Round 3 WorldSBK Estoril, Portugal, Race 2

The earlier Superpole race saw Rea (KRT Kawasaki), claim his first win of the weekend, followed by Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha) and Bautista (Aruba.it Ducati).

WorldSBK Estoril 22.05.2022 Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team

Lights out for race 2, and it’s Toprak with the hole shot, followed by Rea 2nd, Locatelli (Pata Yamaha) 3rd, Bautista 4th, Leucona (Honda HRC) 5th and Rinaldi (Aruba.it Ducati) 6th. And then drama as light rain began to fall – would this have a bearing on the race?

Next lap, and Rea again showing good pace, takes over the lead from Toprak. His team mate, Lowes, was showing good early pace too and moved up into 5th, and then quickly into 4th moving through on Lecuona, setting a fastest lap of 1:37.222 in the process.

With 18 laps of 21 remaining, it was Lowes with another fastest lap this time 1:37.039, and moved past Bautista with a neat pass. Both the ZX10-RR machines were looking quick in the early stages of the race. Positions were as follows; 1. Rea 2. Razgatlioglu 3. Lowes 4. Bautista 5. Lecuona 6. Locatelli 7. Rinaldi 8. Vierge (Honda HRC) 9. Bassani (Motocorsa Ducati) 10. Redding (BMW Motorrad).

WorldSBK Estoril 22.05.2022 Lecuona Picture courtesy of Honda Racing Corporation

With 13 laps to go, a group of 4 riders had splintered away from the others, with Locatelli trailing by 2s back in 5th. Positions were as follows; 1. Rea 2. Toprak 3. Lowes 4. Bautista. The former then moves past Lowes to take 3rd. The good news was the earlier light rain had stopped, with the track remaining dry.

With 11 laps to go, as he had in race 1, Bautista was showing good late race pace, and used the top end grunt of the Ducati to overtake both Rea and Toprak down the straight and into turn 1, moving from 3rd into the lead. Meanwhile further back, Bassani was having a decent race and was now up to 7th.

Next lap, and Rea comes through on Bautista, after the Spaniard made a mistake running wide and missing the apex. Rea had gone with the softer tyre option, and it looked to be a valid choice, as the Irishman set a new fastest lap of 1:37.751.

WorldSBK Estoril 22.05.2022 Vierge Picture courtesy of Honda Racing Corporation

With 8 laps to go, Bautista again using the top end speed of the Ducati, powers past Rea to retake the lead into turn 1. Further back it was 10. Redding 12. Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) and 13. Nozane (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK).

With 6 laps to go, the leading group was now down to 3, as Lowes went off the track briefly, losing contact in the process. The win looked likely to be fought out amongst the leading group of Rea, Toprak and Bautista.

With 2 laps to go, it was the turn of Toprak to lose contact with Rea and Bautista, after the reigning champion made a mistake and ran wide, seemingly struggling with tyre grip again.

WorldSBK Estoril 22.05.2022 Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team

Last lap, and Rea was all over the back of Bautista, he made his move into the chicane, cutting under the Ducati to take the lead. He held the slim gap into the final sector, and crossed the line to take his 2nd win of the day, and his 117 career win to date. 2nd Bautista, 3rd Toprak, 4th Lowes, 5th Locatelli, 6th Lecuona, 7th Bassani, 8th, Rinaldi, 9th Vierge.

Result top 5:

  1. Rea (KRT Kawasaki)
  2. Bautista (Aruba.it Ducati)
  3. Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha)
  4. Lowes (KRT Kawasaki)
  5. Locatelli (Pata Yamaha)

Championship top 3:

  1. Bautista – 161 pts
  2. Rea – 144
  3. Razgatlioglu – 109

Round 3 WorldSBK Estoril, Portugal, Race 1

With the extended break, it was a welcome return to action back on track. The skies were grey and gloomy, but the racing was white hot. Rea (KRT Kawasaki) would claim the Superpole with a fastest lap of 1:35.346, followed by Razagatlioglu (Pata Yamaha) and Bautista (aruba.It Ducati) in 2nd and 3rd respectively.

WSBK Estoril Race 1 Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team

Lights out and it was Razgatlioglu with the hole shot into turn 1 followed by Rea, Locatelli (Pata Yamaha), Bautista and Lowes (KRT Kawasaki). Mercado (MIE Racing Honda) crashed out, and his race was over.

With 20 laps to go, it was Toprak and Rea setting a very quick pace, and they were already pulling out a gap to the group of Locatelli and Bautista behind. Rea had gone with the harder tyre option and was able to match the pace of Toprak on the softer tyre, Rea setting a fastest lap of 1:36.258. Then drama into turn 6, Rea ran into the back of Toprak making contact with his rear tyre, but both riders were able to stay upright. The gap to Locatelli in 3rd was now at 1.0s.

