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EXCLUSIVE Moto2: Gino Rea - Q&A

21 June 2013

By Christian Tiburtius

Crash.net caught up with Gino Rea ahead of his second Moto2 wild-card appearance of the season at Assen next weekend.

Rea, a WSS race winner, spent his rookie Moto2 season with Gresini last year, claiming podium finish in the wet Sepang race.

However he was then left without a 2013 ride when the planned ESGP team withdrew due to financial issues.

The Englishman responded by putting together his own team, with support from FTR, for a series of wild-card appearances, the first of which was earlier this year at Le Mans...

Crash.net:
Are both your parents Italian?

Gino Rea:
My Dad's Italian and my Mum's English but they were both born in South London. I was born in South London too.

My Dad used to ride Motocross when he was younger and was very good friends with Terry Rymer and it was dad who asked him what age to get me into road racing.

He suggested 15 or 16, so at that age I tried it and went from there. It didn't come all of a sudden though, I'd been racing competitively and internationally at Motocross, Supercross, Supermoto, since I was seven.

I had an electric quad at one year old, a 50cc quad when I was two, a 50cc Motorbike when I was three and my first real geared bike at six.

In 2006 I raced everything I had or could borrow, Minimoto, Supercross Motocross, GP125s, 660 KTM CUP and the KTM Red Bull European Supermoto 250cc Championship.

I jumped straight in to European Superstock 600s in 2007 and became Champion in 2009 and I've been on the podium in every championship since 2007. My dad liked to chuck me in at the deep end and it has always brought me on.

My father passed on a love of Motocross and racing to me.

Crash.net:
So where does the name Rea come from bearing in mind there's also Johnny Rea who's Irish?

Gino Rea:
Mine is actually pronounced 'Ree ah' as in Chris Rea. It's said to originate from a town near Rome where my Nan used to live. I think some families from there moved to Ireland too but there they pronounce it 'Ray'. It would be funny if we're related!

Crash.net:
What role does your father play in your career?

Gino Rea:
Everything really. At the moment he's team manager and manages most of my stuff. He also handles any financial negotiations and overlooks publicity stuff and over the past few years he's funded or arranged the funding of my racing. He's been my biggest sponsor you could say. Last year of course he wasn't anything to do with the team so he was just looking after me. His business is in Properties which isn't necessarily a good thing to be in at the moment.

Crash.net:
Are you still on for racing at Assen?

Gino Rea:
Yes, we'll definitely be back for Assen, Sachsenring, Silverstone and Brno and from there it's down to budget really. We want to do Misano, Aragon and Valencia but it just depends how much budget we can raise. We're just paying the entrance fees now.

Crash.net:
And how much are the entrance fees?

Gino Rea:
Somewhere in the double figure thousands, for one race. The entry fee covers a certain amount of tyres, your engine hire for the weekend, the ECU, 2D data recording, a clutch and fuel.

Crash.net:
And how much would a season in Moto2 cost for a mid-ranking team?

Gino Rea:
A top Moto2 team's budget is around one million Euros and that would be for a one rider team and another rider would add slightly to that. The ESGP team I had agreed with last year were budgeting one million Euros, but I believe the team could have run for 600,000 and still have been competitive.

Crash.net:
How is the fund raising going through the Gino Rea Club Website?

Gino Rea:
It's gone really well, especially the first couple of months. We felt really overwhelmed, not just the money we raised but the amount of people who wanted to help and contribute. It was really pleasing and I'm really grateful for those kind of fans and I created the GinoReaClub.com website in a way so that I could give something back to the fans for their support.

Crash.net:
Take us through the practicalities of racing at Le Mans…

Gino Rea:
Basically we've just got a large race vehicle with space for the bike and marquee etc and a couple of beds. Luckily me and my girlfriend could stay in a hotel at Le Mans so every night we rode the scooter back to the hotel. We're just doing it old style and having fun.

Crash.net:
Why did you choose Assen rather than Catalunya?

Gino Rea:
It was more of an experience thing and how well I know the tracks. Mugello and Catalunya I've only been to once and only at a race weekend. At Catalunya I was also taken out on the first lap last year so I missed a lot of track time there.

Actually I couldn't do Catalunya anyway because there are already two Spanish wild-card teams booked. Assen just happens to be the next on the list. Besides that I like the circuit and had a win in Superstock 600 there. It's a historic circuit which is quite difficult and really needs a good bike set up.

Crash.net:
Competing in that way must put a lot of pressure on each result doesn't it?

Gino Rea:
Not really to be honest. At the Le Mans race I went there and enjoyed it more than anything last year. It was nice to have control over everything. Anything I wanted to change on the bike just got done and there was no political stuff like last year. Team wise, what we wanted we got. It's really more relaxing, there was more freedom, no expectations and there may actually be less pressure because everything's a bonus.

Crash.net:
How has this wild-card system been arranged?

Gino Rea:
Basically, they've made a bit of an exception for me as a full time rider last year and also because I'd signed for a team that pulled out at the last minute.

