Jonathan Rea’s 24-race WorldSBK losing streak, his longest since he joined Kawasaki ended in dramtic and very complicated form when he and his team made the right decisions and took the right actions to leave him out front, on the right tyres when it mattered.
A wet start to the 21-lap Race One saw everyone out on full wets except Philipp Oettl, but as the track dried riders started to come in for slicks, with each rider or team chosing their moment to try and take most advantage.
Stay out on wet tyres too long, even in a big leading position, and you lose time to those who are on a better tyre solution for what was a consistently drying track. Come in too early and you risk crashing or not finding the grip you expected.
Rea decided when he was coming in, signalled his team and he duly won his first race since Portugal in May as team and rider got it all right and they headed the next closest rider, Toprak Razgatlioglu, by over six seconds.
Rea told bikeportnews.com,, “We sort of knew to expect anything, but we in detail before the race, also leading up to today, had a plan to cover all bases. Just then, it was about me being calm on the bike, not making silly decisions.”
He was happier in the dry conditions than the wet, it appeared. “A few times in the wet, I didn’t feel myself at the beginning of the race. I didn’t have a lot of grip out there. I was able to pass Toprak in the brakes at one but just scared to haul it up. I ended up off the track and a bit of grass-tracking.
‘Then I was able to catch them pretty easy and just thought, okay, just ride slow, because this track is going to dry out and I don’t want to waste my tyre. Then Alex came through with a really good pace. At that point I thought, hey, roll the dice. Let’s go to the pits.
“I don’t think it was a risky manoeuvre. I probably could have gone one lap earlier, but my guys told me they wanted a signal to be ready. So, I gave a signal the lap before on the starting line. I left my leg off. Then I committed. I’m going to come in. On the pit lane entry, I checked and Toprak followed me. Alvaro not. I thought, it’s going to be Toprak, because it was the clear time, I felt.
“Then I exited and after a couple last I was able to get the signal about four seconds in, five. Then at that point it was just writing to my pit board to not make too many mistakes, because it was so blustery, especially coming up through the Hayshed, turn eight. I was getting blown onto the wet part of the track.
“Going down into MG, which is the only part of the track which remained wet. I came down on my out lap, out-braked myself and thought, oh no! I’m going to go down! I missed the line and was on the wet. I just toodled round like an amateur, then reset. I didn’t make that mistake again. I was always braking early. Even to do 31’s cautiously through MG was good. Nice to be fast. This is a real team win. Nice as well.
“Kev (Havenhand, his rider assistant) came on the podium with me. Kev spent my WorldSBK career with me and it’s going to be his last race weekend. So, really nice that he was able to savour that moment, another race win for him as well. So, really cool.”
Rea was aware thgat his main rival for the win, Toprak Razgatlioglu lost time in the pits. “I just heard him in parc ferme and he lost about four seconds,” said Rea.
Rea explained how his team do it during pitstops. “My guys with pit stops, we have a procedure that we follow. When my guys release me, also I have them indications on my dashboard when I’m allowed to cross the line. I was following that right up until the last… I gave it half a second leeway before I crossed the transponder line, but I think we completely nailed the pit stop. We didn’t lose one second. So, big kudos to them.
“With Superbike, if we had to do a real quick change, I’m sure we could do well, but with Superbike, we have quite an extended pit intervention time. We can take our time, so they’ve done the work really smoothly. They’re as much a part of that win as me. It’s always nice to win a race like that because everybody is involved. Everybody gets that feeling that they’ve contributed. Really nice.”
Rea was clearly not that happy in the wet comnditions as the dry, but he wasn’t sure if his team-mate Alex Lowes - who was clearly the man to beat in wet conditions, could have won the race if it had remained wet.
“It really depends because in the wet conditions, especially with the temperature and the sunlight on your back, the track changes from lap to lap,” said Rea.
“You’re never going to have the same wet track in the first lap as the last lap. I felt something strange with my bike, the tyre. Almost like the rear tyre didn’t heat up enough, the pressure didn’t go to the right point from the warmup lap and the out lap. I took the same tyre from the box to the race. We didn’t change on the grid like normal, because I wanted the tyre on the first lap that was already cleaned from my out lap.
“So, it’s strange. I was not in trouble, but I felt like I had much more. I could give much more in the wet, but today I felt my hands were tied. So, I was still able to ride around in front of Toprak and Bautista, but Alex was clearly a little bit faster in the wet.”
Rea was asked if his 118th WorldSBK Race win came along because he and his team did everything perfectly under these very special circumstances? Or would you also have the package to do very well in the dry?
“Good question,” he replied. “We have to see tomorrow, if we get a consistent wet or dry race how that is going to be. So, I can’t really answer that. I know through Friday, FP1 and FP2 in the dry, I’ve been really strong. FP3 in the wet I’ve been strong. So for sure, we can fight for the race win tomorrow. But it’s true, this race there were more factors involved to win and we did everything perfect. But, we need to do it again in controlled circumstances and hopefully we can get the chance to do that tomorrow.”
With his three WorldSSP race victories added to his 118 WorldSBK wins, the question for Rea now is will he be able to match Giacomo Agostini’s record of 123 from his time in various GP classes.
Rea was aware of the possibility. “I know very well,” he grinned. “This is a statistic that of course I want to chase. My guys have something kind of prepared if this ever happens. They’ve been carrying this idea for a long time now! But, it’s my fault… It’s not my fault. It’s Toprak and Alvaro’s fault. They’re so strong this year. I’m trying my best, but flat out not good enough in most races. But today is about us. We’ll try and enjoy this and come back tomorrow.”
Rea denies that not winning since May has ben preying on his mond, because as he remembers, even from only his Kawasaki years, he has not always ben able to win. “No. It really hasn’t. A little bit like in ’19 when Alvaro was smashing me a bit at the beginning. You have to accept you’re not winning. You can’t get disappointed because it’s not coming. Then when it does come like today, I’ll take it, but I know our reality is we really need to improve. I need to improve. We’ll take it, but to be regularly like we enjoyed through ’17, ’18, ’19, we need to really improve.”