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EXCLUSIVE: Jonathan Rea talks electronics, progress
13 April 2013
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.”
Although these are frustrating moments Rea recognises that he is better equipped to deal with the challenges than he would have been in the past. More than four years racing in World Superbikes has taught him that.
“It's not necessarily about being more mature. I've been there, I've crashed and I've crashed pretty hard. There's a point where you can't just ride into crashes anymore. The limit isn't 110%, it's 100% and I think growing up and maturing, I've been able to be more realistic. I ride and put as much effort in every time I ride the bike.
“Whenever I finished fifth or sixth I threw the toys out of the pram and kick and scream but now I realise we're here for a reason. I've got a team of great guys and we have to just be realistic. There are always tracks we're strong at and tracks we struggle at so it's just about working on that.”
Rea will start the second round of the 2013 World Superbike Championship from the third row in ninth place after being hampered by a wheel speed sensor in the critical SP3 session.
However, while the event has shown hints of progress with the Ulsterman bothering the top five throughout practice, he admits it's 'hard to say' where the team is realistically positioned.
“We know where we should be. I think they're scared to say it to me and I'm scared to say it to them. But realistically it's hard to say now. We have a lot of improving to do. In Australia we were eighth twice, we need to aim for inside the top five, that's a realistic target.”
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