Although Jonathan Rea had two wins in 2011 World Superbike (Assen, Imola), the Northern Irishman struggled due to injury and crashes.
The 24-year old suffered a high-speed crash at Misano, which caused him to miss that round and the subsequent three at Aragon, Brno and Silverstone. Rea sustained a wrist injury, but would return for a few races.
But Rea and the Castrol Honda Team looked strong after they began using a Ride-by-Wire throttle control at Imola, World Superbike making it legal in the series. Rea went on to win Race 1 at Imola, and although he suffered a few DNFs, he would finish the season out with a pair of thirds at Portimoa.
Regardless of the 2011 World Superbike Championship outcome, Rea is looking ahead to 2012. He and the team spent some time testing the 2012 CBR1000RR with is new teammate, former San Carlo Honda Gresini MotoGP’s Hiroshi Aoyama.
At the 2011 EICMA, Rea caught up with WorldSBK.com, answering questions about 2011 WSBK and the upcoming season.
Q. The 2011 season ended not so long ago and now you’re getting ready to test before the winter break. What are the team plans?
Jonathan Rea (Castrol Honda CBR1000RR) says: “We test in Qatar Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, mainly because last year we were a bit unlucky with the tests. In Miller it was raining, in Portugal the official test was wet and in Aragón, the new circuit of last year, we tested there but it was too cold to ride. Last year the pre-season test was very bad. So we go to Qatar and we get a three day test which is very good. The point we need to improve the most is when the bike is on the edge of the tyre and on the Qatari track it is perfect to do so.”
Q. Will you ride the 2012 bike?
Jonathan Rea says: “To be honest I’m not 100% sure, there will be a lot of 2012 parts but I think it’s going to be still the 2011 bike. I am not sure, though.”
Q. What are your plans for the coming winter?
Jonathan Rea says: “In December I go back to Australia with my fiancé, we have an apartment in Melbourne so it’s good to go there for training and also for her to get to see all the family. During the racing season we travel a lot so it’s definitely nice to go there for December and January.”
Q. What’s your opinion on the one bike rule for next season?
Jonathan Rea says: “I don’t know, but my new crew chief is coming from BSB and he’s used to the one-bike rule so for sure he has some experience. For me it would be a problem only in qualifying, I think it will be surely hard work for the mechanics.”
Q. What are your goals for next season then?
Jonathan Rea says: “I want to be in the top-3 but surely my aim is to win the Championship. We have made a lot of improvements so hopefully we can get there.”
Q. You always get a warm welcome here in Italy. Without a shadow of a doubt you’re one of the most well-loved non-Italian riders here….
Jonathan Rea says: “I don’t know if I’m one of the favorites but for sure Italians are one of my favorites. You can see the difference between the English fans, they are very loyal, I have a lot of British fans, but when you come to Italy the passion of the fans is fully on a different level. On my Twitter page I’ve got so many Italian followers and after every race they message me and that makes a lot of difference.”