WorldSBK Portimao: Rea’s Portugese bunch of threes

| | WorldSBK
Picture: GeeBee Images

As some across the pond would say, Jonathan Rea was dead solid perfect in the first test of his mettle since a difficult weekend Jerez when new challenger Scott Redding – and some other Ducati riders – went from potential to actual and beat the WorldSBK king hands down.

One final race in Spain a few days ago may have been affected by a peculiar rear grip issue, but Rea came back from that sixth place with a bunch of threes.

Third rider to take a 2020 season Superpole win on Saturday. Three fastest laps, one in each race. And then three clear wins, to lift his outright career total to 93. The next best Carl Fogarty has 59.

Heading into Portimao, which is now his statistically most successful circuit, JR was 24 points behind Redding, with one crash and no-score already on his record from Australia. If Jerez was not his circuit, Portimao certainly was. Rea left with a four point advantage over Redding.

He said in the Portimao media centre, after the dust from another hot Iberian summer weekend had settled, “Yes, that was a perfect weekend. The fastest laps, pole position and three race wins. I do not think it was the result, but it was the way that we made the result this weekend.”

Rea had not been that happy in FP1, mainly with himself, but it came around for the vastly experienced KRT squad after all these years of working out a way to win when possible. That meant in races he could, “… really enjoy the bike. It is strange, because sometimes fighting for a sixth place, like we did in Jerez last time, feels like I was riding 100 per cent. Giving everything to finish sixth.

“This weekend I could do whatever I wanted and kept increasing the gap at the front. It is an incredible feeling as a rider. I knew Portimao was going to be a good track, and I was talking myself into a good result, but we did not come here in the winter tests so I knew it could also be a difficult weekend. I did not start well on Friday in FP1, but we were able to just work calmly together and understand the bike.”

Rea rode almost unchallenged in all three races, his closest shadow Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha) without that final one per cent of consistent pace, and Rea was in control in all three.

It was all a bit unexpected for Rea, despite his endless reserves of push and desire to win, it seems. He did not se himself getting to the top just one round after Jerez, at least.

“Definitely not,” he said with conviction. “We have had a few problems this year. A DNF and a problem in race two (in Spain). We could come into this weekend 24 behind and leave, I think, four points in front. So we made 28 points up in one weekend against Scott; that is a good weekend.

“We need to keep working like this. It was really disappointing in Jerez to have such a bad race, but I have been in this situation before so it is more easy to manage. I can just swipe it under the cover and turn up at the next weekend and go again. We had the plan this weekend, stuck to it, and it paid off.”

Next up are two complete race weekends at Motorland Aragon, in this weirdly short and very Spanish/Portuguese restarted season. What about that long straight that should be very much Ducati country?

“We’ll need to see. It is certainly different racing Scott with Ducati and Alvaro with Ducati. So, last year for example, I was talking myself out of a result in Argentina and Qatar, because the straights were so long. In effect we went there those weekends and dominated.

It shows the strengths of our bike. Of course we are losing a lot on the straights in terms of top speed and acceleration areas, but we have a lot of mechanical traction now and in these temperatures the tyre is working very good until the end of the race.

“The stability and braking performance of the ZX-10RR is very strong so I think as a package we are still improving. We have to have optimism. There are two rounds in Motorland and we have to do the best we can. Of course then we go to the Montmelo and I had a great test there in the summer. We also go to Magny-Cours.”

Rea, with two hard back-to-back weekends under his belt, has more Aragon testing to do before the two Aragon races – he will not be short of set-up data, obviously – but Rea would rather be at home right now, if given the choice.

“I want to go home and see my family,” he said. “It has been a couple of weeks on the road and with this strange situation of quarantine I cannot just go home after every race. We have also a test in Motorland at the end of the week, Thursday and Friday, so we will get the first information there and then go home and relax.

“The week between Jerez and Portimao, I just stayed in a hotel. I actually played 54 holes of golf… I did not do too much. I slept well, ate what I wanted and took some time to relax.”