Jonathan Rea looked set as the on-track favourite to win the WorldSBK Superpole race at San Juan on Sunday morning.
But a false neutral put him out of the lead and effectively out of contention for what would have been his first race win since Estoril in May.
“If we go back to the Superpole Race, it was incredible,” said Rea. “My pace, everything, my feeling on the bike, great. I wanted to go to the front, which I felt like I could go away. Then unfortunately, just going down the hill, I just didn’t find first. I found neutral. A false neutral. It’s frustrating.
"I think with our gearbox it’s a more standard gear box. We have to go from second through neutral to first. So, there’s that one in a hundred chance. Combination of wheel in the air, how it touched down, my pressure on the gear lever… It’s frustrating because I felt like I had the goods to win, so very frustrated with myself, the bike, because we’re not getting too many chances and I’ve seen that as a chance.
"Race two I was really motivated because after having such a good feeling with the Superpole race, but right from the get-go I had zero grip. I could tell when I tipped into T2, the bike didn’t pick up like normal. I felt like a passenger the whole race. It was all I could do. So, I got beat up a little bit. Went into T10 and I couldn’t stop the bike from the rear and went ride. Sort of decided my race.
"I was with Vierge for a bit. Couldn’t pass him anywhere. He was taking so much time on the straight. At that time in the race, everyone with fresh tyres was on a similar pace. So, I sort of had to grind them down. Then the same with Rinaldi. But Alex had quite a good rhythm, similar to me. He was keeping me honest. I really had to push and dig deep to go with Alex, but Toprak and Alvaro were a different race today.
"They seemed like they could go, but it was really frustrating because I wanted to go with the bike. It felt like the bike was behaving itself, and I just had zero traction from the rear. Something I haven’t experienced all weekend. The temperatures were similar yesterday. The air temperature was a little bit higher, but track temperatures were three or four degrees higher today. It’s frustrating. That’s it. It’s another podium, though. A lot of points. We have to take the positives. It was a tough race, but we managed to stand on the box.”
We have two rounds to go now, and we’ve done our first fly-away. Your pace is there when the bike is right. How do you feel about the season so far and the realistic possibilities for what might happen for the end of the season?
“Disappointed with the situation we’re in that we’re not competitive enough. But it is what it is. Both Ducati and Yamaha are Toprak and Alvaro are doing an incredible job. We need to step up. It’s clear the areas we need to improve. We’re not touching thecsides, you know what I mean? It’s hard. So, just keep working. It swings in roundabouts, isn’t it? We can’t have it all our own way.
"Right now I don’t feel like we’re that reference anymore, which is good because I just hope everyone digs in and realizes and reacts to it. This year we’re doing some circuits where we’re fighting with our hands tied behind our back, if you like. That’s frustrating. Apart from that, I do feel like I’m riding good, and really everyone inside the box is working well. The team is trying their best, but we just can’t make the improvements that we need.”
When told that someone inside Ducati actually claimed that the Honda was faster (in top speed and power) than the Ducati, Rea said, “Potentially. Ducati have a lot more experience in this championship with the Pirelli. Honda are only here a couple years now. Behind Vierge today, the bike was very fast.”
After all the talk of Superconcessions turning into the complex new reality designed to let every manufacturer have one special change beyond the regular sets of concession rules, Rea was asked what he, personally, thought about it all?
“I’m a fan of racing performance, so it’s always nice to have the best of the best of the best,” he stated, ever the racer. “The problem is when you have a championship that’s derived from production bikes, it really depends from the manufacturer what you bring. But then if you don’t enforce balancing performance rules, then there could be a case of a one-make series, more or less, and that’s not what everybody wants.
"So, I understand why there’s concessions and everything, but I would be more of a fan of go and build the best Superbike you can, within Superbike regs, within homologation of chassis or crank cases and this, but you do what you like. I think the customer would feel good about that. It’s always going to be difficult when you roll a bike out of a shop and one costs 44,000 Euros and one costs 17,000. It’s a bit different. It’s hard to please everybody, but if I had my way I’d ride the best Superbike in the world!”