Given the pace of Toprak Razgatlioglu in Mandalika WorldSBK practice and Superpole, and knowing that Alvaro Bautista could have the edge in a machinery face-off on each straight, Jonathan Rea looked at his podium place in Race One - albeit over nine seconds - as mission accomplished, and more.
“Better than I expected,” he said at Mandalika on Saturday. “The target was the podium, to be honest. vIn Superpole I put a lap together that could be second, but I didn’t expect to have Toprak in my view for so long, but after four or five laps I thought, ‘maybe I could be here?’ But as soon as the grip dropped and the bike starts behaving differently, all around that five, six, seven, eight section, on the side of the tyre I was really struggling.
“The biggest worry for us before the race was the front tyre. We were destroying the front tyres. In parc ferme at the end of the race they were bad but not so much worse than the others. The problem was my rear tyre was quite shot compared to the others. So, we need to try to improve the grip level tomorrow, especially when the initial grip drops, stop these movements. The track’s rubbering-in, so of course it’s getting better and better. So, even without a setup change, consumption should be better tomorrow, but we still need to make a step.”
The narrow but increasingly-grippy racing line around Mandalika, which was freshly and completely resurfaced just two weeks ago, played its part in Rea explaining what his bike felt like to ride in Indonesia, with a maybe one metre wide grippy ribbon of asphalt over the full lap.
“We rode yesterday and tried to go with a short wheel base, “ said Rea. “Tried to keep a lot of traction for it. I can’t ride the bike like this. It’s so nervous. I need a bike that’s stable and also weight in the front. We went back to that today.
“It was better. I could manage the bike. Yesterday I was riding the bike so bad. I was braking too late, stressing the bike too much. Today I was more calm. So, I learned a few things. If the limit is here, that’s the limit. Don’t try to be greedy and take another meter and make mistakes. But I felt compared to yesterday I had some more margin. But it’s true the line today, if the line yesterday was half a metre now today it’s a metre.”
There is no rubber-ed in path to follow once you got off line at Mandalika, as Rea explained. “No, it’s a disaster. When you see Baldassarri, for example, Lecuona, all these crashes, you’re like one centimeter off the line. Had so many scares yesterday.”
When asked if it was a case of tracks hurrying through changes, or new tracks having to be done to a deadline when they first get their contracts, Rea said, “I do understand, but the circuit is known that they had to resurface after MotoGP, which was in the beginning of the year. They finished two weeks ago.
They only started four or six weeks ago and they finished two weeks ago. They should have improved. They should have acted more fast, but it’s the same for everybody. There were a lot of crashes this weekend could be prevented if the track was prepared better. The actual surface is good. They’ve done a really good job, and credit to them for actually doing it because they’ve done it now three times they’ve resurfaced this place. So, that’s big credit. That’s good.”
Pere Riba, Rea’s crew chief is an asphalt expert in some ways, as his father’s family business was making roads and providing asphalt surfaces. Rea had indeed talked with Pere, who apparently said, according to Rea, “He said for example last year they had more stones, where this year there’s less stones and more adhesive - more tarmac I guess.”
Earlier in the day on Saturday Rea had been beaten in Superpole by Toprak Razgatlioglu, and Rea was duly amazed by Toprak’s ability at this tricky layout.
“I can’t take anything away. I tip my hat to him, because very impressive. It’s like even now I am riding with margin because I think if I go over this dirt line… And I think he just sees the track is clean. It’s like he has a darker visor and he doesn’t see the dirty part. Fair play. That lap time was incredible. My lap was good. I really messed up my last sector, but it wasn’t half a second quicker, never mind one second quicker. So, different gravy today.”
It’s been a long time since Rea won a race, since Estoril, in fact. When asked how important it would be for the him and the team to win more races he said.
It would be nice to win. I don’t think I need more confidence. I feel good with the bike. I don’t think it could kick-start or regenerate anything. I think we are where we are. I think winning at the minute would actually throw us off reality. We need to really understand that we need to improve. We’ll try.
“There’s been lots of races this year I’ve finished third, but only been a second or 1.5 off the race win. But it’s true, I haven’t won for so long. It’s not frustrating me or worrying me or anything, it’s just how it is with Toprak and Alvaro. Yamaha and Ducati are doing a very good job. Credit to them. We need to step up.”
Regarding tyres for the sprint race on Sunday morning Rea said, “I don’t think SCX will survive ten laps. Maybe four or five, but the last five could be… All these right corners, four, five, six, seven… Four is a left.
“Five, six, seven are quite damaging on the tyre. Then the long, long right before the end. You go to 13 and change direction. All this, it looks like it’s a corner, a straight, and a corner. It’s actually you’re on the side of the tyre and you’re really putting a lot of stress on the rear. But it will be a fast race.”