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World Superbike Interview

Good morning, everyone. I’m John Gardner. I’m the media manager at Miller Motorsports Park, and as you know we’ve been doing a series of interviews this year with riders in the HANNspree Superbike World Championship. This week it is our pleasure to have Jonathan Rea, who rides the No. 65 Honda CBR1000RR for HANNspree Ten Kate Racing. He comes off a very strong weekend at his home track at Silverstone, where he qualified second and finished second in both races. So Jonathan, welcome.

Jonathan Rea: Hi there, guys.

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Moderator: A good weekend for you. Maybe not quite as good as you would have liked, but not bad nonetheless. Tell us about it.

Jonathan Rea: Yeah, we ran at Silverstone and, coming off the back of a 1-2 in Czech Republic, I was really looking forward to the race. And the circuit was new. It was a new layout, so it was quite cool to ride there. And both races I gave everything I had, but to be honest there is another guy out there a little bit stronger, so we failed to get the wins that we were looking for.

Moderator: You’re third in the championship. It’s your second year in the series. You’re doing really well. Are you satisfied with your progress? Is this kind of what you thought it would be like, or better or worse, or what?

Jonathan Rea: To be honest, I thought it might go a little bit better, but we’ve run into some inconsistencies with our bike. And some circuits it’s working very well, some circuits it’s not, so right now I thought we’d be fighting for the championship title but it’s–at this moment in time it’s not the case. So yeah, it’s been a little bit under par for me.

Moderator: You’ve been here to Miller Motorsports Park twice. The first year you came here you were fifth and third in the two races, and then this year you didn’t have such a good year. You were 14th and eighth. Tell me what you think about our facility here and how it compares to some of the other tracks you race on?

Jonathan Rea: The facility is great, to be honest, but as you can imagine I didn’t have a lot of good things to say about my race there this year. And Pirelli, they came up with some new tires and it’s just created some problems with our bike at certain circuits. And with the fast, flowing nature of the circuit there with a lot of bumps, it created a lot of chatter problems for us, so it wasn’t great results-wise but I love getting out there. Not just the facility. It’s good. I think it’s one of the best circuits in America, but then again it’s nice to go to the overseas races. It creates a bit of a holiday feel for all the European teams and riders. And not just the facility there but the town itself is very accommodating, and the people are pretty cool, as well.

Moderator: Operator, we want to go ahead and open this up to the rest of the media and let them get their questions in.Operator: Our question comes from Ron Lieback from Ultimate MotorCycling.

Ron Lieback: Hello, Jon. How are you doing?

Jonathan Rea: I’m good, and you?

Ron Lieback: You’re relaxing on your break?

Jonathan Rea: Yeah. Yeah, well, I’m just getting done here and heading out on the motocross bike.

Ron Lieback: Oh, awesome. All right. Just got a couple questions for you here. Concerning your doubles at Silverstone, your double podiums that is, you and Crutchlow really had it. What do you think were the major–were there any other major issues holding you back besides like all the stuff you were talking about with the Pirellis?

Jonathan Rea: At Silverstone I gave everything. That was all I had, and it kind of really pained me to see Cal pass me and just ride away with ease, but in that race we–where he was passing me and drawing alongside on the last turn, exit of turn one, they just had–they were working a little bit more on the edge grip, their bike, and when our tire dropped off I just didn’t have any answers, and fair play to them.

Ron Lieback: Cool. All right. Then in the opening qualifying session, you were second-fastest behind Crutchlow. You said you really enjoyed riding the circuit, and I like your quote that you said it fills me full of happy pills because it’s all new and fresh. And you had–obviously had some good luck on the revamped circuit. Is this now your favorite circuit on the schedule, and what part of the track do you feel most comfortable on?

Jonathan Rea: I don’t know. I think, yeah, it’s one of my favorites. I try to like all the circuits. Philip Island is a favorite of mine, as well; Brno. I like fast-flowing circuits, and that’s something that Miller Motorsports Park is, Philip Island, Silverstone, then Brno. There are so many circuits, and a favorite section is actually there is a–they’re building new garages. I don’t know the corner names yet, it’s too new, but it’s the new pit strip. And you go into a right corner and then it’s a left. I think it’s called Village or Club.

Ron Lieback: Okay.

Jonathan Rea: But it’s a fourth-gear corner and you’re pretty much spinning it the whole way around, and it’s one of the coolest corners I think in the world. I think Casey Stoner actually came off with the same remark when he raced there.