They [Dorna & IRTA] said to us that we can wild-card at any race when there are not two wild-card riders from that country. At Catalunya there are two Spanish wild-cards so there's no room for me there. We have to apply for the races, and I've applied for them all already. They then let you know if you've been accepted into the race I think 48 days before the event. Then you have to pay 28 days before.

Crash.net:
Are you doing anything else in the meantime?

Gino Rea:
Apart from training, I've got a few team things and just trying to prepare myself for the upcoming race with as much track time on the bike as I can. I was also training with James Toseland just before he did the marathon. I haven't seen him for a while though because he's busy with his music career which has kicked off now. Danny Kent also came down for a bit of training at James'.

Crash.net:
How does it feel watching Moto2 on TV?

Gino Rea:
It's obviously not a nice feeling to be sat at home watching it. It's frustrating and it's hard at times. Particularly when you're watching other riders who've gone to different teams and are now at the front knowing that you battled with them last year and still could.

It's also hard knowing that you should be there and if things had gone according to plan with the sponsor and team I would have been there. It's difficult but it's one of those things I've got to accept and wait for my turn.

Crash.net:
Do you see yourself as a 600cc specialist?

Gino Rea:
No, I don't actually. I rode a Superbike before when I was riding for the Ten Kate junior team, it was really quick but I adapted to it really quickly and I think it could suit my style better than the 600 does. I always like to get a bike picked up and fired out of the corner so that works well with the Superbike, I just felt comfortable on it.

Crash.net:
It's interesting that a rider's style is seen as natural to the rider and team usually don't try to change it

Gino Rea:
In general, my style also developed naturally, particularly in 2009 to 2011. In Supersport I had to ride the bike really hard and I think my riding style particularly developed that year and that was when I started having elbow sliders made. I've never looked at anyone and thought 'I want to ride like that' though, it just comes naturally I suppose.

That is a problem with some teams, they look at a style and they take you apart and try to put you together the way someone else does it. It's not always the right way to do it. If you feel natural doing what you're doing on the bike, a good crew chief and technicians should be able to build a bike around you and how you ride. That's if you're riding fast of course.

A lot of teams don't know themselves if the rider's style's right or not and they just think that the bike's right and you're riding wrong. I've seen that way too many times, even in top categories like Moto2.

Crash.net:
You feel that the bike should be fitted to the rider rather than the other way round?

Gino Rea:
Definitely, if you've got a rider who's shown potential and speed, you have to have a crew chief there who can fit the bike to the rider. You can look at Yamaha with Rossi and Lorenzo, their bikes are completely different but often the lap times may be similar. That's why it's sometimes hard for the rider when they ask for a change and the team says no because they think the bike's perfect.

Crash.net:
Now that you are on such a tight budget, does that inhibit your riding because of a fear of crash damage?

Gino Rea:
Not really. Especially this year I feel more at home on the bike and I feel I can push it harder without worrying about crashing. At Le Mans for example we did a two day test and then the race weekend without any mishaps at all. If you're getting on the bike and thinking 'I can't crash it', you just won't be riding fast. I put it to the back of my head and try not to worry about it.

Crash.net:
At the end of 2009 there seemed to be an idea that you were going to get the Yamaha WSS ride?

Gino Rea:
What happened is that I tested Crutchlow's Yamaha. I came from Superstock straight onto that bike and it was an amazing piece of kit. There was talk of Yamaha going ahead with the team, so they let me test the bike. As it didn't happen I went into the Intermoto WSS team. It would have been great if I could have ridden the Yamaha though, it was fantastic.

Crash.net:
How did you find the switch from WSS to Moto2

Gino Rea:
A lot of people ask this, and it's hard to give an answer. At the end of 2011 I went from Supersport straight to a Moto2 test at Valencia with Gresini.

I got on their 2011 bike with the Dunlop tyres and everything and I went fast immediately, like straight from the second or third session. I was straight down to the times that Takahashi and Pirro were doing [on the same bike at a race].

The second day I came away from the test joint fastest with Corti and all the other top riders were there. At that time it looked like I'd jumped on a sorted bike and it was like 'what's the problem? I've adapted to the bike already'. It took me a couple of sessions to get used to the tyres but once there I was going as fast, if not faster, than their previous riders.

It felt a bit like when I went from Superstock to Supersport but a bit bigger jump.

Crash.net:
So what happened in 2012 with Gresini?

Gino Rea:
At the beginning of 2012, they turned up to the official test, a couple of weeks before the first race, with a very different bike. It had a different chassis, the same manufacturer, but a new chassis and a completely different make of suspension; they'd changed to Showa.

That suspension had never been tested on a Moto2 bike and the whole thing was a disaster from the first test. All of a sudden, back on the same track, only a couple of months down the line we couldn't get to within two seconds of what we did on the old bike.

Crash.net:
Why was the change made to Showa?

Gino Rea:
You tell me. I think it was more of a money issue or some deal they had come to. Showa's a great manufacturer but it had never been tested on a Moto2 bike, so we were going into a race with equipment that wasn't even close to what everyone else had. We were the only team using Showa and it was mission impossible.

