Jonathan Rea opens up about MotoGP, WorldSBK and its future…
A spectator of the British Grand Prix this weekend at Silverstone, Jonathan Rea spoke to the motorcycle press. The two-time Superbike world champion 2015 and 2016, now wide leader of the 2017 championship, speaks about MotoGP of course, but also about his future and that of WorldSBK…
Jonathan Rea is on the way to accomplish an unprecedented feat: winning three consecutive World Superbike titles! On the sidelines of this weekend at Silverstone, the Kawasaki "Number One" rider discussed various topics with the press. Here is the report, by theme.
Grand Prix motorcycles: "you can’t maintain such an angle"
During a WorldSBK round, I have a lot of commitments as a driver, but also with the media or sponsors. So it’s really fun to come here just to enjoy the race. It was good because I was able to spend time observing the pilots and I actually learned some things by watching the way they work..
At the November testing in Jerez, the WorldSBK riders had the opportunity to share the track with those of the Grand Prix. So I was able to ride alongside them and see where a MotoGP saves time compared to a WorldSBK. It was really interesting for me, but watching them from the edge of the track, it’s the angle they manage to take that impresses !
The elbow-on-the-ground riding style doesn’t work as well with a Superbike, and unless we’re Baz’s or Redding’s size, we can’t maintain that angle. During qualifying, I got into turns 8 and 9 and Marquez’s angle in the big curves was incredible..
We don’t have the same level of grip with our tires, because the Pirellis perform better under acceleration. We focus on the rope point braking and then straighten the bike out. They don’t brake or accelerate particularly fast, but they maintain a much faster passage speed than we do. You have to drive according to your tires.
MotoGP: "I wouldn’t want to make up the numbers"
It was fun walking around the pit lane and bumping into lots of people I respect who were like "you should be here" … It’s nice to hear, but these guys are the best in the world. Before I land here and compare myself to them, I would like to make sure I have the right material..
I wouldn’t want to come to MotoGP to make up the numbers. It’s a sublime paddock but I don’t want to enter it at all costs. I really enjoy the WorldSBK paddock and the type of bikes we ride. I love working with Kawasaki and this is currently my best opportunity.
I consider myself too old for MotoGP, I missed the wagon. Hervé Poncharal picked Zarco when he was 27 and people thought he was too old, but it just so happens to be the revelation of the year. As far as I’m concerned, given my CV, my 30 years are playing against me.
Coming back to MotoGP doesn’t matter to me, but I know that I had the chance to compete in two races in 2012 on the Honda, replacing Casey Stoner (then in, Ed). It was very hard for me because I was riding WorldSBK one weekend and MotoGP the next, but I enjoyed it. I was able to ride one of the best bikes and score points.
WorldSBK: "the gap with others is too large"
It’s easy to criticize from the outside, but the crowd is on the rise, especially on Saturdays, and in Italy the Superbike is developing more and more thanks to the work done off the track by Mediaset. I think the biggest problem is the gap between Kawasaki and Ducati with the rest of the grid.
The current period is uncertain as rule changes are proposed and no one really knows where they will lead. I was on both sides, either riding a competitive bike or trying to close the gap. It would be good to ask Bradl, Lowes or Van der Mark how their machines at Suzuka were different from those at WorldSBK.
If the goal is to bring the bikes closer to the stock version, then other manufacturers should be encouraged to invest in WorldSBK. There is no doubt that there are currently two teams taking the championship seriously. From the start of WorldSBK, these were production motorcycles. Then, during the Fogarty era, the championship became "specialized". This was also the period when Honda took things very seriously with the RC45, which was a production motorcycle but based on a prepared machine..
It’s not much different today, but it’s also crucial to know that Superbike lives in an era where everything is more standard than ever. Something has to happen, but whatever the changes, whether it’s Superbike or Stock, I’ll be on the grid ready to do battle. Top riders go very fast: Davies, Melandri, Sykes and I are all fast, but the gap with the others is too big.
Grid in second round WSBK: "it’s like riding in deep sand"
My debut in motocross proved to be useful for the second race, when you have to fight your way through all the rivals. You have to react to others and to what is happening around you. Some think it’s like riding in deep sand on a motocross: the goal is to reach the outposts as quickly as possible! If you get stuck, you’re wasting precious time.
My dad always told me in motocross that when I catch up with one of my rivals, I have to pass him. If you stay behind him too long, you’ll ride at his pace. It was fun in Germany, because my start was not perfect while the rest of the first lap was.
I hope they will study the regulations carefully and see if they work. I think the new rule has given me an advantage and it has worked against Chaz, who sometimes just can’t come up. It didn’t generate more battles ahead, apart from a handful of races including Aragon with Lowes or Misano with Torres. I think they shouldn’t focus on this kind of trickery, but rather make other manufacturers more competitive..
Pilot preparation: "success came when I became a more balanced person"
There are plenty of areas we can work on to make progress. But for me, I think the success came when I became a more balanced person. Growing up my life stopped revolving around motorcycles and I was able to overcome issues that would have bothered me more in the past..
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It’s not just about training, it’s also about how electronics have helped prevent falls. There aren’t many highsides left and the bikes are safer, which has clearly helped extend careers. If you chat with Kevin Schwantz he will tell you about the 2-stroke era and the drivers who were so upset in their 30s they had to stop..
Pere Riba, his chief engineer: "I would always like him by my side"
It’s great to work with Pere! No matter where I end my career, I would always want it by my side. He’s a former pilot and he understands. However, when you watch Iannone join Suzuki with his Chief Engineer and it doesn’t work for him, people start pointing fingers at him….
It shows that bringing people with you has both advantages and disadvantages. For me, it’s not just Father, it’s the whole band I work with. They are amazing and I know I’m very lucky to have them.
Retrospective 2017: "the second race at Laguna Seca is probably my favorite"
I set myself the goal this winter to win the championship, but also to defeat Chaz in Aragón and Tom in Donington. Chaz crashed at MotorLand and it helped me but I was there for both races.
I beat Tom at Donington, but the win in the second race at Laguna Seca is probably still my favorite this season as I settled in the lead and put in a great pace.
Upcoming seasons: "the 2019 transfer window may be fun"…
I am still under contract with Kawasaki for a year. I don’t want to continue my career for too long, but I think a new two-year contract would be perfect. I pilot better than ever. I think experience matters a lot in motorsports. The best thing for me would be to stay with Kawasaki and build the future with them. But I don’t plan too much, I’m already lucky to have my contract for next year.
Next summer my manager will definitely have fun in the paddock. Much of the MotoGP grid will be open at the end of next year and so will WorldSBK. All the official teams will be free at the end of 2018: the transfer window may be fun for everyone !
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