Ron Lieback: Nice, nice. All right. And then with the Suzuka 8 taking third, that was very impressive. First, what were the engine troubles you guys were having with the CBR?

Jonathan Rea: What was that, sorry?

Ron Lieback: In Suzuka you guys were having some engine troubles with the bike?

Jonathan Rea: Engine trouble? No. To be honest, the problems we had was in the first stint, and my teammate had a little problem with the starter motor and the bike didn’t start too fast and he got caught in traffic and some guy bent his clutch lever right up. Then he passed under two yellow flags making his way to the front, and I received two ride-through penalties.

Ron Lieback: Oh, okay.

Jonathan Rea: Then in the second hour I came into a corner underneath a backmarker and it was pretty much all the way through, and the backmarker just–he kept on coming back to the corner and he hit me–he more or less just threw his bike on top of my back tire and picked my front wheel up and we went down. We lost five laps, but the best part of the race was we lapped the leader three times to come back two laps down at the finish and to jump on the podium so definitely one of the best races in my career. I think every single lap we had was so much faster than everybody else, and it was really enjoyable to have that feeling of “never give up.” I’d be lying in the plunge pool, the ice bath, after my stint thinking, “I can’t wait to ride again and make up even more positions.” And that’s a great job by my teammate and my team, as well.

Ron Lieback: Nice, real nice. Now, do you think you would have positioned yourself a lot better if you guys didn’t have any problems with the starter motor or anything? I mean, since you guys were running so strong.

Jonathan Rea: Yeah, for sure. But I’m not an “if, but or maybe” kind of guy.

Ron Lieback: Yeah.

Jonathan Rea: But receiving the bike with two ride-through penalties to do after passing on the yellow flag, and had he not had a bad start would he have had to come and pass under yellow flags? I don’t know. But it’s an eight-hour race. It’s not about how fast you are. It’s about luck needs to be on your side.

Ron Lieback: Yes.

Jonathan Rea: But I think we were pretty much the story of the weekend coming from 42nd and five laps down. Anybody there who saw the race and saw how fast my teammate was and how we were working together, for sure if we went back next year and attacked it with a different mindset, then I’m sure the win could be ours, as well.

Ron Lieback: Nice. So is that one of your goals, to get back there next year also or–

Jonathan Rea: Well, it really depends on what contract I have next year. It’s that time of year, but if I’m still with Honda and everything is working out great, then I’d love to go because it’s just an awesome race. A lot of the guys say that they hate going because it’s a pain in the ass and it’s too much out of their timeframe, but it was 10 days of my life and I came back to my next race and riding on different tires, different suspension. It didn’t upset my rhythm at all and I got pretty much back into the–well, sort of my way of riding straightaway, so it didn’t really upset my rhythm too much, and if I got the chance to go again next year with the same team, the same teammate, then for sure I’d do it.

Ron Lieback: Excellent. I was very impressed with that. But now that you’re on break, do you have anything special you’re doing? Are you just going to be on the motocross track a lot or what?

Jonathan Rea: Well, I don’t know if you guys got the live feed, but my friend–you maybe see him sitting with the guys sometimes–a guy called Keith Amor comes to all my races, but he’s actually–he’s like a road racer. Well, you guys call it probably street racing, but specializing in Isle of Man TT Northwest 300s, and in two weeks’ time he’s got a big race at the Ulster Grand Prix, which is something like a four-and-something-minute lap time and an average speed of 132 miles an hour. And it’s one of the fastest road races in the world, so I’m going to go and help out there. And that’s going to include everything from carrying wheels down to the pit board, and it’s really good to get back to grassroots and to will him on, as well. He takes enough time out of his life to come and help me on a weekend and just be there as a bit of a mentor, so I can repay the favor there. And aside from that, just hanging out, doing normal things, going out to dinner with my girlfriend, going to the cinema and doing cool things, catching up with my family who I never really see.

Ron Lieback: All right. Excellent. Well, have fun and good luck with the rest of the season.

Jonathan Rea: Thank you.

Ron Lieback: All right. Take care.

Operator: Our next question comes from Jim Race from MotoGPod.

Jim Race: Thank you very much. Jonathan, welcome. It must have been a bit of a fairytale weekend for the Brits out there.