With 18 laps to go Redding was again showing an improvement on the BMW, and was in 5th. Bautista used the top end speed of his Ducati to blast past Locatelli down the straight and took over 3rd. Meanwhile at the front both Toprak and Rea were still very much locked in battle, with only a gap of 0.5s between them.

With 16 laps to go, Razgatlioglu who was giving everything, ran too hot into turn 3, allowing Rea to come through and take the lead. Positions were as follows: 1. Rea 2. Razgatlioglu 3. Bautista 4. Locatelli 5. Redding (BMW Motorrad) 6. Lecuona (Honda HRC) 7. Vierge (Honda HRC) 8. Lowes.

With 14 laps to go Toprak out brakes Rea into turn 1 to retake the lead. Bautista was struggling to match the pace of the two at the front.

With 12 laps out of 21 remaining, it was now Rea who out braked Toprak again into turn 1, and took over the lead. Neither rider was giving an inch, and you felt the race win would be fought out between the two of them. Bautista had distanced Locatelli, and was having a lonely ride in 3rd. Meanwhile further back it was Laverty (Bonovo action BMW) in 13th and Nozane (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) in 14th.

Next lap, and Toprak retakes the lead, again it’s into turn 1. Bautista was 1.7s behind in 3rd.

WSBK Estoril Race 1 Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team

Just over half race distance, and Rea responds yet again, retaking the lead again into turn 1. This was becoming one of the all time great battles between Rea and Toprak, with the lead changing virtually every lap. Meanwhile Bautista was finding good late race pace, and set a new fastest lap of 1:36.7. The Spaniard wasn’t out of contention for the race win yet.

Next lap and the battle between Toprak and Rea showed no sign of ending, and yes, you guessed it, Toprak retook the lead into turn 1, both riders leaving braking to the very latest possible into the corner.

With 8 laps of 21 remaining, Rea again stuffs his ZX10-RR under the Yamaha R1 of Toprak, again it’s turn 1, and he retakes the lead. This battle looked to be going down to the wire. Meanwhile further back there was a 3 way battle for 5th between Redding, and the Honda team mates of Lecuona and Vierge. Bautista however, had now closed the gap to Toprak to 1.0s.

Next lap and once again the lead changed hands, this time the reigning champion retakes the lead, again it’s turn 1. The constant battle between Rea and Toprak had allowed Bautista to catch them, and he was now 0.4s behind, and was looking to have managed his tyres well.

With 6 laps to go, Rea was pushing hard, and ran wide into turn 1, allowing Bautista to come past and into 2nd. The Spaniard now had Toprak in his sights, and was looking quick. Meanwhile further back, Lecuona had got past Redding, and was now in 5th.

With 4 laps to go, Toprak held a gap of 0.4s to Bautista. Rea looked to have completely lost tyre grip, and was losing contact with the two at the front. Meanwhile further back it was Lowes in 8th, Baz (Bonovo action BMW) 9th and Rinaldi (aruba.it Ducati) in 10th.

With 2 laps remaining, Bautista was all over the back of Toprak and looking for the pass. The hard battle between Rea and Razgatlioglu had taken a toll on the tyres, and both of them were now struggling with limited grip in the closing stages of the race.

WSBK Estoril Race 1 Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team

Last lap, and Toprak was desperately still trying to keep Bautista at bay. Into the final corner, and Bautista got the drive out of the corner to power past Toprak and pip him to the line. Toprak looked disgusted and shook his head, but Bautista had judged the race to perfection using all of his experience to claim the win. Top ten positions were as follows: 1. Bautista 2. Razgatlioglu 3. Rea 4. Locatelli 5. Vierge 6. Lecuona 7. Lowes 8. Redding 9. Rinaldi 10. Baz. If the Superpole race and race 2 are anything as exciting as this one, race fans are in for a treat.

Result Top 5:

  1. Bautista (aruba.it Ducati)
  2. Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha)
  3. Rea (KRT Kawasaki)
  4. Locatelli (Pata Yamaha)
  5. Vierge (Honda HRC)

Top 3 championship:

  1. Bautista 134
  2. Rea 107
  3. Razgatlioglu 84

 

 

 

IMPORTANT PORTIMAO TEST NEXT UP FOR KRT’s WorldSBK TEAM

KRT’s WorldSBK pairing of Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes are eager to get back into testing action at the undulating Autódromo Internacional do Algarve for a two-day track session on 8 and 9 February.  Here’s what KRT have to say:

Alex Lowes Picture courtesy of KRT Provec Racing

After two winter tests at the Spanish circuit of Jerez, utilising new parts and settings for the 2022 Ninja ZX-10RR, the forthcoming on-track action in Portugal will be useful to make comparisons with all the data gathered so far at a very different circuit design.

