Jonathan Rea: “The bikes were quite different today, we were trying to compared the 2022 bike versus the 23 bike in the afternoon, there’s positives and negatives with both. I prefer to stick with the ’23. Unfortunately while I was doing a race simulation, lap 14 I got caught out in T4.”
Q: Because of the wind?
Rea: “It’s very gusty you know, it’s coming strong from the back, and I’m on my limit, pushing clearly, and it was a very slow crash, quite different to yesterday, I was quite a way down the corner as I started to release the brake. I got really positive sensations during that run. I was able to, after 13 laps, to stay in 31s which for me was where I need to be to fight for the podium.
“Then after that we evaluated the SC0 rear tyre. Pirelli asked me to make a longer run, to understand for the Superpole race how that tyre performed. Again, the tyre performance was good, so from an electronic point of view I’m really happy with the steps we’ve made inside the team.”
Q: On the electronics front Jonny, you said with the improvements you made, is that hardware or software, personnel?
Rea: “A bit of everything, not hardware, but software with different electronic strategies, with a new electronic engineer in Sander Donkers [Engine Engineer & Electronics], and we have new staff in Christophe Lambert [Electronic Engineers & Data Coordinator]. Both coming from different things with different experiences, from an electronic point of view, so there’s a lot more inputs. In Kawasaki we had the same electronic engineers for a lifetime. So it’s always nice to put some new inputs into the box and just have a different perspective. I think that’s really made the team take a step forward – different ideas.
“Things are working good, our bike is behaving more calm than normal, just in the bumpy sections I’m struggling quite a lot. Through sector three, through Hayshed, seven, eight and nine. So that’s something to work on, I need to get more weight transfer to the front to get through the Hayshed. I’m a passenger through there at the minute, the bike is always in delay when I’m changing direction. That’s the main focus for Friday to work on.”
Q: Getting that weight to the front during neutral and acceleration, not during braking you mean?
Rea: “Constant throttle, when I’m braking I can put the bike in position, but naturally the weight transfer is not onto the front like I’d normally have, like I like… So we need to make a bit more pitching, and I think that can help in quite a few other areas, like the last corner, turn two, turn four so I’m not having to really put the bike in position, it’ll fall more naturally. So we have a more clear direction than yesterday, where we need to go. I’m more satisfied with the bike than yesterday, but still some key areas to improve.
“We made a step compared to last year in the winter time, electronics, acceleration, tyre consumption. We’ve made a step I feel. But everybody has made a step. Everybody moves forward and we need more. We can’t just make a new bike, the changes for 23 are so subtle.
“I need power, a lot of power. I’m racing a guy that’s potentially 15 kg lighter than me, with a bike with so much power. Last year you know, it was the same story, to be on the limit every single corner, every single lap, just to lose so much time in the straight, you can’t magically fix this. So of course we need to improve, we need a much faster engine, because the deficit we have in the straight and the acceleration is too much. But it is the same story. We have improved, so I’m thankful, I’m grateful for the efforts they’ve made. Because with these regulations, production companies making homologation bikes, mass production, it’s so difficult to improve, so I don’t think we’ll find a magic step. We need to improve this area.
“I think we can fight for the podium, I really feel like we can in the best of the rest fight. I think Alvaro is clearly in a different league, he’s going to be in a different race already. He has such an advantage here. Not just here with power, he’s doing a really good job, riding the bike well, the bike is working well, and he’s clearly at one. But I think we can be fighting for the best of the rest.”
Q: For so long you were the favourite for the World Championship, maybe this year it’s Alvaro.
Rea: “I’m excited, the pressure is gone. In 2021 I lost the championship by nothing to Toprak, 13-points or something. After last year, I got beat so bad by Alvaro, he was walking to the championship from halfway through the season. So of course, we need to step up, but that’s exciting, that’s a different position than in the past. It’s more, we accept where we are and need to improve. It’s a different mentality. Just trying to work with the team to improve and hope to fight for as many race wins as I can.”
Q: One of the problems you had last year was with the hot temperatures, do you work also on this problem?
Rea: “No because we test in Jerez and Portimao, in 25-30 degrees in the track, maximum, so we don’t know. What I do know is that when I look lap by lap, I just check my rhythm is quite good. Forget Alvaro, the rest, with Locatelli, Rinaldi maybe, my rhythm is there with these guys to fight at the front for the podium. So if maybe we have made a step in the heat. Last years race, it might have saved me because it was quite cool. I think this year if we can be on the podium here with hot conditions I think we’ve really showed we’ve made a step forward. I mean podiums are going to be a great result this weekend.”
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