Jonathan Rea’s low-key 2023 WorldSBK campaign dragged on during Round 5 of the season at Misano, the six-time World Champion consigned to dicing for top five results well adrift of the podium battle.
In what is becoming a chastening season for a rider so used to slugging it out for race wins week-in-week-out, Rea was forced to watch usual foes Alvaro Bautista and Toprak Razgatlioglu disappear into the distance in all three races.
Coming away with a fourth and two fifth place results, though Misano marked Rea’s first triple finish since the opening round, he was doing so some 20secs adrift of race winner Bautista.
While the results look disappointing, Rea insists he is working harder than ever just to complete them.
“I said to the guys, I haven’t fought this hard for a race win as I did for that fifth place,” he told BSN and assembled media. “[In race one] we swapped with myself and Aegerter in the last laps quite a few times. In the beginning I felt quite OK, actually. The bike was working. I felt like the pace was okay.
“But as soon as I started to get into the race, the tyes dropped a little bit, I had to ride the bike in a completely different way and it wasn’t working. It was like the bike with grip is a different one, and as soon as the grip drops, we need a different setup to get the benefit when the tyres are moving around.
“We have a good idea how we can fix the problem. It’s just going to take a lot of time. Frustrating.”
“It’s not nice to feel like I’m riding defensive. Never have I been covering apexes, but it was not the most beautiful race for me so I just had to do what I had to do.”
On a weekend where Ducati’s dominance extended to front-running performances by its privateer contingent in Axel Bassani and Danilo Petrucci, Rea admits the Panigale V4 R’s current strength is sobering.
“It seems like all the Ducatis are in the front, but we have to measure ourselves against Toprak. He has a similar motorcycle. So where there’s clearly room to improve, we need to improve because some of our biggest problems competing with Ducati is power, but it’s the same for Toprak and he’s able to do a much better job.
“So, we have to look within and keep improving the bike, try to keep improving. But it’s hard. I feel that we’re getting the maximum out of the bike. I feel like I’m getting the maximum out of myself and physically the bike is quite hard to ride, that intensity to stay there. So, we need to improve.”
Additional reporting by Ollie Barstow