Rea: ‘All of a sudden, bang! I had no grip - bit of a head scratcher’

Six-time WorldSBK champion Jonathan Rea admits Sunday’s double-header in Phillip Island was a ‘head scratcher’ after lacking performance in both the sprint and longer race.
Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki WorldSBK Phillip Island 2023
Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki WorldSBK Phillip Island 2023

After securing his first podium of the season during a wet Race 1, Rea had no answer when it came to both dry races as he finished seventh in the Superpole Race before closing out the opening WorldSBK round of the year in eighth. 

Rea was fourth in the Superpole Race before being pushed wide by rookie Dominique Aegerter, but when expected to make his way back through the field, something he’s shown an ability to do many times over the years, the Kawasaki rider struggled.

Rea was beaten by Philipp Oettl and Andrea Locatelli in both races, while Iker Lecuona, Axel Bassani and Aegerter also finished ahead of him in Race 2. 

Speaking after the final race, one that saw the six-time world champion lead the battle for fifth for much of it before losing pace late on, Rea said: "In Race 2, I saw Locatelli up the road and I thought, ‘he’s my guy’ as he has good pace this week. I got to the front of the group and ‘Loka’ was in front and he was just going away! 

"I realised that I was just fighting with this group and then all of a sudden, bang, I had no grip whatsoever. 

"I was really conserving my tyre, using short lines and picking the bike up, not smashing into the traction control. We just need to put our heads together and understand why because a few months ago, I was able to compete and be much faster in the race for a longer distance. 

"It’s a bit of a head scratcher to be honest. I don’t think this result reflects the true reality of where we are; I felt like in the off-season, we’ve really improved the bike, but it is true, a bad day now in WorldSBK and you have to fight for these positions. We have to make sure we don’t suffer too many bad days from now on."

Jonathan Rea , Race 2 Australian WorldSBK, 27 February
Jonathan Rea , Race 2 Australian WorldSBK, 27 February

While Rea struggled, Alvaro Bautista completed an opening weekend hat-trick which will be a worry for the Kawasaki star.

Despite trying everything to find more pace, Rea was fighting a battle he could not win as tyre grip was one of the biggest issues. 

"It’s tough, I’m not going to lie," added Rea. "When we have grip, we can make the difference; the rider can bite the screen a bit harder and take liberties. I felt like at Turn 1 today, I left nothing unturned every lap and that was just to be there. 

"You can’t do that for 22 laps of a race here when you have to look after the tyre. I have to take some responsibility as well as my crew, as I have directed the setup this week and it’s clear that we didn’t get it bang on. 

"We have to look ourselves as well. I really feel that whilst the competition is strong, the bike is much better than we showed this weekend."

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