Jonathan Rea: Yeah, it’s cool. There are so many British fans. I think we had two full podiums, but even the second race I think it was the top five. But I had my hands full racing Cal Crutchlow in both races and I kind of forgot about the rest, but it was nice to get home in front of all the home people and see pretty much a lot of friendly faces around.

Jim Race: Do you think Silverstone, the new Silverstone, might be one of those tracks that you don’t necessarily want to be leading the last lap on?

Jonathan Rea: For me, it didn’t really matter. I was thinking during the race I couldn’t–going into the very last corner there was a big screen, and I could see that Cal was pretty much welded to my bumper the whole race. And there is–I know if you’re pretty spot-on there with hitting your apex, that if somebody comes past they’re going to run wide. And I knew if he was going to come past there would be a chance of getting back past, but the bike was producing a little bit more grip when the tires dropped, and it was pretty effortless for him to get past me and drive on.

Jim Race: All right. Thank you.

Operator: Our next question comes from Jim McDermott from Superbike Planet.

Jim McDermott: Hey, Jonathan. How are you doing, man?

Jonathan Rea: Not so bad. I’m good.

Jim McDermott: You mentioned that the new tires have kind of given you an issue with the bike at some of the circuits. Leon Haslam said the same thing. Is it–I think he mentioned something about there being better edge grip on the new tires and that’s created the chatter problems. Is that what you’re experiencing with the new Pirellis on your bike at some of the circuits or what seems to be the issue with the tire change, the new tires?

Jonathan Rea: Well, basically Pirelli, they–well, let’s just call it a banker. The code is 65, but that being our banker tire we knew it works pretty much anywhere. Throughout the year Pirelli hosts some tests where the official teams are invited to test new prototype tires. From these tests during the season we–there were some new-generation tires that arrived I think at Salt Lake City, Misano for sure was a prototype tire. And my feeling, and I think a lot of other riders’ feeling, is that there are a lot of inconsistencies with the new tires, but also they’re really upsetting our bike, as well. In Silverstone and in Britain we reverted back to the 65 that was so popular. It’s a banker tire. We know it works, and yeah, it was pretty good.

Jim McDermott: So what seems to be the problem? Are you just getting so much grip now that it’s creating chatter problems or what do you think the issue is with the tire?

Jonathan Rea: Well, I think it’s a lot more than just the tire. We can’t just blame the tire. Our bike was a little bit inconsistent, as well. It just didn’t work. We had problems in Misano, and in Salt Lake coming out of turn one I had horrendous rear chatter. Not slides, but just chattering around in the rear, and it really upset my confidence. And my guys couldn’t believe what they were seeing and how bad it was in Misano. As much as it wasn’t as bad as what it was in Salt Lake City, it was still there and that was really affecting my confidence because I couldn’t push to the maximum. And the common denominator was these new-generation tires, and that’s what we kind of drew our conclusions to. And now that we’ve reverted back we’re getting a more comfortable ride and I can push a lot harder.

Jim McDermott: One of the things that was kind of shocking about the race over the weekend at Silverstone was, typically in World Superbike, the results are much tighter. It’s much closer racing, unlike MotoGP where they talk about the aliens being out in front of the rest of the grid. Over the weekend you and Cal certainly seemed like aliens amongst the World Superbike riders. Why do you think you two ended up being so far ahead of everybody else? Was it just that you were on home turf and so you dug a little bit deeper or you were pushing each other? I mean, it was pretty incredible to see a World Superbike race where two guys really just took off and left everybody behind. What do you think that was down to?

Jonathan Rea: I really think that’s crap being home race and you push harder. I mean, how does somebody push harder because they’re at home? And it doesn’t say a lot for them at other circuits. But I don’t know, my game plan to go there was, “I want to win.” I always want to win. I always give my best, so free practice when I went out, I tried to get through the circuit, tried to pick lines, not rush too much, and I find after the first session that I enjoyed the track.

And clearly all weekend Cal was going to be my main opposition. I also thought Michel Fabrizio looked pretty good on paper, but come the race I actually figured there would be a couple more guys there and there wasn’t, which surprised me. And normally the night before the race I sit down with my guys and my crew chief and we figure out who’s strong and we’re looking at things. Cal has been unbelievable at throwing these laps in. He’s had so many pole positions; we didn’t know whether he would figure in our plan or not, whether he could put it together. And he turned up and he brought his A game when he was there for all 18 laps, and a bit of a surprise for everybody, but it clicked for him and it was nice to have a little bit of a race. I gave him as good as I had and we came off second.

