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Rea: I wasn't happy before – but I am now

In an exclusive interview with Crash.net, World Superbike Championship front-runner Jonathan Rea discusses his frustrations with Ten Kate Honda midway through 2010 - and explains why right now, he wouldn't want to be anywhere else
Jonathan Rea has admitted that at the height of Ten Kate Honda's struggles back in the summer, he was 'riding on a knife-edge', unhappy at the team and looking for a way out – but now he insists there is nowhere else he would rather be as he endeavours to clinch the 2011 World Superbike Championship crown.

Rea began the 2010 WSBK campaign as a leading protagonist for glory, but following his sublime double victory at Assen, he notched up a double DNF at Monza only a fortnight later – crashing out in both races, one of his own making, the other simply finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time – and henceforth, his title momentum never truly recovered.

From the next six outings, there would be just a sole podium finish, as the Irishman's summer of discontent took hold and speculation mounted that he was set to jump ship. When it is put to him that some people say the Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade is not the easiest of machines to ride, he does not pull his punches.

“Some people I think are right!” Rea quipped, speaking to Crash.net Radio. “I can make it work, because I ride with 100 per cent effort, 100 per cent of the time, but when your confidence is knocked a little bit then you struggle. Other riders just can't seem to gel with it; we've seen instances with my team-mates – [Carlos] Checa leaving and going on to be a dominant force with Ducati, [Leon] Haslam leaving Honda to go on and consistently be winning races and finishing second in races [with Suzuki] and my 2010 team-mate [Max Neukirchner] came from Suzuki winning races to Honda, and he's barely scored points this year.

“It was frustrating for me mid-season to have a bike that I wasn't happy riding – with a chattering motorbike when you're looking for half a second, you're riding on a knife-edge. It's not enjoyable, and I wasn't enjoying riding it. There were some other options out there, but I was tied in a partial contract with the team, and when the date came that the option could be taken up, I did it. Back then I wasn't happy, but the way the season turned out in the end, I'm so happy to be where I am.”

Indeed, over the second half of the campaign, Rea's form – in-line with that of Ten Kate – picked up again, with victories at Brno and the Nürburgring and four further runner-up finishes, all in an ultra-successful six-race stretch. Had he not been forced out of the penultimate round in San Marino as a result of wrist and collarbone injuries sustained in qualifying at Imola, there is little doubt that the 23-year-old would have claimed third in the final riders' standings.

As it was, he wound up fourth – an improvement on his rookie season of 2009, and still by a considerable margin the highest-placed Honda star. As a measure of the Ulsterman's form, you need only look at Neukirchner, who with the same equipment at his disposal concluded proceedings a lowly 18th with but a single top ten finish to his name along the way. In 2011, Rea will have a new team-mate in the shape of BMW refugee Ruben Xaus – and he is confident that with the Spaniard's input, he and Ten Kate can turn the CBR1000RR into a force to be reckoned with.

“I'm quite excited to hear his opinion of the bike,” he acknowledged. “I tend not to really worry about my team-mates on the other side of the garage, but Ruben has a lot of experience so I'm keen to work with him and to take the bike even further.

“The ethos of the championship has been lost a little bit with some companies producing race bikes and then homologating them and making them road bikes – but the Japanese way is always to make a street bike and take it racing. Hopefully, Ruben can bring his experience with electronics to our side – I think we can improve there a lot, and yeah, we'll see.

by Russell Atkins



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Rea, French WSBK 2010
Rea, French WSBK 2010
Rea, After crashing in warm up, Imola WSBK 2010
Rea, Imola WSBK 2010
Rea, Imola WSBK 2010
Rea, Imola WSBK 2010
Rea, German WSBK 2010
Rea, British WSBK Race 1 2010
Rea, French WSBK 2010
Jonathan Rea, Jerez WSBK race1 2014
Jonathan Rea, Jerez WSBK race1 2014
Jonathan Rea, Jerez WSBK race1 2014
Jonathan Rea, Jerez WSBK race1 2014
Jonathan Rea, Jerez WSBK race1 2014
Ronald Ten Kate, Jerez WSS600 Race 2014
VD Mark and Ronald Ten Kate,  Jerez WSS600 Race 2014
VD Mark and Ronald Ten Kate,  Jerez WSS600 Race 2014
VD Mark and Ronald Ten Kate,  Jerez WSS600 Race 2014

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MotoJack - Unregistered

November 23, 2010 7:13 PM

“The ethos of the championship has been lost a little bit with some companies producing race bikes and then homologating them and making them road bikes" The championship has always been contested by race bikes - All the Ducati S bikes, The Yamaha R7, The petronas bikes, Hondas own RC45 and SP1 & SP2s were all limited production race bikes homolgomated for the street. Nothing new by Aprillia then just good execution.

Don-R

November 23, 2010 11:57 AM

The relationship between JR and TK does seem to be a turbulent one. I remember the rows they had during the period before they switched to Ohlins in '09 and the interview with Ronald TK this year in MCN, where he strongly implied that the chatter issue was unsupported by data and was more in the rider's head than anything else. Those kind of comments don't make for a happy long term partnership. Personally, I'd think he WOULD be happier elsewhere (Aprilia, Yamaha) because that Honda is just not going to have the same development in a cash-starved TK team, but at least he's going in confident of his own abilities. It's gonna be very tough next year - good luck to him.



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