Assen WorldSBK triple winner Jonathan Rea was one of those in prime position to see the now infamous clash between an errant Garrett Gerloff and potential champion in 2021, Toprak Razgatlioglu at turn one of race two.
The six-time world champion attempted to parry questions on the subject, understandably, but said, “To be honest, it happened so fast I can’t really give an opinion because it just happened in front. I was more worried about where I was going to go because I got a really bad start.
"I found myself in the first corner a little bit out. That happened, and then I was just focused on myself. So, I didn’t see or feel Garrett coming, but I seen the aftermath. I seen Toprak going out. So, I guess I have to see to give an opinion.”
Rea ran to the outside and had a less than ideal cutback after the melee up front, as he explained, but had to be reminded of it.
“Somebody, maybe Rinaldi came down - he was on my inside. I was coming back, somebody was on my inside and they were going wide because I think they were anticipating what was going to happen. They were going wide so I had no option but to be wide. You’re right. That’s why I lost so much track position then. I felt like I got in there third or fourth, but at the end of the next corner I was nowhere. There was no option to go up the inside at the hairpin. Then I just settled into my rhythm.”
Again Rea was probed about the Gerloff incident. Given that Rea was taken off track, if not quite crashing when Gerloff lost his line under braking at Aragon and hit Rea, the six-times champion has been an unwilling participant.
He was as diplomatic as possible, saying, “I don't want to talk about it. I’m sure he feels really bad about what happened. It was obviously a mistake. The first laps of the race there’s so many guys that just need to calm the hell down. It’s a 21-lap race and the first three corners you can fight for track position, but the race is in the last three laps, not the first three. I don't know.
"I don't want to say too much because of course he’s going to be super gutted. It’s not nice to attack somebody like that, but of course it’s the same guy and there’s a common denominator. I’ve been on the receiving end as well. You can make a mistake once or twice, but repeating… But, it’s racing.
Unfortunately, there’s so many aggressive guys. You look at Rinaldi and Toprak this morning. They didn’t even think about a pass. They were just going to make a pass whether it was on or not. That’s the way it’s gone.
"So, you’ve got guys that don’t want to give an inch. So, if you want to race with them you have to either be more clever or you have to be equally as aggressive back. So, it’s a tough one. I really feel for Toprak because he was a victim, but it’s how it is.”
One member of the media recalled Rea’s old ten Kate days when his old team boss, Ronald Ten Kate had said to him that this is Superbike racing… Rea was then asked is it still the case today that bumping and banging?
Rea thought for a second before saying, “We’re all clever because we’ve all made it to the world championship. We’re all fast riders. There’s no doubt about that. But there has to be an element that everyone can make good race decisions. Some people make worse decisions than others. There’s established riders out there that constantly make bad decisions. But, it’s how it is.
"Racing is racing, but you have to be respectful. I think that the way I race, it’s like do unto others as you would have done yourself. So, I’m not going to lift somebody in the first turn of Navarra or pass somebody in a stupid pass going into Acque Minerali in Imola or something.
"You have to be a little bit cute with your riding. But it’s racing, at the end of the day. Racing is racing. Racing can be close and aggressive and tight and respectful, but you don’t have to make stupid decisions to be good and aggressive.”