What cost Rea a victory chance in wet weather thriller at Phillip Island?
The six-time Champion was leading during the first half of the race before being overtaken by reigning Champion Alvaro Bautista on Lap 10
After the thrilling battles of 2022, the action in the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship continued at the season-opening Grand Ridge Brewery Australian Round at the iconic Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit. The race turned into a battle between Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) and Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) with the Spaniard coming out on top after a stunning pass on Lap 10 of 22, with Rea finishing the first race of 2023 in second place.
Rea moved into the lead of the race on the opening lap when he passed Bautista at Turn 10 and was able to pull out a gap of around one second during the early stages of the race before reigning Champion Bautista started reeling in Rea. The race-deciding move came at Turn 3 on Lap 10 when Bautista overtook Rea on the inside of the high-speed left-hander of Stoner Corner. Bautista pulled away but had a huge slide a few laps later which allowed Rea to close the gap before the Spaniard pulled away again to win by more than three seconds.
During the race, Rea could be seen closing the throttle while upshifting after Bautista had overtaken him and throughout the last laps of the race as he dropped back to finish second. In his parc ferme interview, Rea touched on the subject when he said: “I had some difficulties out on the track but, setup wise, the bike was faultless. The conditions were very difficult. We need to find out the solution to this little issue we had during the race. I’m sure it definitely hindered us quite a bit, especially in the braking and on the long straights on the gear shifts."
Speaking after the race, he expanded further on this and said: “I don’t know exactly what happened as I’ve just got back from parc ferme. I couldn’t change gears or backshift the way I wanted so it was back to old school riding. I had to re-learn how to ride the bike especially when braking. That was the hardest thing. Generally, I have to use my clutch to help but my clutch lever’s here for the start because I had my brake lever in place. It was one of those… it wasn’t the most beautiful riding style but I got to the end so pretty happy with that. We’ll analyse what happened.”
Rea was still able to finish in second place, ahead of Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) in third, to claim his 246th career podium. It was also a history-making race for Rea as he started his 378th race in WorldSBK, surpassing the 377 Troy Corser started in his career. It means Rea became the all-time race starter in WorldSBK and could hit 400 race starts in 2023 as he sits just 22 starts down from that milestone.
On the history he made, Rea said: “I feel great! Honestly, physically, I’m in a great moment. I feel experienced. I started this journey in 2008 in WorldSSP and then WorldSBK in 2009, so I feel blessed to have this job. Really fortunate to work with great people. I’ve met so many friends in this journey. I owe WorldSBK a lot and I’ve contributed to it as well.”
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