybe?
“I will do my best”, Rea confirmed. “If that’s enough, then we will fight back, and if not, it’s not. The combination right now with Alvaro and Ducati is very strong. Ducati is very strong - I think four Ducatis in the top six or seven today. Since when has there been that real privateer Ducati has been at the front? It’s a track that really favours them.
“Historically, Portimao is a good track for us. Race by race, we have to do my best. There’s 62 points in a weekend and a lot can be won and a lot can be lost. Of course, we keep fighting, but right now Alvaro has a huge advantage, but he is riding very well. I always try my best. I’m going to fight with all my weapons, all my heart, and see what happens.”