Jonathan Rea has said he is “half way to accomplishing” his target of a double victory in Misano after winning a tense, tight first World Superbike race from team-mate Tom Sykes.
Although a podium finisher at each of the 14 races that preceded the eighth round of 2016, the Ulsterman had gone six races without a victory – his longest winless streak since he joined the KRT Kawasaki team.
With victory at the forefront of his mind, Rea led the entire race and, despite increased Sykes pressure in the closing laps, held on to win by 0.090s – the eighth closest finish in World Superbike history.
Speaking soon after, Rea described his delight at winning around a circuit which, historically, has been kind to Sykes, as well as commenting on his surprise at his struggles toward the end of the race.
“The target is to win both races here so we're half way to accomplishing that,” said the reigning world champion, whose championship lead now stands at 61 points.
“It was a little surprising how much I struggled toward the end. Yesterday my pace was so strong toward the end of my long run. I'm not sure how much the track temperature increases affected us but it was probably a lot, especially compared to our competitor.
“At one point I was thinking about letting him past to see if he had more pace. Misano being so difficult to pass, I decided just to relax. I made some laps in the middle of the race in high 1m 36s. I was expecting him to come through but when he didn't I tried to go again.
“The tyre looks really ugly compared to yesterday. That has a knock-on effect, especially with acceleration. Also in entry, as it's difficult to stop the bike. You don't have that traction from the rear.
“By that point it was impossible to lower the lap time. Super happy. It was quite difficult to lead here and Tom's very strong at this circuit. To be honest, I try not to think too much about him. I just rode my race in the end. We had a small gap on our competitors at the end of the race. At the end I felt like we had a knife to our throat.”
After a considerably strong run on Friday afternoon, Rea feels the five degree rise in track temperature may have been the cause of his late struggles. Looking toward race two, Rea believes a debrief with his engineers should shed more light on the issue.
“We need to sit down tonight and think about how we can improve. I'm sure Tom had the same issue. We seemed to be strong in some areas, him in others. Our lap times were quite similar though. I'm really, really happy.
“The track should have rubbered in more. The temperature has risen and with our tyre it seems to have affected it more. It's gone up five degrees and that could have made all the difference.”