Jim McDermott: Thanks, man. I’ll hand it over to somebody else now. Thanks, Jon.

Jonathan Rea: Cheers.

Operator: And our next question comes from Paul Nielsen from the MotoWorld.

Paul Nielsen: Good morning, Jonathan. How is it going?

Jonathan Rea: It’s not so bad.

Paul Nielsen: Where are you, by the way, right now?

Jonathan Rea: I’m back on the Isle of Man, a little tiny island in between Ireland and the UK.

Paul Nielsen: That’s a wonderfully famous place.

Jonathan Rea: Yeah.

Paul Nielsen: Well, my questions are a little bit different. Much of our program focuses on people. Oh, by the way, also congratulations on the second place and third place at Suzuka. How was Suzuka?

Jonathan Rea: Suzuka was absolutely awesome, one of the highlights of my career so far. I love the circuit. I rode for a great team out there. I had a good teammate, and the buzz of not just being new out on the circuit but all the other things put together, it was just really, really cool, cool to do something different.

Paul Nielsen: Yeah, that would be wonderful. Well, congratulations on that. Well, like I was starting to say, our program focuses more on personality sort of stuff, so my listeners like to learn about you. So if you don’t mind I’ll ask you some questions about your history like how old were you when you got started, when you first rode a motorcycle?

Jonathan Rea: Well, my birthday is in February, and I first rode a bike on the Christmas before my third birthday. And it was a Italjet 50, and my father kind of ran behind me for a little bit and then when I got the hang of it he just pushed me off. And I rode a little 50cc motocross bike before I rode a bicycle with stabilizers, and that was my introduction

Paul Nielsen: Wow, very young. Now, when did you actually start racing? And did you start in the dirt? Did you start on pavement? How did you get started?

Jonathan Rea: Yeah, I started motocrossing when I was five years old, I think the minimum age back home. I pretty much started in the 50cc and 60cc championships straight away, amateur level. And back home in Ireland the competition was dwindling out, so most weekends my family and I would make the trip to England. It’s a little short boat journey, two hours, and travel throughout the UK and find hot competition. And that was my life from about nine years old until I was 15.

Paul Nielsen: Is 15 when you switched over to road racing?

Jonathan Rea: Yeah, there was actually an advert in a motorcycle newspaper. It’s quite a big weekly paper here, and they were looking for a young, up-and-coming rider to fill the Rebel Rookies program as the 125 team in the UK. And, to be honest, I didn’t want to do it. I wanted to be a professional motocrosser. My idols are Jeremy McGrath and people like James Stewart, and I kind of thought I would much prefer to be them than a Valentino Rossi. And when I got the chance to go on a road bike, I quite liked it. It came quite natural to me. It was certainly a lot easier on my body, and getting this opportunity was a lot less financial strain on my family, so it was great.

And after my first year there was still doubts whether this was right for me; things didn’t come easy. I was really fast. I had a few crashes, but my second year Red Bull merged with the official Honda team in the UK to create a Supersport bike and a step up to Superbike for me, as well. And when that stepping stone came, I knew it was for me and I attacked it. I grabbed it with both hands and I haven’t looked back since.

Paul Nielsen: Obviously so. You’re doing very well. Now, when you made the switch up to the British Superbike series, how did that come about?

Jonathan Rea: Well, the second year of my career I was in a Supersport team and the team was–it was the exact same team that ran Colin Edwards and Aaron Slight in 2002, Castrol Honda. And then halfway through the season I broke my femur.

Paul Nielsen: Ouch.

Jonathan Rea: And I thought that was pretty much the end of my dream. Then the team manager came and he told me he had seen enough that I was a little bit–I wasn’t a 50-kilo jockey. I was 69 kilos, and Supersport–69, 70 kilos. Supersport really wasn’t my direction the way I was growing, and he though the plan could be a year in Superbike. And Red Bull got involved with that again for another two years, ’05/’06. And then in ’07 HRC were in England developing tires, Michelin tires, and I got the opportunity to ride for the HM Plant Honda team on factory machinery with Kiyonari as my teammate.

Paul Nielsen: Yes. Okay. Then the switchover to Ten Kate?

