WorldSBK Indonesia: ‘Bautista is the one making the difference’ - Rea

| | WorldSBK
Picture: GeeBee Images

Last year at Mandalika in the final WorldSBK round, Jonathan Rea could not win the championship for the seventh successive time, but he did win both those races.

On Sunday in Indonesia he scored three podiums, recorded his 200th podium place for Kawasaki (and 242nd for his career in general, and left reasonably happy. But still without a win since Estoril.

He was, in general, a lot happier to race at Mandalika on Sunday this year as opposed to Saturday, when the racing line was narrow and all parts of that circuit away from the racing line were a bit dicey. The line was obviously bigger on Sunday, especially from the saddle of a 230bhp WorldSBK machine.

“Yeah, it was a lot wider; I didn’t realise,” said Rea after the end of race two. “Yesterday I was scared. As soon as I didn’t have the pace, it was more a case of not making mistakes. But today I felt like I could really push much more than yesterday. It was nice.

“Yesterday pointed out the fact that there was not a lot of people here today, but today there was a lot of people around the track. Amazing. Nice to see and to have some spectators.”

The contrast between the Saturday and Sunday crowd was stark, but Sunday’s races had real atmosphere in the more crowded areas of the occasionally massive and many smaller grandstands.

The surface itself was still difficult, to say the least, but Rea said it was a much better prospect for the final day. But off line, still very tricky.

Still dangerous but the line was much wider today so there was more room for error, let’s say. That was it. It’s very hard to race at the minute with our package in a group, but because today I was more or less on my own, or the guys in front passed me once and it wasn’t a battle. I was just there trying to catch them.

“I was on my own, so I didn’t make so many mistakes. I wasn’t off-line. I was just trying to keep my points. That’s why I could be constant more than if you’re in a group fighting with a rider that doesn’t have the pace, let’s say, or you’re faster than. I didn’t really have a lot of fighting. I was just catching all the time.”

With his sometimes bitter rival Alvaro Bautista crowned champion at Mandalika, Rea was asked if he thought Bautista was a worthy champion, and as a six-time title winner he said of course he is, turning the question back. “World championships don’t come for free. The fact that you asked that question, do you think he’s a worthy champion?”

The answer is, of course, yes. Of 2022 in general and the new champions in particular, Rea said, “It’s clear Ducati worked really hard. They have done for the last quite a few seasons. Alvaro understands how to get the best out of the package. The combination between him, his weight, and the bike, of course they have an advantage. But, he’s making the magic happen as well. So, big congratulations. Respect. I know how it feels, a lot. I tip my hat. I hope he enjoys it.”

There is now another discussion going on about the balancing rules, especially as there will be a new homologation V4R for 2023. Do Rea think it’s necessary to have this discussion? Because it means that the balance rules we have now are maybe not working correctly?

“No, the algorithm doesn’t touch the issues,” said Rea. “You don’t need an algorithm to understand the speed advantage they have. It’s more highlighted with Alvaro because he’s so light, and he’s doing a good job. He’s coming off of the corner better. His CV is better than the other riders.

“While there’s a lot of Ducatis at the front, in the top ten, but he’s the one making the difference. This a production championship. It’s so hard to balance a production championship when you have rules changing as little as this year for a price cut going up, and then Ducati coincidentally bring a new bike within days of the rule announcement.

“It’s hard to balance that. But in a production championship where in the 300s and Supersport where the rider weight/machine combination is working, Supersport manufacturers… I think the FIM, Dorna and the manufacturers, I think Scott Smart is doing a really, really good job with the rules in Supersport.

“You see MV, Triumph, Yamaha, Ducati, Kawasaki… It’s a good championship to be competitive. But, my team and the factory Yamaha team have a lot of resources and budget compared to the satellite teams. The satellite teams are nowhere. It’s hard. It would be nice. They have a job. It’s a big job to do this. I’m glad I’m behind the handlebars. I think the first and the easiest thing they could do would be the weight balancing rule that’s working in championships all around the world.”