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Portimao WorldSBK: Motocross background helps Rea at rollercoaster track

Winning does not get old for Jonathan Rea but he aged a bit for a while in race two at Portimao, as he had to fight his way past several riders, and then his own team-mate Tom Sykes, before he got to Chaz Davies.

He had some proper goes with the still-injured Welshman, before taking his overtaking chance and subtly checking out and reckons his motocross background and training helps at the Portugese track.

“After fighting with Tom a little bit, he was counter-attacking I put a pass on in T13 and made it stick,” said Rea of how he won his 66th career race in WorldSBK. “I chased down Chaz within a lap but then it took me so many laps to get past him.


"He was braking so late and his bike was so fast on the straight. I kept getting such a good run on to that hill and over that hill in the slipstream. I would pull out and basically make no ground. I thought twice to pass him in turn one but then I thought, 'What am I doing, trying to pass Chaz on the brakes into turn one?'”

Rea had to wick it up again as a small posse of chasing riders, Melandri and van der Mark were coming for him. “Once I started to relax a little bit I started worrying because Chaz’s pace was dropping and the others were coming. So at T10 I just got a little bit inventive with a move and just squared him up at the bottom of the hill and stuck it up the inside.

"I just hoped to make it stick because going in there off camber at the top, braking on the side of the tyre, is very risky. But I managed to pull it down to the apex and then concentrated on making a couple of clean laps, making my rhythm.”

The second race was a bit hotter than race one, and there fore more physical in one regard, but it was the closer racing that made Rea sweat most. “Race two was a more physical race as I was just trying everything, thinking outside the box and it is not like any bike is super-good in any area. You have to maximise your exit to make a pass and be very clinical when it comes to make a pass, or else you just waste a pass, and the guy comes back around. These guys are fast.”

Rea's MX history is a benefit here as he moves his body weight around to keep traction over the dips and drive down the hills. But he is not so sure if it is thousands of hours of motocross that helps him carve through from row three so regularly in each second race.

“A lot of the WorldSBK grid have come through motocross, so it is hard to say,” he pondered. “As much as I am frustrated at what happened in Brno with Tom (when the KRT riders touched and Rea went down) I put myself in that position because it was the first race this season I decided to relax, because I had such a pace on everybody else that the strategy was to relax and let the race come to me.

"So I put myself in that stupid position with him, to be in seventh on the first lap. Every other the race the first lap is the place where I can make the most passes, because everyone is bunched together.”

Brno was a lesson for Rea, when it is usually he who is doling out practical tips to many of his peer group. Twelve race wins so far in 2018 bear this out. “I learned a lot in that Brno race – not to adopt that strategy again,” said Rea.

“Coming through with eight riders in front, you have to be in the right place at the right time and there are so many things that can happen. A rider can make a pass that opens the door for you so you do not attack at all costs but you have to be very calculating, and if you do not pass you will get passed, because everyone has got the same agenda.”

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