After posting some astounding lap times, despite only riding for half a day in the previous Jerez test in January, six times world champion Rea has already demonstrated his sheer pace on the 2022 Ninja ZX-10RR. He also had the opportunity to complete a long run on which delivered pleasing results and valuable information to his team; information which has already been fed back to the KMC engineers in Japan.

Lowes has been working hard on his physical conditioning after a 2021 season affected by injury throughout. Like Rea, he has also found the two post-2021 season winter tests held so far confidence-building and useful in terms of settling on a final direction for race set-up in 2022.

The 4.592km long Algarve circuit – commonly know as Portimao – is a very popular testing and racing venue and features some of the most dramatic changes of incline and highest numbers of blind corner entries of any circuit on the WorldSBK calendar. It is scheduled as the ninth round of the forthcoming season, between 7-9 October.

After this Portimao test the team should have all the data in requires to make any adjustments and improvements before the next KRT test at Montmelo in Catalunya on March 25 and 26.

Jonathan Rea Picture courtesy of KRT Provec Racing

STATEMENTS:

Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team Rider): “It is nice to get back on the bike, especially at Portimao, which a track I enjoy. After our shakedown test recently in Jerez our biggest target is to reconfirm the positive items we have tested during December and January. That will give us good info, because if we can confirm these items at a couple of circuits, it means we are on the right way. The idea is just to keep building the package. I feel we have definitely improved the bike since last year. I was able to make a long run in Jerez and we found some positives with the bike and my riding style, so it is important to try and maybe focus on getting some information on how the tyres behave and the new items after many laps. Hopefully the weather is consistent and we can continue to build the package to start the season. There will also be more bikes on track at Portimao and a lot of the key manufacturers will be there testing. This is the first real test where everyone is together – which is always nice to draw some comparisons.”

Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team Rider): “The recent Jerez test for me was very much a technical test, ticking off new parts. My crew chief Marcel is very technical so I had new stuff to try – just trying to analyse what is definitely better. Portimao is a track that I have always had a good feeling with on the Kawasaki and we have a good base set-up with our 2021 bike. So, to compare new parts will be quite good, because we already have a good feeling. If we can improve that with the new stuff then it should set us up well for the year. Trying stuff at two different tracks means that if it is positive at both tracks then you are a lot more confident committing to that base set-up going into a new season. It is going to be a busy test! I would like to ride as much as possible just to get back into it. I have been working really hard on my physical condition since the end of the season. That has been the biggest focus of mine because I know if I am going to be healthy it is going to make the biggest difference, no matter what changes we make on the bike. We will make a plan with Marcel in terms of how many days we are going to ride. After this test we have a big break so we are really going to have to be clear with the feedback to all the guys in Japan, and to all the engineers within the teams, so we can work hard in the break before the Montmelo test at the end of March. Portimao will be an important test and I am looking forward to getting out and seeing where we are compared to a few of our rivals.”

Guim Roda (KRT Team Manager): “Initially we didn’t have a plan to test in Portimao, because we were considering to make a test in the middle of the year. But, because we had a few points to check on the bike, we would like to compare them on different tracks. Portimao and Jerez are quite different. Also, we have a gap of one month to keep working before the next Montmelo test, ten days before the first race of the year. So, we considered this opportunity at Portimao was a good point to test again. So we joined with Ducati, who had rented the track, to make this test. For us, this is a kind of continuation of the items we tested at Jerez, to double check and confirm the direction of the bike set-up and the performance of the items we have received so far. We will do this so that we can have the best possible bike set-up, in combination with the riders.”

Kawasaki Racing Team Press Release ahead of second winter test

JEREZ TEST AWAITS KAWASAKI RIDERS

At the beginning of a new calendar year the official Kawasaki Racing Team will take part in a second Spanish winter test, between 26 – 27 January, with regular WorldSBK pairing of Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes eager to get back into action.

Picture courtesy of Provec Racing

The second pre-season test in preparation for the 2022 FIM Superbike World Championship will take place at the 4.423km long Circuito de Jerez Angel Nieto.

Always a popular testing venue, Jerez hosted on-track session just a few weeks ago that allowed Alex and Jonathan to evaluate some new items and settings on their official Ninja ZX-10RR WorldSBK race machines.

The purpose of this forthcoming test is to evaluate all elements of machine performance after off-season developments have been carried out, largely based on feedback from the December tests.