Jonathan Rea: Well, I guess I was just kind of over-riding around some of the UK circuits. And I wanted to be a World Champion. I could stay in BSB and pick up a little paycheck, or I could take a gamble and try and go to the World Championship on a promise of a Superbike ride in two years. And I just wanted to get out and to race some proper circuits and learn the European way of life.

And going back to Supersport bike wasn’t something I was scared of. I had a great teammate in Andrew Pitt, an ex-World Champion, so I learned quite a lot. The team had a pretty good success rate with their Supersport machine, so I went there. Unluckily, I just missed out on the championship in the last few races, but I gave it a good go, finished second, and my second year my contract guaranteed a Superbike ride. And that’s what whetted my appetite in the first place for this job, and last year we had a pretty good season.

Paul Nielsen: You had a very good season, and this one is going very well for you, too. Let me ask you this last question here then so we can turn it over to somebody else. I’ve taken a lot of your time. But what about MotoGP aspirations? Is that your next step?

Jonathan Rea: Oh, I don’t know. Big question, eh? I know over on your side of the pond MotoGP is pretty big; Superbike is not. I just want to ride with the chance of winning races. I don’t want to go to that championship and just make up the numbers, and I feel that I still have a lot to prove myself as an athlete and as a person. I still have a lot to learn, as well. And I don’t want to go there and get thrown back into the World Superbike Championship in a year because I haven’t made the grade, so I still feel I’ve got some work to do to get there, but that’s my aim.

My dad used to road race, one of my all-time heroes was Kevin Schwantz, and I actually got the chance to meet him not that long ago. That’s MotoGP. From when I was a young age, that was the pinnacle of motorsport and it’s definitely my plan to get there, and I figure in Honda’s plan as well in the next two years, so we’re just waiting to see. And I think I’ll know about my future really in the next few weeks so I’m looking forward to hearing about that.

Paul Nielsen: Well, thank you so much for your time. It’s always exciting to watch you race, and I wish you the best for the rest of this season. But thanks so much for your time today, Jonathan.

Jonathan Rea: Thank you.

Operator: Our next question comes from Jon Seidel from America Honda.

Jon Seidel: Hi Jonathan. How are you doing?

Jonathan Rea: I’m not so bad. I’m pretty good. How are you?

Jon Seidel: I’m very good. It was great to meet you at Miller. A couple of questions for you. With three rounds remaining, and obviously you had a great race win in Germany at the Nurburgring last year. With the three circuits that are still to come, with Imola and Magny-Cours, is there one in particular that you favor or are you just looking forward to everything now that the machine seems to be working pretty well for you?

Jonathan Rea: I’m looking forward to every single one, to be honest. Although we have to go into races now with an open mind, wondering whether everything is going to work perfect or we’re going to have big problems. I know Misano last year I won races but this year I struggled a lot, but I really enjoy all three circuits coming up. I had a win last year at the Nurburgring and Imola had great pace but just was unlucky with situations I was put in. And Magny-Cours we had a podium and a mechanical, so–

Jon Seidel: Yeah.

Jonathan Rea: –I’m looking forward to finishing off the year strong and I’m really motivated to keep it on the podium.

Jon Seidel: That sounds great. One other quick question about Suzuka. Was there anything that surprised you or that you found the most interesting just about either the race or the weekend or the atmosphere, or is there anything else about that that really, really stood out for you at Suzuka?

Jonathan Rea: I’ve been there and done it before so nothing really surprised me, but the best thing was the people there are just so friendly and they’ve got so much manners. Everyone in the morning says hello, whether it be in the hotel or at the racetrack, and they’re so passionate about their racing. Where in the World Championship I might have 10 people in the garage, in Japan in the TSR Honda team we had about 45 people in the garage running around after you and I felt really appreciated. They looked after me really well, and I think that’s just Japanese culture. They’re great people and it’s like I said before, I just really love the event as a whole.

Jon Seidel: That sounds good. Well, one last thing. I can tell you you have a tremendous amount of fans here in America and with Honda, and you kind of referenced it a little, and we’re certainly very much hoping that you’ll be staying a member of the Honda family because we love to watch you racing and we wish you every success.

Jonathan Rea: Thanks very much, Jon.

Jon Seidel: Thank you.

Operator: Our next question comes from Jim Race from MotoGPod.

