WorldSBK: Redding is a very different rival for Rea compared to Bautista
It’s very easy to rewrite the narrative of 2020 along the same lines as what we saw for the first half of last season. A MotoGP exile coming to the WorldSBK paddock who instantly feels at home and is winning races. One man set to dominate and resurrect their career. However, the landscape of the series is very different now for Scott Redding compared to Alvaro Bautista.
The British rider has clocked up a perfect count of podiums in his opening six races on the Ducati V4R and at Jerez he picked up two wins. It would be very easy to assume that he’ll have it all his own way going forward but last year reminded everyone that Jonathan Rea is at his most dangerous when backed into a corner.
“After four rounds Alvaro showed no weaknesses last year,” reflected Rea after Jerez. “In those first 11 races I couldn’t compete with Alvaro. I’ve a lot more confidence this year because I’ve been able to fight. I see Scott as being beatable whereas for the first four rounds last year with Alvaro I couldn’t see any weaknesses because the bike was super fast and he wasn’t making any mistakes. This year I’ve been close and I’ve beaten Scott in the Superpole races. Last year I didn’t have that confidence.”
In the opening two rounds of the year Rea has had two blips. A crash in Race 1 at Phillip Island and a difficult race in Jerez where he struggled with grip issues and finished sixth. It’s a sign of his remarkable consistency that people talked about a nightmare weekend. He still won a race and followed Redding home in another.
“In the Superpole Race I had a really good rhythm so I was able to cruise the last few laps and really enjoy the race. In Race 2 I had huge grip problems from lap one and coming round turn three the bike went completely sideways. I was running the harder tyre yesterday and it felt really good. I was expecting that with more rubber down it should feel even better but the grip never came. It was the longest race I’ve had. I was defending my position quite a lot and that was not how I wanted to ride.
“We need to try to forget about it because I felt really good this weekend with the bike even though this track has not been the kindest to us in the past. I felt like sitting duck during the race and I was trying to just stay upright. I was trying to make myself as wide as possible and when they came past me Rinaldi made a gap and it was the same as when Alex passed me. It’s not nice but I’d rather ride around and get points than let my my ego get in the way and eat gravel at Turn 2.”
Being able to claw his way to ten points showed again the strength of Rea. He has always found a way to grind out results and once it became clear there was an issue on Sunday his mindset shifted.
“It’s very important to lead the championship as early as possible and to be leading the championship because what will happen with the virus? Also, in a season like this we could see riders win races and then finish off the podium at the next round. Alex won in Phillip Island and was off the podium this weekend. I won and was then off the podium. Scott has won races now and he’s done a better job by being on the podium in each race so that’s good for his championship. We’ll go to different circuits and I knew that this was the one that I was fearing with the high temperatures so it’s not been a bad outcome.”
The next round in Portimao will be crucial for Rea to reassert himself. The undulating Portuguese circuit flows from one corner to another. It’s filled with blind apexes and hills. You need to understand the circuit more so than you’re bike. Rea has always excelled here. Of the circuits on the 2020 calendar this is the one best placed for Rea to recover.
“If I can magically flick our fingers – and I am sure Alex would tell you the same – I would have 15 horsepower or more. In the straights, between the corners where there are accelerations we are losing time but our chassis is very good and last year proved that even without the fastest engine we could still have the best package over a season.”
Getting consistent results over the course of a full season has been the key for Rea in the past. This year that will be even more important than ever with a shortened campaign and the threat of Covid-19 still hanging over the paddock.
“In a season like this we could see riders win races and then finish off the podium at the next round. Alex won in Phillip Island and was off the podium this weekend. I won and was then off the podium. Scott’s won races now and he’s done a better job by being on the podium in each race so that’s good for his championship. We’ll go to different circuits and I knew that this was the one that I was fearing with the high temperatures so it’s not been a bad outcome.”
Picture Credit: WorldSBK