Magny-Cours proved a tricky hunting round for Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea as a Saturday crash and Sunday conflict overshadowed the WorldSBK weekend.
To try and win on Sunday, Jonathan Rea and his crew put in a fairly bold wheelbase change to his machine, to try and get back on terms after hitting a wheels sensor on the kerb at the tight chicane and crashing out on Saturday, no scoring. But it was Sunday that was even more frantic for Rea after a tangle with Ducati’s Alvaro Bautista at turn 13 in the final race action.
He described Race Two’s happenings in detail, saying. “Race Two made a pretty good getaway, but found myself third and fourth. Then the first laps, I think lap two, we came together. So, I knew I was strong there all weekend. I just seen Toprak [Razgatlioglu] going. I wanted to go down the inside. He [Bautista] came back to his line and I was there. We touched. I was really on my limit on the inside to make the manoeuvre but I didn’t blow the corner, by any means.
“I made my apex and unfortunately he went down. I’m really sorry for that because that was really not my intention. I want to make that clear.
“There was zero bad intention. I think from the other side with emotions hot and everybody after the race, it sounded like it was in my brain before the corner. I didn’t think at turn 12, “Right, I’m going to put this guy down.” Not at all. It’s not the way I ride. I went down the inside and parked my bike and unfortunately we came together. I have been to see him. Offered my apologies and tried to give my point of view. I listened to his point of view. So, for me that’s turn the page now. I had to take my long lap penalty, unfortunately. I didn’t understand what was going to happen.
“Of course, Race Direction decided on a long lap penalty for that manoeuvre. It was a lonely race then because I was so far back. I had Scott [Redding] in the front, so I was just trying to focus on him. I could see seven laps to go I had a little bit better rhythm than he did. I was ebbing and flowing to the front group. I just didn’t have an amazing rhythm to catch up to the podium places, but Scott was a good reference. Then after that, Alex [Lowes] and [Axel] Bassani were too far. So, today was fifth place. Not a great weekend overall, after what happened yesterday. So, try to turn the page and go to Barcelona in a few weeks.”
When pushed on why both Bautista and Ducati said that the move from Rea in Turn 13 was intentional, Rea said,” Because they’re emotional right now. I can tell you it’s not deliberate. That’s my point of view. I’m inside my helmet. I’m not reckless. You have to take my point of view. You can have your opinion. They can have their opinion. It’s sad they feel like that. Maybe their emotions are running high or they’re on the defensive, but this is racing.
“We’re racing really hard and sometimes, like in Assen, Alvaro was very quick to say that these things happen in racing. He was almost expecting something to happen. At times, he races very hard as well. He hit Toprak this morning with his wing. One millimetre more and it could be the front brake and he’s crashed. This is racing right now in the world championship. There’s not much room for error, and of course it’s unfortunate that they think that way. But I’m sure it will be old news very soon and we’ll be in Barcelona and there will be another story.”
It was put to Rea that he made more than one mistake over the Magny-Cours weekend. “Yeah, I made some mistakes this weekend. It’s been a tough weekend.”
When asked if there was any particular reason, or if he was on the limit, he replied, “No. The crash I had in free practice three was really stupid. Amateur mistake. I exited the box with quite a cool tyre and I crashed in the first left so, I was quite embarrassed by that one. Yesterday in the race I got so unlucky to touch the bracket on the kerbs. These kerbs in Magny-Cours on the last chicane are quite high. You either have to go around the kerb or take a lot of kerb. After yesterday, I went to take no risk and go over the kerb. For the final race, our pace was what it was. I didn’t have the pace of Toprak. I just had to do my best. I don’t feel like I made too many mistakes in the race. Of course here it’s very easy to get sucked in with other riders in the braking areas. But, outside of that, not much for concern.”
Ducati were so unhappy with Rea’s move that they said they wanted a bigger penalty than Rea’s long lap. And they - Bautista and Ducati Corse’s Marco Zambenedetti - said that Rea’s move was intentional.
“Listen, this is quite an uneducated and disrespectful thing to say,” stated Rea, after a period of reflection to choose the right words. “From someone like this, if they have a high position to say it’s intentional, I don’t think it’s very clever. Race Direction have a lot more and harsher penalties that they could apply during the race, a double long lap, triple long lap, black flag, ride-through penalty. It’s a racing accident. I’m sure you talk with guys in a Ducati shirt and you have a bias. You talk to other people, you have a different point of view. I accept their point of view; that it’s their point of view. It’s not mine. I don’t have to speak anymore of trying to plead my innocence. It is what it is. I can’t rewind.
“I’m racing hard for my position. There was a racing accident and it happened. I took a penalty. I have to take that penalty on the chin, of course, because I can’t turn it back now and do the race again. So, I did my long lap penalty and I continued on with my race. Nothing more to say.
“It’s unfortunate they think like that, but it’s not reality. I’m sure they go home and they’ll think about it after a week or another week and they’ll watch their rider race bar-to-bar with somebody else and get so excited in the garage again. It’s racing. We can’t celebrate close racing in one weekend and then try to throw somebody on the cross the next. It is what it is.”
Given the way racing is nowadays Rea was asked if it was always going to end up as something like this happening? But nobody wanting the championship to be decided ‘upstairs.’
“Of course,” he said. “We’re racing with guys now that it’s hard, hard, hard racing. You can not want to be involved in that and talk bad about how they’re racing, but in the end, this has been happening for a long time and no one is saying nothing about the extreme moves that are happening. So, what do you do as a rider?
“The precedent has been set that you have to ride very hard to win a World Superbike race.
“Of course, I agree, you shouldn’t have it decided in the steward’s room. It’s unfortunate. We can have race expects and armchair warriors critiquing the race, but at the end it’s 23 guys out there giving their best. I didn’t feel like it was a huge mistake. No bad intention. It happened. I don’t want to repeat myself again. You guys are asking the same questions. But, it’s the same. It’s unfortunate. It is how it is.”
Rea, as he said earlier, went to apologise to Bautista and give his point of view? But did Rea think he listened to him? “It was back and forwards,” said Rea. “Of course he stands by he thinks it was intentional. I can’t sell him my point of view. There was no bad intention. If there’s bad intention you would think it would be a different strategy to ride hard and probably blow my own corner.”
Rea also made another point about what he saw as Rinaldi kicking out at him in the race. “I haven’t spoke about how Rinaldi reacted after the race. Don’t want to talk too much about that, but passing me, taking his leg off to kick me. Not in the slow down lap, in the race.”
Rinaldi was asked about that, and said that he had just lost his footpeg under hard braking.
“Lost the foot peg!’ exclaimed Rea. “Three times? He lost the foot peg three times? He dive-bombed me like three times? With bad intention. But, this is how these guys ride. He’s got red mist, riding with a lot of emotion. What more can I say?”