Jonathan Rea Interview
During round 8 of the FIM WSBK Championship at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, we had the opportunity to sit down with current points leader and Kawasaki Racing Team rider Johnathan Rea.
Hailing from Ireland, Johnathan Rea has been dominant in the WSBK paddock since finding a seat on the Kawasaki ZX-10RR back in 2015. To date in 2017 WorldSB, Rea has claimed 15 of 16 podiums, which includes nine race wins.
We sat down with Rea at Laguna, and asked him about the current racing season and where he sees MotoAmerica going. We also learned a little about his passion for motoross.
Ultimate Motorcycling: Hi Jonathan. You’ve been spending a little bit of time in the bay area recently. Are you excited about being here at Laguna Seca?
Johnathan Rea: It’s a cool weekend for me, because today is actually the fifth wedding anniversary with my wife. We came from Misano via Ireland to drop my kids with my mom, which I’m really happy she’s looking after them for the week. So me and my wife arrived in San Francisco on Tuesday and had a little look around, had some nice dinner down by the Golden Gate bridge. Then I got the chance to go and throw the first pitch for the Oakland A’s and open that game up, which was really cool. We’re just enjoying the atmosphere.
As soon as you get on that flight and fly out of London, you start really looking forward to this race. I don’t exactly know anyone race, I think the whole event is cool; we’re here with MotoAmerica. The fans here are enthusiastic and get pretty excited for Superbike.
The track is quite iconic. For me, it’s a critical part of the season as well. We’re past the half-way point and this race is right before the summer break, so it’s very important for me to do a good job here and leave here satisfied and go back home with a good point situation to start evaluating our championship chances.
UM: How have things been working out on track so far?
Rea: I feel pretty good. FP1 was a little bit disappointing because we didn’t make much progress with that bike, we had some issues and in session two, we pretty much went back to what we started with when we arrived and that worked pretty good. We had two Pirelli front and rear options to test, so we’re a little clearer on what our race tire will be tomorrow. We’ll try to wake up tomorrow in the right frame of mind and find a rhythm in FP3 and then qualifying is really important here because it’s so difficult to pass. I’ll need to qualify well and look forward to the race.
UM: Laguna Seca is something of a favorite stop for many riders in the paddock. What are some of the issues that riders face while out on track, and what strategies do you need to put to use here?
Rea: It’s pretty one lined and it penalizes you if you make a mistake. Normally on a lot of tracks, you can throw a block pass in and it kind of works but here, if you throw a block pass, it really disturbs your rhythm and disturbs your lap time. If you start making passes that don’t work you can go backwards quickly. So track position is everything.
Sometimes you have to get a little imaginative because it is so one lined and the group tends to be at a similar pace, so it’s hard to make headway in the race. It’s also very easy to follow as this track as well. It’s hard to lead the race, especially with the blind corners, it’s always easier to be in the back. It’s kind of a Catch 22; you don’t know where to be in the race. Do you sit in and conserve your tire and then try to make passes at the end? Or do you stay at the front and maintain track position – it’s a hard one.
UM: Recently, tires have become a topic of discussion. During the Donington Park round, you had a mishap that was attributed to an issue with tires. Other riders have experienced issues as well, which isn’t something that’s common in the WSBK paddock. Can you elaborate on that at all?
Rea: We’ve gone back to similar rubber types that the tires had before but just a different construction process. I don’t know whether they’ve been changing for budget reasons or whatever but the latest batches in Misano, I also saw some inconsistencies. Not with me but with other riders, which is very, very, rare for Pirelli to be honest. Normally the tires are super safe and we don’t have these problems but now they’re going through a different process of mounting them and doing everything in a different way to try and counteract the problems.