Jonathan Rea admits he is leaving Imola with mixed feelings as the satisfaction of taking a top five finish a day after his mammoth qualifying crash was tempered by a failure to match the results at the same circuit last season.
After a solid start to the season in Australia, Rea was keen to get his title challenge underway in Italy with a repeat of the performance that saw him reign victorious during last year's Imola round.
However, though the Ulsterman believes his pace is just as quick as it was when he was the dominant force last year, the improvements of his rivals left him mired in the chasing pack throughout the weekend.
Compounded by a huge high-side in qualifying that left him battered and bruised, Rea soldiered on but could only manage ninth in race one due to an incorrect tyre choice. Finishing fifth in race two, despite a high-speed trip across the gravel at Villeneuve, Rea was pleased with his performance, but had hoped for better results.
“Well, it finished better than it started, for sure,” he said. “In the first race, we flat-out picked the wrong tyre – we didn't do so much work on the hard tyre in the practices so we were reluctant to go with it. Also, this was the first big temperature change we'd had and it got very cold. But it's been a bit of a frustrating weekend, to be honest, because our pace here last year was good enough for a win.
“Our pace this year is the same but there's two or three guys at the front going faster. All in all, I'm happy to have points on the board in both races, and I'm really pleased with the way I rode in race two. I got messed up with my rhythm in the first laps when some guys put me out at the chicane, but I got my head down and got back to the group and I was able to get to the front of them comfortably at the end.
Nonetheless, with Assen - where Rea has won three of the last four races – looming, the Honda rider is hoping the upcoming test will help him get on terms with the leaders.
“I'm happy with my riding and happy that we have a test here tomorrow and then a two-day test at Assen to try and find the front feeling that I've been lacking.”