Jim Race: You’ve got six races left here. Kind of in a bit of a no-man’s land, though, in a way, with you’ve got 70 up to Leon and you’ve got Checa back with 39. And you are heading to the Nurburgring next, where you had, I believe, a fourth and a win last year. What are your goals for the rest of the year? Plug away?

Jonathan Rea: I’d like to be second. Max is way too far in front to think about a win, but 70 points in the three rounds isn’t–it’s been done before. I lost a potential 50 in Monza, so I’m not sure. I want to win races, for sure. I want to be on the podium every weekend, and I want to remain healthy and really enjoy my racing. I’ve enjoyed the last two races a lot, and hopefully I can keep doing that and keep banging in the results.

Jim Race: On TV on Sunday I was watching and I was just kind of wondering how tough is it to sit there and cheer on Eugene in Supersport while you’re sitting next to your boss in the Ten Kate garage?

Jonathan Rea: See, how do you know I was cheering on Eugene? No, to be honest, Eugene is a great friend of mine and I didn’t care really who won the race. I was watching the race from a point of view of trying to learn some more passing places for my next race, and Supersport always shows up a great race. There’s some time to kill in the day, so I was sitting there. And it was a great race. The camera kept coming to me when I was dwelling on the race, but with five laps to go it was like the last lap was a 125 GP. It was quite manic, but it was a great race right to the end.

Jim Race: I would have to imagine with the sweep that you guys did of all the podiums it was a very, very late night on Sunday night.

Jonathan Rea: Sunday night, let me see. Yeah, it did go pretty late, to be honest. All us guys get on pretty well. My manager is actually an American guy, Chuck Aksland, and he went and got some takeaway McDonald’s. We’re going to a four-week break now so it’s a bit of a holiday time, so I think both myself and Cal and Leon Haslam and even Roger Lee, we had a bit of a–they came around to my motorhome and we played some cards and put the world to right, so it was really good fun.

Jim Race: All right. Well, I’ll let you go. Thanks again for a great weekend, and look forward to seeing what you can do at the ‘Ring.

Jonathan Rea: All right. Thanks very much.

Operator: We have a follow-up question from Jim McDermott from Superbike Planet.

Jim McDermott: I’ll make it kind of quick because I know you’ve probably got a beach to go to or something. You must be looking forward to the break, Jonathan. But I wanted to just follow up on your comments about MotoGP and getting on a bike that you can win. It kind of seems like, I mean with the exception of Ben Spies, historically a lot of guys end up going from World Superbike into GP and get kind of chewed up and don’t always have their expectations met about what they’re going to accomplish in the series. One guy that you seem to be pretty close to is Cal Crutchlow, and there are a lot of rumors lately about him going to maybe MotoGP next year if Rossi leaves and Spies replaces him in the factory team.

What do you think about the path, and should you go to MotoGP as soon as you can to learn those bikes? Do you think, as a rider, you’d rather accomplish something significant like winning a World Superbike title before you go to MotoGP? What are your overall thoughts, particularly on the rumors about Cal maybe going to MotoGP?

Jonathan Rea: Well, that’s a big can to fill there.

Jim McDermott: Yeah.

Jonathan Rea: MotoGP, like I said before in the conversation, it’s the pinnacle of the sport, and to go there, it’s swallowed a few Superbike guys up in the past. But then let’s not forget, as well, everyone is a human being. They talk about these guys being aliens, but Ben is going to get it right. He’s going to be at the front. I rate him highly. I raced him bar-to-bar last year, and what’s encouraging for me is I beat him. He’s not some sort of guy that’s too far out there to aim towards, and I think he’s doing a great job in that championship.

Cal, on the other hand, is another great talent. The speed he has as a rider is unbelievable. He’s still young, I think 24 or 25. When he finds himself and finds his feet, he’s going to be a force. So I’m 23 years old, I’ve got time on my side, and I’d like to accomplish a World Superbike Championship because I do feel a need to deserve to be in that paddock. I don’t want to just go there because something has cropped up or my passport or whatever. And I want to make a good go of it, as well. And Troy Bayliss, it didn’t work out all right for him and he came back to World Superbike to enjoy himself, and he proved all the hype about MotoGP by going and smoking everybody at Valencia, so–

Jim McDermott: Yeah.

