WorldSBK Phillip Island: ‘I was going to give it a good go’ - Rea

| | WorldSBK
Picture: GeeBee Images

After winning a race on Saturday, his sixth of the 2022 WorldSBK season, KRT’s Jonathan Rea was really in the mood to have a couple more big shiny cups to take to his nearby house on Phillip Island.

It was not to be, and both his front running rides were affected by some degree of misfortune.
A wet front/intermediate dry set-up was the most pragmatic, sensible, get-to-the-end one for the ten-lap Superpole race choice, and both he and his closely following frenemy Toprak Razgatlioglu chose them to lead the race clearly. But Alvaro Bautista chose a slick/slick educated self-backing gamble, and it paid off.

Then in race two, with more rear tyre left to fight Alvaro Bautista with than he had imagined, Rea was waiting for the final laps to pass, but only found an early red flag keeping him in a close second place. It had also just started to spit with droplets of rain, so Rea is not sure he could have won race two in a fight with Bautista, but he was lining up for one anyway.

“You never know, just with the drizzle coming down,” he admitted. “There’s part of me that thought, ‘I need to keep it upright too.’ Maybe he might ride into a mistake with the conditions. You’re more at a disadvantage being at the front when the rain comes, because you’re the first guy to find the conditions. But… a mixture of disappointment and happiness to finish the year because that race, I felt really my bike was much better everywhere. Stability. We had more traction, side grip, acceleration off the corner. Just on the long straight, in sector four I lost too much. It was just everything I could do to be there. I could arrive about turn four, but taking huge risks, eating some tyre. Even eating the tyre, the tyre wasn’t dropping, so kudos to Pirelli. I think bringing these harder construction tyres for Phillip Island is the way forward. The race might be a little slower, but to stay in ’31 flats right to the end was really, really good.”

Asked to sum up his season in a few words, Rea said, “I think we have to be really satisfied with our effort. Of course, I made a few mistakes along the way, but also I think the final result is a highlight to where we really are.

“We need to improve and to challenge Toprak and Ducati and Alvaro. They were simply stronger throughout the season.

“In saying that, I think I was about 25, more or less, 25 points [27 in the final count] from Toprak at the end of the season. The guy that won the world championship last year. This year there is a new weapon to fight [the Ducati and Bautista combo] at the front. We really need to work hard in this off-season to maximise all that we can. We know that it’s going to be very hard to overcome the disadvantage we have next year but the team have been fantastic.

“I think this year, in tough moments we have really showed how strong a team we are, working together.

“The togetherness we have between my side now and Alex’s side is amazing. From rider point of view, crew chiefs… Everyone is working together with the same goal. I think it takes a little bit of a kicking to do that. We’re standing up. We fought to the end. A good track for us here. In the long races, to go 1-3 and 2-3 in both long races is good.”

Of the Superpole race itself on Sunday, Rea reflected: “The Superpole race of course was a bit of a lottery. It was the tyre decision that won the race with Alvaro. A very clever and ballsy one, I must say. Fair play!

“I was a bit of a sitting duck in that race with my front, with the front wet on a dry track. Tipping into turn three, it was dirty underpants. Just tipping in and the front is just tucking in, and you’re going fast. I threw a bit of caution to the wind in the last lap, but also Toprak as well. He was on his limit. So, it was fun, but wrong tyre decision. Not one I was prepared to make on the grid.”

Weather determined all at PI but it was so changeable it was difficult for even the most experienced riders to follow, so a little bit of inside info helped them out.
“Yeah. Even that race, I must say a big thank you to the marshals in pit lane. They gave us a very good weather app that was very, very accurate to the minute about when rain was coming. So we knew to expect rain in race two, but I didn’t know when. Even on the grid I was glancing out to the clouds down Back Beach Road, just to see when it was coming.

“I think it was seven to go and I thought, ‘it’s going to come.’ There was a cutoff point just to wobble around on slicks at the end or to make a pit stop. Unfortunately, we never got to get to the end. I just hope Eugene [Laverty] is okay. On the slowing down lap when I went through, I saw he was down and lying down. It’s a sour taste to end of the weekend, especially for him in his last race and for a red flag. From a racing point of view, I gave it my all in that race and kept Alvaro honest, at least.”

Without the red flags and the drops of rain Rea felt he really could fight with Bautista to the end of race two.

“Yeah, he was just taking too much out of me in sector four, the whole way to the brakes at T1,” said Rea. “Not really sector four, because I felt better through MG and T11. But from 11 to the brakes at turn one, he would gain too much time. Everywhere else, I was better, stronger. I can confidently say that, so kudos to my team.

“I was going to fight to the end. I was just riding on my limit the rest of them sectors to be there. If I made a small mistake, then I was even further behind. But also fair play to Alvaro because it’s an easier track to follow here when someone is setting pace. Because of the nature of fast-flowing, it’s a bit easier sitting in the back. So, I had good tyre at the end. If it remained dry, I was going to give it a good go.”

Rea already touched on the fact that he and Lowes were both strong in Australia, and both have won races in the past on Kawasakis here. Something special for the Kawasaki as a package and PI?

“No,” Rea answered simply. “I think we are where we are still. I think Alvaro didn’t seem particularly strong this weekend. Of course he won, but not the advantage he would have in other circuits. Also, it’s a circuit which Yamaha is very good here but doesn’t have them areas where you have the Toprak effect, maximum brakes or whatever. It’s a more fast-flowing circuit. Maybe this doesn’t suit the nature of our bikes, but doesn’t suit the other riders or manufacturers as much either.”

Picture: GeeBee Images
Picture: GeeBee Images