Whilst acknowledging that as a self-confessed perfectionist, Jonathan Rea will never be satisfied 100 per cent of the time, Ronald ten Kate insists the Ulsterman is currently 'happy as can be' at Castrol Honda – and in Rubén Xaus, he contends that he has the ideal team-mate now too to enable him to achieve his goals.
To say that Rea was unhappy at Ten Kate at times during 2010 would be an understatement, with the 23-year-old 'riding on a knife-edge' far too often for his liking and finally losing sufficient patience with the frustratingly inconsistent and unpredictable nature of the Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade as to look around at alternative options [see separate story – click here
Ultimately, however, he pledged his continued commitment to the cause for a third consecutive campaign in the World Superbike Championship – to the evident delight of team principal ten Kate. This time around, the Dutchman assures, everything will be in-place for Rea to fulfil his objective of doing battle for the riders' crown.
“To have a guy like Jonny 100 per cent happy all the time is extremely difficult for any team in the world, because he's got very high standards and his ambitions are very, very high,” he mused, speaking to Crash.net
. “He's also still young, so with [more] experience, let's say a more realistic view on things might be in prospect.
“We have spoken a lot, we've made some changes – not only to the bike, but also to the way we work as a team with him – and that's been going really well. He's now happy as can be and he knows we have full confidence and trust in him, which is important, so I really think we are looking forward to a strong season together.”
Alongside Rea will be BMW Motorrad refugee Xaus, a man who has finished as runner-up in the WSBK title chase before and also competed in MotoGP, but who has been written off by some as a spent force following a couple of off-colour campaigns that yielded not so much as a single podium as he struggled to get a handle on the fearsomely-powerful S1000RR. Dismiss the Spaniard at your peril, ten Kate warns.
“I'm very confident he will do well,” he underlined. “We looked long and thoroughly at which rider to get on the bike for this year, and we wanted to have a guy with the same approach and same riding style as Jonathan has – fully-committed, quite aggressive and quite hard and quite physical on the bike – to make sure that he could help Jonathan, not so much with the set-up of the bike but with testing individual parts and even tyres throughout the weekend.
“From the first test that we did at Portimão with Rubén, for sure it showed that the decision is working out. We can take from the data that he has the same style on the bike, and even in some parts of the track he was already a wee bit quicker than Jonny – though having said that, Jonny was not up to 100 per cent physical strength at that point.
“You could immediately see some sort of bonding going on. Riders don't necessarily have to be friends within a garage – they can just be colleagues – but we don't like to see a wall in-between, and when I saw the relationship developing there and then between Jonny and Rubén, it was clear to me that it's a very exciting pairing for this year.”