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WorldSBK San Juan: Rea recovers on retro livery

As special bodywork and leathers go, Jonathan Rea’s retro green, white and blue scored pretty high marks for celebrating Kawasaki’s 125th birthday.

In a way, second place in Saturday’s 21-lap WorldSBK race, even using an SCX super-soft rear tyre, was a great recovery, box of quality speed with 20 points inside. But with championship leader Toprak Razgatlioglu gaining another five points to go 29 points ahead with only five individual races remaining, a bigger prize was beyond Rea’s reach.

A crash on Friday afternoon leading to a loss of half an hour of track time after sitting out the first 15 minutes of FP1, helped to make sure Rea was only fifth in Superpole for his first race start off the front row in 2021.


His Saturday afternoon recovery job, even with new leathers and paintwork as a kind of goading to the fates, was superb, only beaten by Razgatlioglu.

“Honestly, I was pretty happy with that,” said Rea. “No regrets. I did my maximum. Just really struggled in some areas of the track, especially sector three.

“I was losing a lot of time there at nine across to ten, and then the flip-flop. Just losing too much time. I felt good the rest of the track. We’ve been changing the bike quite a lot. I really messed up not having that time yesterday in FP2 to understand the bike and the package and the tyres. Good news for us is we made the SCX tyre work all the race. It was quite consistent. My rhythm was strong, causing no problems in the front. That bodes well for tomorrow. Try and make a few extra steps and we can try to get a little bit closer.”

Rea had opted for the hardest front tyre, which nobody else did. He may not change it for Sunday.
“Possibly not,” he thought to himself. “Just with the higher temperatures I feel like this gives me a little more stability. We compromise maybe a little bit of grip, but we need to stop our bike. That’s the one key area we need to work with.

"I felt like we didn’t make too many setup areas. Maybe some margin for improvement myself in the sectors, and also the team and the bike. Try to extract all the full potential out of it. I was having a lot of wheelie exiting nine and ruining my acceleration. So, some small tweaks. I’d like to get a little bit closer because Toprak’s rhythm was really strong, so congratulations to him and his team. They’ve done a fantastic job today.”

Rea was happy he got a strong start and consoling to Redding after his turn one fall. “Really unfortunate for Scott. I got great launch, but I just seen him get blown wide in that dirty area. He had no chance because as soon as he opened the throttle, the rear lost. The guys in my team just told me he finished the race, so that’s incredible because he was right in the middle of the track.

“So, track position is everything. Especially when the track is so dirty off the racing line and turn one bottle-necking really, really quickly. A good launch is perfect. I’ve been getting good starts now on my ZX-10RR. A great one from 10th place in Portugal a few weeks ago, so I’d like to replicate that tomorrow in the Superpole race.”

Rea felt his new livery added something a little extra to the weekend for him and his employer. “It’s nice, eh? I’m loving the get-up,” said Rea of the retro colours. “I wish I could use it for the rest of the season because they are cool colours. The green and the blue, different from what we’re used to. A little bit harder to clean, to be honest. So I think we’ll revert back to old faithful tomorrow and try to enjoy the two races here and get another bag of points.”

Rea was a bit suspect of the leathers and helmet re-design, especially at this stage of the year. “It was funny,” he said, “because it’s happened in the past where I’ve used a special helmet or livery, fairings, whatever, and it’s never gone to plan. Also, I seen what Yamaha did in Barcelona. When we were doing this, the idea was that this could really backfire. But I’m happy to put it on the podium. It’s the best we could do today. So, pretty content with that and looking forward to tomorrow.”

Seeing Razgatlioglu’s pace from close-up and then easing inexorably away, Rea is not sure how much he can do about winning on Sunday, if his set-up is not made much better at least. “Right now for the race, no,” he said. “But I’m sure we can make some improvements. My pace in the middle of the race wasn’t too bad. I didn’t feel like I was getting dropped too far back from the midpoint to the end, just the beginning of the lap. I lost too much time in the beginning when the tyres were fresh. I can improve that area, but we definitely need something with the bike. So, we’ll sit down and understand with all the guys and make a step.”

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