WorldSBK: Rea reasserts himself in Portugal
Jonathan Rea joked before the start of the weekend that he’d sprint naked down the streets of Portimao if he won all three races. After dominating the weekend in Portugal it would have been more surprising if he hadn’t left with a perfect weekend. The Northern Irishman was in incredible form all weekend.
Rea needed to be at his best because with a shortened calendar it’s crucial for the Kawasaki rider to take advantage of his good weekends. Back-to-back Aragon rounds will be a major challenge for Team Green and with Scott Redding having shown a dominant pace throughout Round 2 at Jerez it was imperative for Rea to reassert himself last weekend. He did this in spades under the Portuguese sun.
“That was a perfect weekend,” said a smiling Rea afterwards. “Fastest laps, pole position and three race wins are good but I was happiest with the way that we made the results. Sometimes you are giving it everything and fighting for sixth place and other weekends you can do anything and keep increasing the gap at the front. It is an incredible feeling as a rider.”
The confidence that flows as a result of that advantage is clear to see. Rea could attack at will and having made fast starts in each race he simply had to manage the gap to the chasing pack. It sounds easy to do this but it’s far from easy. Weekends like what we saw from the five times champion come about from a combination of experience, talent, confidence and team work.
Nothing in racing comes for free and six years into his Kawasaki tenure it’s clear that Rea has reached an apex where he can get the most out of himself and his bike because of their shared experience. With so much data accumulated over the years he has total confidence in the people around him.
It makes it easier to know that blips like Jerez are simply a bump in the road. Amazingly, that bump in the road still saw Rea win a race and finish on the podium. It’s a sign of the high standard he has set that a weekend where he scored 42 points is considered a “bad” weekend.
“We’ve have had a few problems this year. A DNF [in Australia] and a problem in Jerez. We came here 24 points behind and leave, I think, four points in front. This has been a good weekend. We need to keep working like this. It was really disappointing in Jerez to have such a bad race, but I have been in this situation before so it is more easy to manage. I can just wipe it under the cover and turn up at the next weekend and go again.
“We had the plan this weekend, stuck to it, and it paid off. I knew Portimao was going to be a good track, and I was talking myself into a good result, but we did not come here in the winter tests so I knew it could also be a difficult weekend. I did not start well on Friday in FP1, but we were able to just work calmly together and understand the bike.”
That calmness was clearest to see on Friday morning but from that point onwards the weekend was progress all the way. Rea’s confidence came through again when he focused on tyre life rather than going for a time attack lap. This echoed what we saw from Rea in the past when his confidence was at its highest. While the times looked close on the time sheets the advantage for Rea was clear when the analysis was done. If he could make a good start off the line he was always going to be very hard to beat.
It seems obvious to say but Rea has become such a complete rider that he now has no real weaknesses. This could prove crucial in the coming rounds-at Aragon and Catalunya-because the Ducati will start as the favourite in the coming rounds. Would anyone bet against Rea though?
“It’s different racing Scott with Ducati than it was racing Alvaro with Ducati. Last year I was talking myself out of a result in Argentina and Qatar because the straights were so long. We went there and dominated and that shows the strengths of our bike. Of course we are losing a lot on the straights in terms of top speed and acceleration areas but we have a lot of mechanical traction now. In the high temperatures the tyre is working very good until the end of the race.
“The stability and braking performance of the ZX-10RR is very strong so I think as a package we are still improving. We have to have optimism. There are two rounds in Motorland and we have to do the best we can. Of course then we go to the Montmelo and I had a great test there in the summer. We also go to Magny-Cours.”
With a two day test at Aragon upcoming this week Rea and Kawasaki will certainly feel confident of maximising their potential in the upcoming Spanish rounds.