EXCLUSIVE: Jonathan Rea says ‘it’s my time’ at Yamaha, not replacing Toprak Razgatlioglu

Jonathan Rea says the pressure he’s under at Yamaha has nothing to do with replacing Toprak Razgatlioglu.

Jonathan Rea
Jonathan Rea

The six-time WorldSBK champion joined Yamaha in a sensational move towards the end of last season, and Jonathan Rea, who has been impressive so far in testing aboard the R1, feels good about where he’s at in his adaptation period.

Rea, who is on-track again today and tomorrow as part of the two day Portimao test, spoke to Crash.net last weekend following the Jerez outing. 

When asked whether he agrees with the perception of many that the R1 is a very rider-friendly machine, Rea exclusively told Crash: “I think it’s a fair comment to say that it’s a user-friendly bike. It’s a bike that definitely inspires confidence.

“In my first few laps the timer was broken - not broken- but because it was a private test the timing loop wasn’t set-up.

“So I didn’t know the lap times and didn’t feel very fast. But then the guys told me that the lap times were really fast.

“I couldn’t quite believe that everything just flowed and that the lap time was just coming. I think a lot of that is to do with the engine character of the R1 and not just the chassis.

“Of course the chassis works well but the engine character is very linear. The bike makes power but makes it in a very linear way. Just understanding that, with the torque as well.

“I think that always lets the riders understand where you are in the rpm range. You can really understand a bike in your hand, instead of using so much electronics.”

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Perhaps the favourite to challenge Ducati and Alvaro Bautista this season given the results Yamaha have achieved in recent seasons, Rea said it’s too early to think about that as he considers Ducati the reference, still. 

Rea added: “We’ll have to see, it’s too early to talk about how competitive we can be. In testing everyone has different strategies.

“What’s clear is that, looking at the lap-by-lap analysis after the test, Bulega was a clear step ahead of everybody.

“After that, Alvaro looked very strong as well, even though he wasn’t right at the front in the classification. Alvaro is Alvaro.

“I still feel like they are the reference. But step-by-step, getting more used to the bike I have more reason to be optimistic that I can fight. But we need to see.

“Phillip Island is a strange race because it’s all about tyre consumption and now out-right pace.”

What is clear this season is that Rea will be gunning for a seventh world title, and with that it means taking over Yamaha’s challenge from Razgatlioglu unless Andrea Locatelli can pose a season-long threat.

But Rea, who admits there is pressure in 2024, says it’s not because he’s replacing Razgatlioglu.

“Like most racers you just think selfishly,” began Rea. “I’m always thinking about myself. I don’t I’m replacing him. I’m coming to Yamaha to do my job.

“He had an incredible time with Yamaha but now it is my time. To compare myself or the pressure; the pressure on me is not about Toprak or what he did before.

“The pressure is that I left a very comfortable environment with my previous team, a team I loved and not about who I’m replacing at Yamaha.”

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