Honda Racing's Jonathan Rea says he is taking risks and pushing 'past the point of being fun sometimes' as he battles to hang on to the coat-tails of the World Superbike Championship frontrunners.
Rea has been the only rider in recent seasons to remain consistently competitive on the CBR1000RR Fireblade. But he is only sixth in the early 2012 standings, with a best finish of fourth and already 35 points behind reigning champion Carlos Checa (Althea Ducati).
In contrast to the manufacturer-supported teams from Aprilia, Ducati, BMW and Kawasaki, Rea's Ten Kate team - although long established as Honda's leading WSBK entry - is not an official factory outfit.
“All my crew are doing the best job they can, but we're not a factory team and we're not flooded with lots of Japanese in the garage like some of the other teams, which are manufacturer-supported,” he said.
“Our budget firmly comes from Honda Motor Europe and it's a private set-up, so what we are doing as a private team based in Holland is a really good job.”
Rea has won races and finished as the top Honda rider ever since joining WSBK with Ten Kate in 2009. However a season-long title challenge continues to elude him and his best championship position is fourth (2010).
The next highest Honda rider in the current standings is Rea's rookie team-mate and former 250cc world champion Hiroshi Aoyama, in 13th.
“I do feel as though I have to ride the bike harder than I would like to and it almost gets past the point of being fun sometimes because you are taking some risks, but I don't want to finish where my team-mates finish - it's not me and it's not the way I work,” said Rea.
Rea insists that the Fireblade is capable of winning races this season, but a question mark hangs over its potential as a championship contender.