Jonathan Rea admitted to a ‘strange feeling’ as he bid a fond farewell to Kawasaki after almost a decade in disappointing circumstances when he slid out of the lead in the very final race with KRT.
The Ulsterman enjoyed a solid swansong with Kawasaki at the 2023 WorldSBK finale in Jerez, notching up a 221st and final podium in the Superpole Race.
However, he looked on course for even better in Race 2 when he passed Dominique Aegerter and scampered into an early lead, even establishing a plus-second lead over Toprak Razgatlioglu at one stage.
However, his hopes of a fairytale ending were scuppered on lap five when he low-sided at low speed coming round Turn 3. Though he remounted and raced on, he couldn’t quite squeeze back into the points’ paying positions.
“A bitter-sweet final day. I wasn’t riding with emotion or anger, I was just flowing with my bike in Race Two. My crew chief Pere Riba made quite a big change, something like we had at the test here in May, and it worked really well. All weekend the grip has been low and we have been carrying a rolling set-up from the previous round.
“I even told Uri my chief mechanic, ‘this race is for us.’ I got to the front and I thought this feeling was good, but of course it was too good. On a bike set-up that was quite different, with different margins I just overstepped it a bit in T2. The bike got a little bit squirrelly going in and instead relaxing on the front brake and blowing the corner a little bit, I really committed to make the corner with a lot of lean angle, and down I went.
“Not the ending that the team or I deserve. I wanted to finish in the right way. But we didn’t go down without a fight. The right handlebar was bent far forward, I had about 15mm of right footpeg left, so I just wanted to finish the race.
“When I saw my second or third laptime after I crashed I was doing 1’41s, which was faster than I did in Race One on Saturday. So I just kept going, thinking I could maybe score a point.
“I have some strange feelings overall today. Not from a performance side, or results side, just strange because I am leaving an incredible team.”
Rea now turns his attentions to his new adventure with Yamaha, which kicks off with a two-day test at Jerez on 31 October [Tuesday].