"Bit of a disaster from a results point of view… a head scratcher" – Rea’s Sunday to forget
Leading the direction with setup this weekend, Jonathan Rea admits he has to take responsibility along with his crew for not getting it “bang on”
Six-time World Champion Jonathan Rea and his Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK had a Sunday to forget at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit in the season-opening Grand Ridge Brewery Australian Round. The 2023 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship erupted into life this weekend but after a strong showing in the wet conditions in Race 1 on Saturday, Rea couldn’t crack the top six on Sunday, his worst Phillip Island results since joining the Japanese manufacturer.
In the Superpole Race, Rea started from the second row in P4 and despite a fast start into the top three, Rea was pushed wide by Aegerter at Turn 4, which left him down on the fringes of the top ten. The Ulsterman’s tenacity saw him come through the field and picked up two places when Aegerter was taken out by his fellow rookie teammate Remy Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) at Turn 4. The P7 start for Race 2 compromised Rea’s ability to break the pack early on in the final race of the opening weekend.
“It was a bit of mixed bag, and we have to realise that today was a bit of a disaster from a results point of view,” Rea stated, as he reviewed the Tissot Superpole Race. “Aegerter came in super aggressively into Turn 4 and put me off the track. I just didn’t get that group; I got back to the group pretty OK but with Oettl in front of me, I couldn’t pass him. He had so much acceleration coming off the corners. I was taking quite big risks.”
Starting from seventh, Rea was always going to have to fight hard if he was to be in podium contention, with pre-race favourites Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) and teammate Michael Ruben Rinaldi having an electric pace. As both cleared away and Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) showcased his potential and utilised his pace, Rea found himself in the battle for fourth place. In a frantic battle with teammate Alex Lowes, Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing), Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK), Philipp Oettl (Team GoEleven) and Iker Lecuona (Team HRC), positions swapped frantically, and the battle intensified. Despite Lowes and Razgatlioglu crashing out at Turn 10, Rea was soon caught and dispatched of by those chasing him and even on the last lap, rookie Dominique Aegerter (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) got ahead of him, leaving him to take home P8.
Talking about his worst result at Phillip Island since 2013, when he was also eighth, the #65 wasn’t happy: “In Race 2, I saw Locatelli up the road and I thought, ‘he’s my guy’ as he has good pace this week. I got to the front of the group and ‘Loka’ was in front and he was just going away! I realised that I was just fighting with this group and then all of a sudden, bang, I had no grip whatsoever. I was really conserving my tyre, using short lines and picking the bike up, not smashing into the traction control. We just need to put our heads together and understand why because a few months ago, I was able to compete and be much faster in the race for a longer distance. It’s a bit of a head scratcher to be honest. I don’t think this result reflects the true reality of where we are; I felt like in the off-season, we’ve really improved the bike, but it is true, a bad now in WorldSBK and you have to fight for these positions. We have to make sure we don’t suffer too many bad days from now on.”
“It’s tough, I’m not going to lie. When we have grip, we can make the difference; the rider can bite the screen a bit harder and take liberties. I felt like at Turn 1 today, I left nothing unturned every lap and that was just to be there. You can’t do that for 22 laps of a race here when you have to look after the tyre. I have to take some responsibility as well as my crew, as I have directed the setup this week and it’s clear that we didn’t get it bang on. We have to look ourselves as well. I really feel that whilst the competition is strong, the bike is much better than we showed this weekend.”
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