26 September 2011
Rea, Honda return to winning ways at Imola
The Ulsterman scored a superb second win of the year during the first race and was destinaed to double up before technical problems intervened.
A delighted Jonathan Rea says he is focusing on the immense positives he can take away from the 11th round of the World Superbike Championship at Imola, even if a cruel battery failure robbed him of an almost-certain double victory.
A big weekend for the Castrol Honda team, with Rea back to full fitness following his wrist injury and a new deal with its star rider for 2012, Imola also represented the debut of the team's new fly-by-wire system. However, while it was anticipated that Imola would be a test exercise, it instead turned out to be its most convincing performance of a difficult year.
Having qualified in second, Rea grabbed the lead of race one on lap five and didn't look back, even when a charging Noriyuki Haga got onto his tail.
Holding the Japanese rider at bay, Rea was emotional on the podium, the result coming after months of rehabilitation, while he also kissed the part of the circuit where he crashed in 2010, signalling the end of his campaign.
“Race one was pretty emotional, because it's been a long journey back. Last season ended for me here, so it's a credit to all the people around me – my family, my friends, my girlfriend, and of course the team – who have got me back to the top step.
If anything, the second race was destined to be even better for Rea, the Ulsterman leading from the first turn and holding a steady advantage when the CBR1000RR suffered a battery failure, forcing him to retire with just five laps remaining.
Though a heart-breaking and frustrating end to an otherwise magnificent day, Rea says the fact he was the fastest man at Imola gives him huge encouragement.
“I used last year's disappointment as a big motivation today and race two was looking really good, too, so it was disappointing not to finish. I know the guys behind me were pushing pretty hard but I felt quite comfortable at the front. We've come a long way and I'm not going to get wrapped up in the negative of race two. What happened was a failure of a one-Euro battery connector so in my heart I know we had two really good races today.
“The biggest result was the continued development of the new electronics system, so I can't thank the team enough for the faith they've shown in me to keep pushing with that development. We're still looking to improve in other areas, too, not just electronics, so that fills me with confidence for next week in Magny-Cours.”
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