Jonathan Rea has revealed that his principal objective for the sixth round of the 2010 World Superbike Championship at Kyalami this weekend is to return to the podium and get his title bid back on-track – though he acknowledged there 'will be a lot of opportunities to bridge the gap over the coming races'.
Whilst Rea retained third spot in the riders' standings following his outing at Monza last weekend, a double DNF around the legendary Autodromo Nazionale – crashing out of both races, albeit thankfully without any serious injury, having displayed encouraging form – leaves the Hannspree Ten Kate Honda star some 71 points adrift of season-long pace-setter Leon Haslam arriving in South Africa And 68 markers adrift of second-placed Max Biaggi.
On the positive side, however, the Irishman has a strong record around the physically-demanding circuit close to Johannesburg, having achieved his maiden WSBK rostrum there this time last year. After pulling off a magnificent double victory at Assen in late April and confident that he has found further improvements in his overall machine set-up since then, Rea insists he is primed to pounce.
“I was a little sore when I woke up on Monday morning,” the 23-year-old reflected of his bruising Italian weekend. “I hurt my wrist and ankle a little bit in my race two crash, but everything's fine and I'll be 100 per cent for Kyalami. I'm trying to forget about Monza, because I think we were in a really good position to make up some ground on our rivals with the speed we had and the momentum we were carrying from Assen. Instead, they've opened a bit of a gap because of a mistake from me in race one and someone else's error in race two.
“I guess I was top of the world one minute after two wins at Assen, then had two non-finishes last weekend – but we are still third in the championship, which is some consolation, and it is nice to go [to South Africa] knowing that the bike is strong and that we had the pace to be right there at Monza. The real motivating factor for me is that the bike is working so well, and I'm excited to be riding it again – I love riding this bike!
“It's not like we won't be in a position to fight for more wins this season. People like Colin Edwards and Ben Spies spring to mind, and we're not even halfway through yet – there will be a lot of opportunities to bridge the gap over the coming races. We'll try to start this weekend at Kyalami, which is a real riders' circuit where you need to work hard to go fast. I'm really looking forward to racing in South Africa as I got my first Superbike podium there last year, so I'll be looking for at least two more this weekend.”
Rea's team-mate Max Neukirchner, for his part, struggled at Monza, finding himself unable to maintain the progress he had made at Assen a fortnight previously. Having recently changed his riding style as well as continually fine-tuning his Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade, the young German qualified relatively well in Italy but faded to twelfth in both races.
Moreover, Kyalami will be a new exam for the 27-year-old to pass this weekend, for whilst he tested there with Suzuki at the end of 2008, due to being injured last year, Neukirchner has yet to either race there or tackle the tight-and-twisty 4.2km layout aboard his CBR1000RR.
“The results last weekend were quite disappointing after the progress we had made in the second race at Assen,” reflected the Stollberg native, “but the bike definitely felt better in race two at Monza, so we will try to build on that when we start work in South Africa on Friday.