"A little bit more special" victory for Rea as he ends drought with ‘perfectly-timed’ pitstop in Race 1

Saturday, 19 November 2022 06:17 GMT

The six-time Champion ended a win drought with victory in Race 1 in Australia in a flag-to-flag thriller

After 181 days and 24 races, Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) was able to end his win drought in the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship with a stunning victory in Race 1 at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit in a wet-to-dry race. A downpour just before Race 1 in WorldSSP left the track wet but as the sun came out and the wind picked up, the timing of the pit stops would be crucial in determining the outcome of the race for the Grand Ridge Brewery Australian Round.

The race started in wet conditions at Phillip Island with all bar one rider lining up on the grid on Pirelli’s wet tyres; Philipp Oettl (Team Goeleven) opted to use an intermediate rear tyre. With 21 bikes lapping the circuit and the conditions improving throughout, the track quickly dried, and it became clear a switch to slick tyres would be needed, but the question was when this would be done to ensure a minimal time loss as the conditions changed from wet to dry.

The first pit stops to change tyres came on Lap 6 of 22 when Hafizh Syahrin (MIE Racing Honda Team) came into the pits and was soon setting the fastest laps of the race. Rea was one of two riders in the lead quartet to pit on Lap 10 and his pit stop was timed to perfection, as he came out of the pits in fourth place but a net lead with the three riders ahead of him not stopping at that point. Although Scott Redding (BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) and Oliver Konig (Orelac Racing VerdNatura) pitted, Kyle Smith (TPR Team Pedercini Racing) opted not to and Rea had to pass him on track to take the lead of the race, doing so at Turn 4 on Lap 15.

Explaining his strategy and decision on when to pit, Rea said: “There were a lot of things going on in that race and that’s what makes the victory a little bit more special because my team were involved in the pit stop. We could be strong in the wet conditions and also the dry, and I made that perfection decision to come in. it was even potentially a lap too late. I was thinking about coming in one lap earlier, but we made a deal with my team that I had to give them a signal on the pit straight. I thought I hadn’t given them the signal yet so came past so gave it one more lap and it was time. I quickly checked to see who was coming. I knew it was the perfect time. I saw Toprak was there so I thought the last ten laps would be with him. I exited the pit box and had a much better stop than Toprak and I could ride to my pit board.”

The victory ended a long run of races without winning for the six-time Champion, whose last victory came during the Estoril Round in May when he won Race 2. It ended a run of 181 days and 24 races without victory for Rea, his longest in terms of race wins since 2012-13 when racing with Honda machinery. It also meant he became the first rider in WorldSBK to have a winning career spanning more than 13 years, now totaling 13 years, four months and 29 days.

Discussing the long wait to end his win drought, Rea added: “It’s nice, it’s really nice more than anything to win. It’s not something I’ve really been dwelling on since the beginning of the season because the season’s been so challenging. Alvaro and Toprak have been so good so there’s no point in me getting disappointed or feeling sorry for myself. We’re getting beaten now by guys who are riding very well and manufacturers that are pushing really hard. It’s motivating to keep working, to keep following them and keep challenging myself and my team. I think we’re doing a really good job. Hopefully we can roll this momentum on to tomorrow and finish the season really strongly.”

Can Rea repeat his success on Sunday? Find out using the WorldSBK VideoPass!