The suspension was probably the biggest thing holding us back in 2012, but we also had issues with the Moriwaki chassis not being developed while the other chassis were being worked on and improved.

The problem was that we had changed chassis and suspension at the same time and there were too many variables, we had no base line to work from.

To try and get a handle on it and work on one of the variables we changed to the Suter chassis during the season. That seemed like the easiest way to start, given that we were contracted to Showa, but we just continued getting the same problems.

To make things worse, the Suter is also a very difficult bike to get right. It's got a very, very small window where it works right. So if you've got no testing and have other problems on the bike, that doesn't exactly help. We just never got into that Window. We were turning up at circuits with no baseline and no data and were 20 steps behind. At that level if you're slightly off the pace you're nowhere.

Crash.net:
Did you get on with the team?

Gino Rea:
Yeah, within the team, my mechanics and crew chief were great and we got on really well, it was just the politics of being contracted to unsuitable products which was the problem.

At the end of the year my side of the garage was being sponsored by Federal Oil who are Indonesian and between the team and the sponsor they were looking for an Indonesian rider. So that agreement meant that we parted ways. At the time I was looking for other options anyway

Crash.net:
Malaysia must be a happy memory though?

Gino Rea:
It's a really hard one because you can look at it in two ways, you can feel disappointed that you crossed the line first and didn't get awarded the win, or that I got a GP podium in my first year in Moto2.

I just look at it from the positive because there aren't many riders who've done that. I wasn't too pleased when I found out I was third not first though, I had pulled up into the winner's position at park ferme!

I still can't understand why the top 15 riders' results are controlled by a rider in 36th place who hasn't crossed the finish line.

I knew that in the [wet] race I'd be competitive so the first couple of laps I felt I had to get to the front as fast as I could, and got there a lot faster than I thought. Once I was at the front I was really comfortable so I thought 'let's lead this' so that it could just be the first time I'd led a grand prix. After a while I had a couple of moments so let someone pass me and settled in.

As it started raining more, my bike came into its own and when it came down really heavy I thought I had to get to the front again in case the race got red flagged and that's when it did.

Crash.net:
Do you think taking the Gresini ride might have been a mistake for your career?

Gino Rea:
I wouldn't say so, if this year had gone ahead with the ESGP team then we probably wouldn't be having this conversation. At the time going into one of the most well-known teams with a working bike was a good idea. You don't get many chances like that and the problems were highlighted by what's happened this year.

Crash.net:
Tell us about your current bike.

Gino Rea:
It was put together by a mixture of FTR and my dad really. FTR got the basics of it put together and my Dad and a sponsor and now mechanic called Dave Crawford, went to FTR and finished it off. Now between the testing and stuff it's my dad who does all the work on it and after Le Mans has done a lot of work on it to improve it.

We keep it in a lock up in a secret location.

Crash.net:
You had a technical problem in Le Mans, is the bike OK now?

Gino Rea:
We had a fuelling problem during the race and I pulled in, later when we went out again, it was still there, but the problem's been fixed now.

Crash.net:
And you were running in 12th place?

Gino Rea:
Yeah, I was battling with Simon, Elias and De Angelis at the time. I didn't know what position I was in and I thought to myself 'If I'm battling with them I must be reasonably high up here'. They aren't back markers, there're big names and I felt comfy battling with them.

It occurred to me that last year, if I'd been in that situation I wouldn't have been able to battle with them comfortably and it has to be said, I felt good to know my bike was capable of it.

To put it into perspective, we went to a track day at Le Mans two weeks before and on the first day I went at the same speed as I had done in qualifying the year before on the Gresini and that was the first day on the bike. I feel that already it's a lot better bike than I had last year. Now it just comes down to finding a good setting. Also because I'm doing all the data and basically acting as my own crew chief, the more I learn there, the faster I'll be.

Crash.net:
Why did you choose the FTR chassis when nobody else is using it?

Gino Rea:
It's a very good chassis. Everyone presumes that the Kalex is probably the best one out there with the Suter also being good, but difficult to set up. I would say that the FTR is up there with both of them because it's got a wider window where it works.

We chose it because we agreed with the ESGP team last year that I tested various chassis with them, we then came to an agreement as to what we wanted for 2013. Then ESGP pulled out and FTR still said they'd support me with the bike, and to be honest, if we didn't have full backing from them, I wouldn't be riding.

It's like sponsorship from them, I'm the only FTR on the grid and they want to be there. It's great to get support from a British manufacturer.

Crash.net:
And which suspension are you using now?

Gino Rea:
We're using Ohlins. It's great, it's worked from the first moment we tried it, perfect!

Crash.net:
Thanks for that Gino, and best of luck at Assen.

Gino Rea:
No problems. I'd just like to thank all my sponsors and people who have helped me this year - My dad and family, all at FTR, MotoBreaks & Tim, the Crawfords, Kev Horne, the Dunphys, ThroughTheWallPaint, Pole Position Travel, ImageDesignCustom, Jap4Performance and AGV.

I also want to thank everyone who has supported me through GinoReaClub.com. I am looking forward to getting back out on track at Assen!"


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