Jonathan Rea is confident that Ten Kate Honda has successfully identified the issues that rendered consistency such an elusive commodity during his 2010 World Superbike Championship challenge – and as such, he is hopeful of a far stronger performance across the board in 2011.
Rea was arguably one of the pre-season favourites when WSBK kicked off at Phillip Island in Australia back in February, and victories along the way at Assen – a superb, dominant double – Brno and the Nürburgring fully justified that esteemed billing.
However, to counter that, there were by the same token far too many instances for the Ulsterman's liking where his Honda CBR1000RR was just not on the leading pace at all, with mid-season outings at Miller Motorsports Park and Misano particular nadirs.
The chief problem was one of chatter, compounded by a costly double retirement at Monza – coming, ironically, directly after his Assen glory – as well as a neck and shoulder injury in America and two falls at Imola that left him with a damaged wrist and fractured collarbone and scaphoid and ruled him out of the races there.
Those occurrences saw to it that not only did Rea drop out of the title fight, but worse still was also ultimately forced to cede the third position in the riders' standings that he had occupied for the majority of the campaign to Althea Ducati rival Carlos Checa. Next year, he hopes, it will be an altogether different story.
“I look back on it in many ways,” the 23-year-old told Crash.net Radio
, when asked to assess his season now with the benefit of hindsight. “I had so many ups-and-downs, to be honest, and learned a lot as well. The highlights for me were the double win at Assen and the wins at Brno and at the Nürburgring, but I had a lot of lows – America was really bad for me, and then getting injured at Imola and not being able to ride properly at Magny-Cours.
“I got off to a decent start, and still by Assen we were in the championship – that weekend was great. Just to do that on my team's home soil and with so many British fans there was nice, and it happened really quite easily, to be honest – the package just worked – but then we would go to somewhere like South Africa or America where I'd be trying harder and it just wasn't working. It was frustrating that sometimes it came really easy and then other times it was impossible to get a good result.
“In America, we had really big chattering problems with the bike. That carried over again to Misano, where I had a twelfth and a 13th. It was just terrible, and HRC stepped in and gave us a lot of information about how we could change the bike and the balance and everything, and that really helped us. We took that on-board the next weekend at Brno and went one-two, which was awesome – to go from being so low as a team to winning was great.
“My team never gave up on me, which was good, and I think now we've got our finger on the button of what's causing the chatter problems – so we're just trying to work on that consistency for next year to have a bike that we can roll out at every circuit and be strong with.”