‘We are the Suzuka underdogs’ believes WorldSBK champ Rea
Although the nine-weekend WorldSBK summer break has started, the Suzuka Eight-Hours (27-29 July) and then an official test session at Portimao (23 and 24 August) mean that some riders will still be busy.
Jonathan Rea is one of those doing both with an additional test that begins today in Japan for a race he believes the Kawasaki team are not favourites.
“No summer break for me,” Rea told bikesportnews.com. “To be honest that WorldSBK test is that far away I don’t know,” said Rea, about what he may test in the way of new parts or innovations. “With the regulations last year we never had an engine upgrade, so I don’t expect to have own this year, because what can we do with the engine. Because we still don’t have the revs.
“Maybe working with Showa we can improve the front fork a little bit still. In the test I have been using new material then going back to a base so generally they always push development really hard. And I guess Pirelli will bring to Portimao some new fronts, with this profile. They brought a new rear tyre that is more stable and I think all the riders have given feedback to them on how that can be improved.
“So it will be more of a tyre test and set-up weekend, and for me a re-adjustment back from the Kawasaki Endurance spec bike in the Eight-Hours, with different tyres as well. The Portimao test will be kind of a wake up back into WorldSBK.”
Rea is unsure what he personally may take away from his Suzuka experience, other than his hoped for success in the race. For his crew chief, maybe there is more to be gleaned. “Pere learned some things and he has been there since March, part of that programme. I had been riding for Honda for years, doing the Eight-Hours, and then come back and ride the WorldSBK bike and it was completely different.
“It is not like 2002, or in the 2000s, where Edwards or whoever would do the Eight-Hours and suddenly they would get good parts. What I feel as well is that our bike generally is pretty close to the Eight-Hours spec. From the point of view it is a factory bike, it is the same. The difference is just the tyre so maybe I can learn something from the tyre.
“For me it is kind of a fitness exercise! I go and lose some weight, eat some nice food and ride with some different riders. That is kind of what it is. I don’t feel that I can learn something really big in Superbike because I think our bike is a higher level than the Suzuka bike. Every year I do Suzuka, after the first hour I think, ‘What the fuck have I agreed to do this for? Again?” But it is one of those races that when you finish, it is the best feeling in the world. I won it in 2012, and it was the best race win of my career. By far. You just feel like you win bigger because you are involved in pitstops, nutritionists, physios. And to do it with Leon Haslam is like a dream come true as well.
“He was like such a cool team-mate at Honda (some years ago) because he was with one Honda team and I was with the other. So to be team-mates now it is really cool and we will push each other one. I feel some pressure because he has been testing and has been really fast. So this test on Tuesday is the first one I am going to do so I feel like I am under a bit of pressure. If I won? For sure we are the underdogs but we have to go and try and see.”