REA REVEALS ALL: "I don’t regret any decision… I came for a different challenge in my career"

Tuesday, 9 July 2024 05:03 GMT

The #65 has had a difficult time so far this season but is looking at the positives as he goes in search of success in blue

The 2024 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship is heading to Donington Park, the home round for Jonathan Rea (Pata Prometeon Yamaha), who will be hoping to kickstart his campaign in style. After a tricky start to life in blue, the six-time Champion sat down at Misano to discuss the season so far, whether there have been any regrets about leaving Kawasaki and the progress he’s made at Yamaha since jumping on the R1 for the first time.

LEAVING GREEN FOR BLUE: “I can see the light, but I’m nowhere near there yet”

Rea left the Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK squad after nine seasons and six unprecedented World Championships, helping the Northern Irishman become statistically the greatest of all time in WorldSBK. After difficult seasons in 2022 and 2023, Rea left Kawasaki to pursue a new challenge with the Pata Prometeon Yamaha team, but success hasn’t been forthcoming so far. While KRT added two wins thanks to Alex Lowes in Australia, Rea is yet to step on the rostrum for Yamaha. 

Discussing whether there were any regrets about his move, Rea categorically ruled them out: “Of course, I don’t regret any decision coming to Yamaha. I think I came for a different challenge in my career, and I’ve certainly found that. We say in English, ‘you’re always looking for the light at the end of the tunnel’ in difficult moments. I can see the light, but I’m nowhere near there yet. I know we’re going to find that way. As a racer, you want it tomorrow. Maturity has told me let’s ride this way and it’s going to come.”

2024 SO FAR: “Definitely not the dream I expected…”

This season has provided moments of brilliance for Rea, including a stunning pole in the wet at Assen, but he’ll be hoping these don’t turn into a flash in the pan. No podiums so far, just 31 points from 12 races and sitting 14th in the Championship standings so far is not how anyone would’ve envisaged Rea’s journey in blue beginning. During the interview, the 37-year-old reviewed his season so far, covering the highs and lows of 2024.

Reviewing the first part of the season, Rea said: “2024 definitely hasn’t been the dream I expected. Joining a new team, the opportunity was there to do well but, unfortunately, Phillip Island started the year horribly with a huge crash in the test and finished the weekend with another huge crash. That sucked a lot of energy. I was quite injured. I didn’t speak too much but it was my leg and shoulder. I just took some time to recover from that physically and mentally. Coming from a solid first test on the Yamaha R1, where I’d been fast and felt confident and good, in Australia I was a shadow of that. I wouldn’t say I was broken, but I was really frustrated. All the positive things we’d worked towards in the winter had been destroyed in one weekend.

“Throughout Barcelona, it was about rebuilding my confidence in the bike and the team and working in a positive direction. From the first race of the year, we’ve been making progress in a positive way. It would’ve been horrible if I started out with a race win and the season went the opposite way! The trend of the Championship is a positive one. We’re making slower progress than we want. Assen was a good weekend for me. It was the first time I rode the R1 in the wet. I didn’t feel great in the morning in the wet, but in Superpole, I committed to going out and doing laps. Step by step, I was fast. In the end, when the chequered flag fell, I was fastest. Pole position was a nice reward for me and all the team, to have a little lift in the project; it’s been tough, but I came here to try to win races and compete for podiums. There’s no points for Superpole, but it was nice just to give that little bit of a boost to everybody. What’s more important is to be stronger throughout the races.”

THE GOAL AT YAMAHA: “My dream is to win a race… step by step, we’re getting closer”

Although it’s been a difficult year so far, Rea was keen to outline what he feels is possible on the Yamaha R1 package, which was a race-winning bike last season and has been on the podium this year through teammate Andrea Locatelli and Remy Gardner (GYTR GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team). It hasn’t quite clicked for Rea yet, but the Ulsterman is hopeful that it will soon as he goes in search of podiums and victories for the Japanese manufacturer.

Rea added: “My dream is to win a race. I feel quite far from that right now, but step by step we’re getting closer. I need to understand my bike riding on the limit. I love the bike, right from the first moment I rode it, I loved everything. At race speed, there’s a few areas of my confidence and trust in electronics, some things that aren’t falling into place right now. The Championship’s so strong right now that when everything isn’t completely lined up to ride on that level, I have no feeling; no real confidence to do that. I know what I need to do, but it’s just working with my crew to do that. I have to adjust my style, but I think, now, I need to keep my way and try to make this bike fit my style well. When the rider doesn’t 100% feel or have confidence, it’s really hard to make the difference. Once I’ve managed that, I’m sure I’ll be able to be there, competing with, at the very least, the other Yamaha riders. I think we have a really good base to fight with the top guys when everything’s together. The good thing is I feel there’s a lot of room to improve. I’m looking forward to unharnessing all the potential.”

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