In a tough first WorldSBK race weekend under new rules that see the Kawasaki engine allowed fewer revs than any other for cylinder bike in 2018, Jonathan Rea had his toughest weekend since he joined Kawasaki in 2015.
Illness, a recent finger injury and tyre issues made Phillip Island much more of a challenge than he hoped for so early in a new era of reduced peak power.
So his turnaround to winner of race one at Chang was partly due to having less of those PI issues to deal with, but also because he is simply the King of Chang? Five wins in the past six races, levels of domination at this circuit, right?
Not according to Rea, who won his first race of 2018 on Saturday in Thailand.
“I do not feel that, because looking through all the chronos this weekend five people convinced themselves, I’m sure, last night in bed that today they were going to win the race…” Rea told bikesportnews.com.
“I think the difference today was managing the race and I think I managed it in a good way. I was fast when I needed to be fast; I controlled what was going on a little bit. But tomorrow is going to be one hell of a fight.”
Rea explained why he thinks that way by saying, “Coming from the third row is going to be difficult because for sure the first seven or eight laps will be in a big group. Compared to last year we do not have the same power as our rivals so I need to understand the situation.
"Maybe we need to set the bike up tomorrow to make some passes in some areas of the course where we are strong.”
With one and a half rounds of the championship gone, and one more 20-lap race to go on Sunday 25th, Rea has now got more of a feel for the new rules. And he feels that they are working. Apparently against him.
“I would say the new rules are working,” he agreed soon after race one in Thailand. “I know exactly their target, and it is working. I am having to work my ass off. Last year too; it wasn’t easy last year. I give 100 per cent every lap I am on the bike, which is why last year sometimes you saw that I won with big margins, because I gave 100 per cent.
"Here is the same but instead of it being four or five seconds like last year, it was one second today. They have got it right they have certainly choked our ZX-10RR quite hard.”
But having won his first race of the year now, and looking like he had the situation under control after some early tussles with Tom Sykes, sees Rea ready to make another step up in the coming rounds.
“I am excited and more excited than I have been,” said Rea. “I am beginning to feel that that relationship is coming back with the bike and I do not feel 100% yet, but it is coming.”