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WorldSBK Portimao: Rea riding with ‘back against the wall’

After a fall on Saturday, and a win for Toprak Razgatlioglu, what Jonathan Rea needed on Sunday was two strong WorldSBK races.

The Kawasaki rider fell in the wet Superpole race, however, as he just pushed on too hard in the cold tyres and wet conditions. Razgatlioglu was almost nowhere in that short race, but come the second long race of the weekend it was Razgatlioglu’s turn to experience misfortune - not his own but a front mudguard that got dragged under his front tyre as he entered the scary fast turn 15. Same place Rea had crashed on Saturday…

In the afternoon race, from the fourth row, Rea was on fire from the start. “I made probably the best start of my season,” said Rea. “I got good track position straight away in T1, I think fourth or fifth. From that point, I could see that my bike was working really good. It was agile. I could put it where I wanted. Just struggled in the straight a little bit in the headwind today. The wind was so high, like yesterday.


"Yesterday Toprak was really focused to disturb my rhythm because it was really strong this weekend. Today I changed the strategy a little bit. I tried to go yesterday from the first time I got clean air, but I knew today I had to go at the beginning of the lap to give myself at least some breathing room in the straight. So, when I got to the front, I started just putting my rhythm. I clocked a 41.4. Then, silly, made a mistake the next lap. Then I started again mid-41’s. I could feel that I was in my rhythm, just hitting my marks.

“I got to thank the guys because the bike was really good, from a chassis point of view. We struggled when I was in the front on the headwind. That was the only area we really struggled. Then I had the signal that Toprak was out. So, of course, that changed the strategy of the race a little bit. I could afford to roll off. I didn’t need to put such a high-intensity rhythm, and ride to my pit board which was a nice feeling because you’re not under so much stress. The gap was going up and I was also relaxed on the bike.

“A lot of learning from this weekend because I made a lot of silly mistakes and being too impatient. I think I need to believe that my rhythm is high and I can fight with these guys until the last lap.”

Rea blamed himself for the two falls he suffered when he needed to be pegging Toprak’s total back, not gifting him advantages.

“Yeah, of course. The crash yesterday, the wind was high – higher than it was on Friday, for example. I went in there, but I went in there hot,” he explained.

“I went in there trying to go away. It was the first time I had clean air. Scott made a mistake in 13. I could feel him coming in 14 and I thought, my only chance to lead the lap is to try to get to the end of the straight in front and have a clean lap. But, didn’t even get that far. I went into the last corner, not too fast, I just grabbed too much brake in the wind and it went so fast.

“This morning was just cold. I felt good with the bike and there was quite a few guys went down there. It was slippery. First time I’ve been in this asphalt. Same thing. I had nothing to lose. Nothing to lose now. I’m a little bit back in it now with unfortunately what happened to Toprak, but I’ve accepted this is back’s against the wall. Sometimes it’s nice to ride like that, free, but of course we made some mistakes. I made some mistakes this weekend. I have to accept that and learn from it. But, same mentality in Argentina.

“We can’t think clever about things and ride in a conservative manner because I’m riding completely on my limit to be with these guys. I’m struggling in a few areas and there’s no margin to relax or to sit on top of yourself and gauge around the lap. It’s every single corner 100%.”

With almost all his team members and himself in tears of joy and relief, Rea said he had a different reason for tears earlier in the final day. “I was pretty upset with myself after the Superpole race. Yesterday I could accept because it was a fast crash. First, I’m okay. I’ve got to thank my Alpinestars Tech Air airbag, and also my Arai helmet, because without that, I wouldn’t be racing today. I hurt my elbow a little bit and my leg. Quite a big impact to my leg, but nothing disastrous, and my thumb. But aside from that, just an emotional day.


"It’s like when the championship is 50 points or 49 points, six races to go, it’s tough. But today proved… This year has proved, that anything can happen. We go every weekend and something strange happens. So, 24 now seems like nothing with six races to go. Anything can happen. Just try my best and see what happens.”

With lots of flight cancellations and rescheduling going on in the paddock there was at least some possibility that the event in Argentina may be difficult for some teams, and European replacements have been rumoured. But planning for Rea is Argentina and Indonesia as a finale.

“I just booked my flights yesterday for Argentina, and from a mental point of view I’m preparing for Argentina and Indonesia race. If anything happens, then I’ll have to deal with it. But, whatever happens, I’m sure when Dorna have committed to two more rounds in a 13-round championship this close to the end, they can’t cancel a race. They have to find substitute rounds, so I don't know what they could be. But mentally, until Argentina or Indonesia is canceled, I’m mentally preparing for them.”

After Rea was upset with Toprak Razgatlioglu’s riding style on Saturday, and saying he was prepared for more hard overtakes himself on Sunday, he said after the second race, “Honestly, I started race two with a big smile. We always put a message on the dashboard of the bike. Sometimes it’s funny words or motivational words. Today my mechanic said, “What do you want?” I said, ‘Just put smile on there.’ He said, ‘No. I’m going to put enjoy.’ I said, ‘It’s kind of the same, so put enjoy.’ So, I was on the grid looking at his message thinking, it’s time to enjoy. It can’t get any worse than it is this weekend. So, 25 is okay, but it’s some salvage job from the weekend.”

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