Jonathan Rea: –as much as you think there is a massive gulf between World Superbike and MotoGP, there’s not. It’s a motorbike with two wheels and it’s human beings with arms and legs, so–

Jim McDermott: All right. And just one last question. Two guys that kind of were expected at the beginning of the season to be really strong title contenders, James Toseland and Nori Haga, have had difficult seasons. I’m just curious about your thoughts banging bars with those guys this year. And are you seeing anything in terms of what’s up with those guys on a competitive level with you out on the track? To viewers and fans I think it kind of looks like those guys just don’t seem to have generally the speed this year. For you as a rider, being out there racing with those guys, how do James and Nori feel to you from a competition standpoint weekend-in, weekend-out this year?

Jonathan Rea: Well, I can’t slag off on any of my rivals. I’m not–

Jim McDermott: I’m definitely not asking you to slag them at all.

Jonathan Rea: Yeah, aside from Max Biaggi, who–he hates people saying it, but nobody is stupid in the world that watches TV, and that bike he’s on is so fast compared to everything. And he’s one of the older guys at the front. Now, James and Nori, they’ve been there and done it, and right now there is a whole crop of young guys now that are just so hungry for winning. And I give my best every single weekend, and sometimes I make mistakes or it’s the same with Cal, it’s the same with Leon, but James and Nori, they–for sure I expect James to challenge for the title. He jumped on a championship-winning bike, and they were pretty annoyed with the bike that Ben had left them and they requested a lot of development stuff. And when they got that it didn’t work either, so for sure I expected James to be there.

The Ducati hadn’t–they didn’t have much planned for development. I think that bike is as good as it gets, so to be honest I think James fell short on my expectations and Nori has had some bad luck as well. So it’s for sure I didn’t expect Leon Haslam to be so far up front. I did expect Max to be there, and James and Nori are about where I thought they’d be anyway.

Jim McDermott: And your teammate, Max Neukirchner, how are things coming along for him? Do you guys have a collaborative relationship in terms of developing the bike and comparing notes or not? How is that relationship?

Jonathan Rea: Yeah, Max is a great guy off the bike, and on the bike he’s struggling to find something. I think judging by even the team press releases and things, sometimes he finds a way and then in the next session it just doesn’t work. I really don’t know what’s going on, and to be honest I don’t pay too much attention. I try to focus on the positive side where you can find something. There has been a lot of negative vibes from that side of the garage with things not working. I don’t want to get too caught up in that, but we–Assen is our test circuit and we use it quite a lot, especially in–after the race we’ve used it now twice, and we’re going back there before Nurburgring for some testing.

And there’s been a few times where I’ve said, “Max, I’ve been following you. Do you want to just hook on the back of me and try and improve your lines?” Because it’s obviously–I work pretty good around Assen, and I could see straightaway from getting on the back of him he was doing so much wrong. And when he followed me, he would find something, but it’s actually–it pains me sometimes to see him struggling because he’s such a cool guy and a nice kid, and I’ve seen how well he went on the Suzuki as well, but something just isn’t right on that side.

Jim McDermott: All right, man. Thanks so much for the time, and best of luck for the rest of the year, Jonathan.

Jonathan Rea: Cheers, man.

Operator: Our next question comes from David Emmett from MotoMatters.com.

David Emmett: Hi, Jonny. I’ll keep this short. I don’t want to take up tons more of your time. You’ve given us so much of your time already. I have a quick question about suspension; you switched to Ohlins last year. Do you think that is causing some of the erraticness that you were talking about, the making it sort of difficult to set the bike up with the new Pirellis, or is it just the tires themselves?

Jonathan Rea: No. To be honest, I don’t think it’s got anything to do with the inconsistencies we’re experiencing. Even before we switched to the Ohlins, it chattered as well. I had the same problems, and I think with the Ohlins was they’re developing a lot more, and every other bike in the paddock seems to be running Ohlins. So to kind of put it down to them wouldn’t really be fair on them. I think there’s a lot more to it than that, so yeah.

David Emmett: Okay. That’s all I wanted to know. Thanks very much.

Operator: I’m showing no further questions at this time.

Moderator: All right. Jonathan, we appreciate you coming on and spending so much time with us, and appreciate everybody for calling in. We look forward to having you back here next year at Miller Motorsports Park, and wish you all the best for the rest of the season and the championship and for next year.

Jonathan Rea: No problem. Thanks for having me on here, guys.

Moderator: All right. Thanks very much. Have a good day.

Jonathan Rea: Bye-bye.

Operator: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your participation in today’s conference. This does end your conference call for today.