WorldSBK: You win some, you lose some
For Jonathan Rea Phillip Island was a roller-coaster weekend that started in the gravel trap and ended on the rostrum
Sunday morning in Phillip Island was like so many of the Australian summer. The sun was shining, the wind was blowing and for Jonathan Rea there was optimism in the air as he woke up. Having crashed out of Race 1 he was out for revenge on Sunday and out to reassert his position at the front of the field.
This feeling lasted for an hour before he received a heartbreaking call from him; his grandmother has passed away during the night. In Qatar last year Rea had dedicated a win to win to her as she battled cancer but finally the fight was over and all that was left was the emotions of a family going through the pain of losing someone. Rea took his time for the news to register but then focused on the job at hand.
The ten lap Superpole race now had added significance for the five times world champion. Suddenly he was fighting for more than just himself and he wanted this one badly. During the race the battle at the front chopped and changed countless times but it would eventually come down to Jonathan Rea vs Toprak Razgatlioglu. Toprak was strong into Turn 4 but Rea was strong in the middle of the lap where the track flows from side to side
“I made a good start and I was setting the pace but with a few laps to go I knew that Toprak was strong. He was showing me a wheel at times and my line into Turn 4 wasn’t ideal so it meant that he was able to attack me into there. I was really strong on the exit of Turn 6, I had so much traction, so I could counteract that with passes at the Hayshed. On the last lap at the last lap it was all about knowing that I had more traction than the Yamaha.”
That extra traction was key to the overtaking move of the weekend. With the race on the line Rea was closing on Toprak for the win and with the Turkish rider having won the opening race of the weekend his confidence was clearly high. In Race 1 the Yamaha struggled for tyre grip at the end of 22 laps and was spinning up in the final corner. This would be what proved the difference in the Superpole Race too.
“In the last corner I knew I had a chance so I put it down there and hoped to have the traction to the line. We had a tailwind and that helped too because you didn’t have as much wind to break down the start finish straight. Winning that race meant a lot for me and my family. I shed some tears this morning but then focused on winning the race for my family.”
With his first race win of the year in the bag Rea set off looking hunting for another in Race 2. Starting from pole position he made a good start and set about managing the race from the front by marshalling the pace.
“Race 2 was strange with a big group at the front. The reason the group was so big is that for 22 laps you can’t fast here or you use too much tyre. You can’t draw a trend from this one round at all because it’s unique. For me in Race 2 I also didn’t know what to expect because I didn’t do 22 laps yesterday. I didn’t know what to expect from the tyre because even though we had done 22 laps on a tyre during the tests but never in one stint and with this high a track temperature.
“I was riding so slow at the front and doing all the work but it seemed like no-one wanted to come through and do the work. When Loris came through I didn’t have the heart to sit behind him because my bike was so much faster on the straight. With five laps to go I put my head down and once I did this one lap I could feel the tyre drop again. The guys behind me could all manage their tyres better than me because they had the slipstream and could gauge it better.
“When Alex came past I was forced wide by him being on the inside and the wind hitting me. This combined to push me wide and Michael could come through too. When Alex got in front he put his head down and attacked for a couple of corners to open a gap. I was caught behind Mickey through T2 and T3 but already the gap was very big. I closed right up on the last lap but it wasn’t enough. I tried to have a run on the last corner but he was slow midcorner and I almost touched him so it didn’t work.
“Last year we were 15s from the race win so I feel more competitive now. We could have given up a lot of points this weekend after a 220kmph crash in Race 1 but I was able to walk away relatively unhurt. There’s a lot of racing in these opening rounds of the season and this was a positive day after yesterday. We leave here 19pts down and that’s already closed up from 25pts yesterday. It was a good day.”
For Rea this was the first time since Assen 2018 that he had been outscored by a teammate over a race weekend. That weekend featured the reverse grid positions for the second race and this played a key factor in Tom Sykes banking more points. In Australia though we saw Rea beaten in a straight fight by a teammate for the first time in a very long time.
“You can’t draw conclusions from this round because you never know who will win. During Race 1, after my crash, I was cheering on Alex from the Clinica. You can’t draw conclusions from this round but I think it shows how important it is to be calm throughout the season. It’s good when your teammate is fast and it’s great for the team to have this because we need that [competition]. The data is relevant when you have a fast teammate. I’m happy for Alex because I know what it means to win for a new team but we’re working closely together. Today I’m happy for him but I also want to win!”