Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea returned to his second home on Monday as testing resumed ahead of the 2023 WorldSBK season opener at Phillip Island.
Four hours apiece across Monday and Tuesday, and with perfect weather conditions compared to November’s recent visit to the Australian Grand Prix Circuit, is allowing the six-time champion to thoroughly analyse recent steps made with the Ninja ZX10-RR during January’s European testing at Jerez and Portimao. With the Northern Irishman tentative in his initial reactions.
“Positive, mixed,” Rea said after day one at Phillip Island. “We had some really good feelings with the bike but some not so good that we’re trying to resolve for tomorrow. Some issues with the bumps.
“The bumps aren’t getting worse but the bike feels different compared to last year.
“Also the temperature’s a lot higher compared to last year so the grip levels are good but of course the tyres are dropping much more than in November - where there was cooler conditions, a lot of wind also - so just working through that with the crew. Will put our heads together and hopefully make a good step tonight, when we understand everything that’s going on.”
While multiple red flags for wildlife on track disputed the day’s flow, a turn four crash in the afternoon session left his Kawasaki somewhat lacking.
“Basically was a mix of things,” he explained. “I went out with a completely different wheelbase. Also a new hard front tyre that I hadn’t used yet and I was pushing hard. I set the fastest lap time of the session just before and then the next lap I went in with good power, good feeling and just overcooked it. On data was very similar, just a little bit more lean angle. One of them, you know.
“Frustrated, because I was relatively unscathed, everything was near perfect. I went with the same suit, gloves, everything but the bike not so much - I put a pretty big dent in the tank.
“Sorry for the guys for that. We went out straight away afterwards. I was quick again but just working on them key areas like I said, trying to manage them bumps a little bit better and working towards tomorrow.
“Just trying to work on the bike being a little bit more manageable, more smooth,” Rea continued on the plan of action for the final day of testing. “It’s working very well in some areas - like in T2, exit T6, the bike feels better than last year, a lot better. But just in them critical areas, sector three, I’m really suffering there. That’s a key area that we need to improve so try to do that then put some laps on the tyre. That’s going to be key to fight for the podium this weekend, to be strong at the end of the race as well. So that will be on the agenda, try and put a lot of laps on the tyres.”
With Ducati strong from second and third in Monday’s times, and Michael Rinaldi maintaining his top three position across Portimao testing, does Rea think there will be more to 2023’s title fighters than just the dominating trio of recent years?
“No idea,” the 36-year-old said, honestly. “I know I expect the two guys from last year to be right there. They’re great riders with great machines, and then it’s up to the rest to try and be there. Me included!
“Try to maximise my potential every weekend and of course, like last year, where you have other riders strong in different circuits, it’s going to be the same. Gonna be unpredictable, which is good, but hopefully I can step up and be there each weekend.”