Jonathan Rea has quipped that trying out a new electronics package on his Hannspree Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade in the rain during testing at Portimão this week was 'pretty scary' – though the Irishman is confident that the addition will prove to be the catalyst for a step forward at the next race meeting in Valencia.
Pre-season World Superbike Championship favourite Rea currently sits just sixth in the riders' standings following a trio of top six finishes from the opening four races of the campaign – albeit none any higher than the third position he achieved in Portugal last weekend – and it is hoped that the new electronics will provide a welcome boost to his title aspirations.
Morning rain that restricted running to just half an hour before lunch, however, was not part of the plan – but as the Algarve circuit dried out again later on, some more meaningful track time allowed for progress to be made, as Rea worked alongside team-mate Max Neukirchner, with the German endeavouring to optimise the balance on his own bike.
“With the rain in the morning we couldn't do much because the track was so wet,” acknowledged 23-year-old Rea. “Even so, I went out and did a few laps, but testing a new electronics package in those conditions is pretty scary!
“After lunch the track dried – although there were still some streams running across parts – and I got to do about 25 laps. The electronics were really good, and I was easily able to match the lap times that I did in the race. I think we'll roll out the new package in Valencia, so I'm looking forward to that.”
“I was happy that we got a chance to make some improvements to the bike's chassis,” added Neukirchner. “It's still not perfect for me, but it's now more stable on corner entry, which is where I was having some big problems during the weekend at Portimão.
“The balance is better now – I don't have to brake so early and it is a little easier to hold the line. I was able to improve on my best lap in the race, and I hope that we can continue this progress when we get to Valencia next week.”
Meanwhile, Ten Kate's Supersport duo Kenan Sofuoglu and Michele Pirro tested electronics and a different specification front fork on the CBR600RRs that carried the Turk to victory and the Italian to his first WSS podium during Sunday's race.
“We managed to get about three hours of testing in – half an hour in the morning and then two-and-a-half after lunch,” summarised team manager Ronald ten Kate. “We made some progress on both sides of the garage, with Max going faster than his race times and feeling more comfortable with the bike.
“Jonathan's times were about the same, but he achieved them without pushing as hard [because] there were still some streams running across the track. The new electronics allowed him more easily to ride the bike fast and even to recover from some mistakes. The Supersport riders were not able to match their race pace, but track conditions were not like Sunday and we know that a small change can make a big difference in lap times.”