P17 FOR REA ON YAMAHA DEBUT: "We’ve exercised every option", rear chatter persistent

Saturday, 24 February 2024 07:23 GMT

Friday dramas continued into Saturday for Rea, with difficulties being compounded by lost time during the mandatory pitstops

Six-time World Champion Jonathan Rea (Pata Prometeon Yamaha) had a Saturday to forget as his debut with Yamaha resulted in him coming home in just 17th. Having barely featured inside the top ten all weekend, Rea’s been suffering from rear chatter issues and vibration right the way through his YZF-R1. After all the hype from the pre-season and expectations, it’d be fair to say that nobody saw Rea’s difficulties coming to be laid bare this clearly.

From Friday, things weren’t going to plan as he languished down field with an “inherent” problem with the bike. Trying to fix it the best the team could and find a solution, the #65 was only 11th on the grid but broke into the top ten in the early stages, up to the fringes of the top six. However, it was soon to turn against him; pitting as soon as the pit window opened, Rea lost a huge amount of time in the pits, exiting with Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati), who had crashed. In a battle for 17th, the Champions of eight of the last nine seasons were in an unlikely placing but there was nothing Rea could do after just a handful of laps in the closing stages. 17th at the flag and some head-scratching to do for the guys in blue.

IN HIS WORDS: “We can’t catch a break… I’m really not happy with the bike”

Talking about the race, Rea’s words weren’t being minced: “It was really difficult right from when the lights went out, I got a bad start but I made headway in Turns 1 and 2. I was in a consistent rhythm, fighting with Domi and van der Mark at one point. I decided to pit at the earliest possible moment and unfortunately in the pits, we had a small issue that prohibited us from exiting onto the track and I lost quite a lot of time. I exited with Alvaro, able to ride with him for a few laps and at his rhythm but after four or five laps, I started making mistakes and then struggled to pass Rabat. Once I cleared him, I could find some more rhythm.”

The drama in the pits cost the Ulsterman 22s; he entered the pits at 16:13:55 local time (hours, minutes, seconds) and left the pits at 16:15:20, spending a total of 1 minute 25 seconds in there. There is a hard minimum pit intervention time of 1 minute and 3 seconds, meaning Rea lost 22 seconds in the pits. Teammate Andrea Locatelli lost 1.1s, however it’s an area which has been problematic for the team before. In 2022 at Phillip Island, Toprak Razgatlioglu lost six seconds in the pitstop, whereas ‘Loka’ lost two seconds.

Resuming his dramas, Rea said: “Frustrating, it feels like we can’t catch a break. Since Portimao, we’ve had a lot of curve balls thrown our way but fortunately, we’re still here to keep showing up. Tomorrow we will try some set up change, because I’m really not happy with the bike, the way it’s handling. It’s knocking some confidence out of me. We know now, with WorldSBK being so competitive, we need the bike to work, but we also need to feel confident with the bike to push to the maximum. Right now, I feel like I’m just riding, just managing, but that’s not enough to trouble even the top ten in WorldSBK. We need to make a step overnight.”

REAR CHATTER THE ISSUE: is a fix possible?

Talking about what the biggest issue is, Rea stated: “The biggest issue we have here at Phillip Island is rear chatter and vibration through the bike on the bumps. I feel for the guys too; it’s me behind the handlebars but we’ve tried to take a lot of grip out of the bike, different geometries and almost exercised every option but it still remains and whilst that’s there, I don’t have the confidence to push.”

REA MEDIA DEBRIEF: confidence “shattered… we’re in the middle of the s**t”

Speaking to the world’s media in the evening, Rea elaborated further: “Consistently, I give the same comments but we can’t seem to put our finger on it. It’s frustrating for me and the team as they’re trying their hardest. The consolation is that ‘Loka’ had a great race so I’m pleased for him but we’ve got a lot of work to do for me to feel comfortable, for me to push so I can do what I can do and regain my confidence again because it’s shattered.

“We’ve tried everything. At Yamaha, we’re an open catalogue. You can pick what you want but most riders are the same. Throughout testing, I’ve preferred some different chassis parts than ‘Loka’ but this weekend, we’ve started with what the team feel are the good for tyre consumption, grip and all the Phillip Island characters. This morning, we went back to some parts that I liked more in testing but we’re still with the same issues. I’m as confused as everyone in the box; we’re lost and it’s frustrating.

“Throughout the data, you can see a similar issue with the other bikes. When you can see it with the naked eye, it’s tough. If I showed you what I see, I can’t fathom how I did a 1’29 in Superpole. I’m just frustrated. I don’t want to say too much more; I don’t know why I am here because you don’t normally speak to guys who are P17 and I’ve got nothing great to say, so I don’t think I can say too much. I need to believe in myself because I know better days are coming but it’s hard to see that right now.”

Continuing, Rea spoke of his personal feeling and the bike feeling isn’t the same as tests at Jerez: “I’m quite numb to what we’re going through right now, we just need to stay focussed, try to give myself some confidence but they need to change something for me to do my thing. I’m just not feeling it right now. At Jerez, the bike worked fantastic; in race rhythm with all riders, I could compete for a podium. At Portimao, not so much and we were floating around the top five. Here, we’re in the middle of the shit.”

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