WorldSBK Misano: Rea ‘didn’t gel with the bike’ in Italy

| | WorldSBK
Picture: GeeBee Images

After a first raceday at Misano in which Jonathan Rea saved a seemingly doomed front end slide and then recovered composure to finish third, he added to his collection of WorldSBK podiums again twice on Sunday - two more third place finishes.

He changed from the new development Pirelli, a softer option than his ‘usual’ one, for Sunday but it did not solve enough of his problems to let him compete for wins.

“I went with the harder option, the C option that I used in Estoril,” Rea told bikesportnews.com. “Just with the temperature going up on the shoulder of the tyre, I was missing a little bit of stability. Then basically from there, I sacrificed a little bit of edge grip, so I knew in the beginning I was maybe going to sacrifice a bit of turning, but as the race went on I felt like I could still keep my brake performance, which I could be there.

“I was fighting to be there. Toprak had a great rhythm. At one stage I felt like Rinaldi was under my feet a little bit, but with how he accelerates off Turn Six, he carries the speed through, there’s no passing place really. He was making some mistakes into the last corner. I thought maybe I could set him up to turn one, but as soon as he hooks a gear on the bike it just goes. So nothing for him today, not even to fight, but I was there, thereabouts fighting like hell.”

It did seem like there was just more from the other packages at Misano on Sunday for Rea, giving his rivals a luxury that he does not have. “I feel like when I watch them guys riding, they’re making small mistakes but still keeping the lap time,” said Rea. “I feel as soon as I make a small mistake, I get penalised. I couldn’t just stop the bike squared off.

“It’s a bike that needs to flow, use the mechanical traction that we have and the stopping power. I can’t even remember the short race. I was there, but the last three, four laps. After the warning yesterday, I just had to accept my position. We were close to making a big gamble with the bike, head pipe position, to help us get more confidence on the front, but we knew that would penalise us on the change of direction.

“I really sucked through five and six myself. I was very average. Then that penalised me, because I felt through one, two, three, braking to four I was quite strong, but five, six I lost everything I gained there. Then on the straight I lost. Nine, ten I was okay. So it was just a bit of a concertina effect, but not enough for me to gain the gap.

“So, congrats to Michael and Toprak. They did an awesome race. I went all in. I had some warnings, but was able to back it off a little bit and consolidate a podium. Happy because I feel like we maximised the bike, but I just didn’t gel with it. I feel like to really make the result I need to be in complete harmony with the bike. Watching the way Michael did the weekend, his pace was super impressive. This morning 33.7 with the race tyre is like what I did on my first Q. It just shows you what he has in his pocket, what he’s able to do. So, keep fighting. Looking forward to Donington. I think hopefully it should suit us a little bit better. Happy to get out of here with three podiums.”

What Rea was missing from his set-up, more specifically was turning ability. “I think the biggest thing we missed in the race today was the bike was very heavy to change direction, so I was fighting a lot from one to two to three, four and five. It just wasn’t fluid. I felt if I was aggressive to the bike, the bike was moving too much, too much transfer. Then I lost in acceleration. So that little bit of edge grip, but our bike has a lot of grip when we pick it up on the shoulder of the rear tyre.

“So just working on edge grip, agility. But Donington is very flowing. I can be at one with the bike and massage the bike around the lap, which at the first two sectors then the last sector is a real Kawasaki sector where you stop the bike and accelerate. I hope to be strong there. I just didn’t have it this weekend compared to the other two guys. They were a little step above.”

It almost feels like Rea has a noteworthy weekend when he doesn’t win at least one race, but Rea laughed at the prospect of that being a reality at this stage of his career.

No, I have to accept that this is a good weekend. I missed pretty much all FP1 with no rear brake. FP2, then you’re less aggressive with the strategy. So, all in all to damage limitation for the championship, I didn’t throw away points. I finished where I was going to finish and got very lucky yesterday, so happy with that.”

There is a very definite swell in the standard of the younger riders in the WorldSBK class, who are usurping all the traditional forces like Davies, Sykes and Rea. Rea agrees but still thinks that the older guys are also still there for a reason. Several, actually.

“It’s good. There’s a lot of older guys in the paddock that are here because of experience, but there’s a lot of talented kids in the Supersport class. Also in Supersport300 that deserve the chance to be promoted all the time, to find somebody new. For me the big one, a solid race today, was Manuel Gonzalez. He’s a great talent. He deserves to be there.

“Of course when you’re a team manager and you’re thinking about putting a championship together, always first is speed but very close to that is experience. Especially Toprak and Michael, they’re what, 26, 27 (24 and 25 in reality) so they’re not young guys, but they’re the next guys that are there and very talented.”

Rea did not want to get drawn into a discussion about the riders who have come over from MotoGP recently, saying, “I don’t want to talk about that, to be honest. It’s clear to see. You can’t compare. It’s apples and oranges. But, it sure makes Superbike look very good.”