Rea: ‘Pace at the front is incredible, even faster with race solutions’

Jonathan Rea was one of four riders to break the existing Portimao WorldSBK lap record during this week’s two-day test, but how that was achieved might be the biggest surprise…
Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki WorldSBK Portimao 2023
Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki WorldSBK Portimao 2023

After a very fast day-one which saw Michael Ruben Rinaldi, Rea and WorldSBK champion Alvaro Bautista finish within a tenth of a second, the official lap record was obliterated on day-two.

Bautista set the pace early as he broke the lap record on race tyres, before Rea, Rinaldi and Toprak Razgatlioglu joined him in doing so.

The official lap record, which still stands due to being set in an official WorldSBK session, was set by Rea during last year’s Tissot Superpole. 

However, the Kawasaki rider’s time of 1:39.610s, was beaten by over half a second by himself and Bautista, with the latter finishing fastest. 

"To do 1’39.0s at Portimao is fast," said Rea. "Last year, with the Q tyre, we did a 1’39.6 and now, with the race solutions, we’re even faster. 

"The track is in good shape, it’s always different conditions so it’s hard to compare to what we did last year. Everyone’s moving forward. 

"The pace at the front is incredibly fast. Inside the box, we’ve been working really well. I’m enjoying riding the bike. It’s very hard to gauge how much we’ve made a step forward because it’s not under race conditions with other riders, with 20 laps on the tyre. 

"Everyone in testing has a different schedule, let’s say. Some guys are going full time attack mode, some guys are working on long runs, some are testing parts. 

"Testing’s testing. I’m quite excited now to park now and go to Australia in a few weeks and get the first race of the year under my belt."

Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki WorldSBK Portimao 2023
Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki WorldSBK Portimao 2023

Despite the impressive lap times which were close to the fastest race laps from MotoGP riders during last season’s Portuguese Grand Prix, Rea has not been focusing too much on actual lap time, but rather the improvements Kawasaki can and seemingly have been making this pre-season. 

Rea added: "What’s clear is that racing never stands still. Everyone moves forward and I hope that’s the case inside the box. I think it’s the usual guys at the front. 

"What I’ve seen so far, and I haven’t looked very deep in the times, guys you mentioned are very fast and I’m happy to be amongst that. I don’t know if it was the conditions or time of day, but it was a strange feeling. 

"I used the really soft tyre at the end of the day. Temperatures maybe dropped but I didn’t have the same sensations that I had with the SCX. With me, the SCX tyre felt more stable and also the SC0; I was able to make many laps with the SC0. 

"It was strange that the Q didn’t work. Normally we bolt the grippy tyres on the bike and we make a huge step so when they put it in, I was rolling my sleeves up.

"I could see the lap time with Bautista was almost the same. After the first sector, I thought it’s not happening today, it’s not going to work. I wanted to see 1’38s on my dash to make the fastest lap here! We got close, but not close enough."

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