By Neil Morrison
The 2013 season hasn't started out as well as ten-time World Superbike winner Jonathan Rea would have liked.
Severe electronic issues hampered the Pata Ten Kate team throughout the opening round but two safe, consistent finishes have placed him sixth overall going into this weekend's second round at Aragon.
After a very strong 2012, which saw Jonathan claim two wins and remain in the title hunt for long spells, as well as racing Casey Stoner's RC213V, expectations were naturally high going into 2013. A completely new electronics system was always going to take a great deal of time to set up but the tests and races in Australia were a definite wake up call.
“Phillip Island wasn't a waste of time but it was pointless. We were so far out of the ball park, we just rode what we had really, we tried so much, and we kept thinking we could improve but it's to be expected.”
As any team will testify, programming a new electronics system doesn't happen overnight. The fact the Ten Kate team doesn't operate on a factory basis with a designated test rider is going to be a challenge. Having to manufacture a lot of the bike's parts has added to scheduling problems.
“We don't have some donkey doing the work for us in the off-season. Leon and myself are racers. We want to come to the track and race. All through winter tests we showed up with a brand new system which we have to develop.
“We struggle with time frame sometimes, in the off-season there's a big development plan and we have to source a lot of things from outside suppliers. There are some things that were meant to be part of winter development programme that haven't arrived.
“Things like a tank that the new swing arm was designed around. By the middle of the season we should have what we need and the electronic system at the end of the year will be better but hopefully we can get a handle on it sooner.”
In the long 6-week gap between the first and second rounds saw the Ten Kate team busily attempting to rectify the situation. They tested at Aragon two weeks ago with several other teams, but both riders came away less than happy.
“It was a low point here [testing] two weeks ago. Nothing was working, we went away and had a rethink and had 3 days in Alcarras and to be fair the boys did a great job. They worked really hard and we started working on engine braking, to make the bike more precise to hit the apex in the corners and once we got that we could start to trust the bike.”