Six times world champion Rea has the clear mission to regain his world champion status again after finishing runner up by just 13 points last year. Having come so close to a seventh championship win Rea is as motivated as ever to find the small margins that will help him to regain his crown in 2022.

For Lowes this next Jerez test is another chance to get his 2022 preparations underway in a consistent way. This is of particular importance after a 2021 campaign that was interrupted by injury, especially with so few gaps in the season long enough to let him recover fully between rounds.

The next KRT pre-season test after Jerez is scheduled for the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, between 8 – 9 February.

Picture courtesy of Provec Racing

STATEMENTS:

Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team Rider): “We have two days planned at Jerez. Depending on the weather forecast, the schedule and how we get on, we may choose to use one of them and save another for later in the year. We had a very productive test at Jerez at the end of last year, so it is always good to go back and draw comparisons. The guys back at the KRT workshop, and KMC, have had a chance to go over all that data and try to improve. We will understand the results in a few days. I have been at home, really recharging my batteries. I haven’t travelled at all since my last test so it has been really productive from a preparation point of view. I am feeling refreshed and now I’m looking forward to riding again and seeing the guys.”

Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team Rider): : “I am really excited to get back to work for 2022. I’ve taken a good rest over the holidays and enjoyed some time with the new family. Now I’m feeling fresh and ready to get back to it with ‘Team 22.’ I’m interested to test some of the new stuff Marcel, my crew chief, and the guys have been working on since our last test and start building up towards the new season.”

Guim Roda (KRT Team Manager): “The forthcoming Jerez test is the first track experience of the new year. After a long winter we all have a big motivation to start our engines and go into race mode. After last December’s test KMC has been working with the inputs we gave them. We have been polishing some points to check how competitive we can be compared to 2021. Alex has had time to recover quite well and Johnny is working more than ever to start stronger in the 2022 season. We need to define many small details that we need to make some upgrades on the final race package of the Ninja ZX-10RR in 2022. Let’s see how it goes at this test.”

Jonathan Rea – The Art of Psychological Racing

As the great Julian Ryder once said about racing at the highest level: “Talent will get you onto the stage, but winning is a matter between the ears”.

Jonathan Rea at Aragon 2020. Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK

It is quite possible that Jonathan Rea has modelled his WorldSBK career on that line, and then some.

In 2020, given all the uncertainty that has gone with it, this attribute was overlooked by TV broadcasters (and in the interests of outright entertainment of the viewers, perhaps rightly so). However, as the dust has now settled on the season, it is high time to salute this remarkable, and ruthless attribute in Jonathan Rea’s arsenal:

The ability to read and control the championship.

Whilst Rea’s detractors will often highlight his supposed lack of charisma, however they cannot criticise or belittle his ability to know exactly what is needed to be done on track in any given scenario.

Few have the ability and it is the preserve of only the greatest champions: think Mick Doohan, Valentino Rossi or Carl Fogarty in the motorbike world – Michael Schumacher and Alain Prost from Formula 1. Jonathan Rea is the same.

They do not “see red” when a rival overtakes them. They do not panic and adopt a “win it or bin it” attitude. They can even accept that some days they will not be spraying the champagne on the podium.

That last one may come as a surprise to some, but it is true.

Michael van der Mark, Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes at Magny-Cours WSBK 2019. Image courtesy of Yamaha Racing

Immediate glory on the track, these few know, pales in comparison to lifting the championship trophy at the end of the season. Their place in the standings is the only thing that matters.  It consoles them, when a race weekend heads south. You can see it in their eyes and hear it in their voices when they give answers either on the grid or in the interviews in the build up to race day.  They are fixated on it. It’s the obsession which pushes them further than the others.

This ability has been showcased on multiple occasions throughout Rea’s career. Perhaps the most clear example came in 2019. Whilst all and sundry had written off his title chances, after Alvaro Bautista’s incredible run of 13 wins from the opening 16 races, Rea’s head never dropped. By ensuring that he constantly mopped up the next best places, he had put himself in prime position to catch Bautista as an when the Spaniard’s incredible run came to an end.

The patience and discipline shown in sticking to what needed to be done ensured that, despite Bautista’s early-season dominance, Rea was never more than a couple of victories away from taking the lead in the championship.  Once that happened, Rea hit the racers’ zenith. Such was the confidence in himself and his team, it was inevitable he’d hit his own ‘purple patch’

As has been the case for the past three seasons – Chaz Davies(left) is the only rider who can challenge Jonathan Rea (right) for the title.

In 2020, the championship battle required a different tactic. With the Kawasaki being more competitive at the start of the season, Rea was able to trade early-season victories with Scott Redding. Once his rival faltered and a gap in the standings had been established, Rea defaulted to prioritising scoring only as many points as he needed to keep Redding behind. He was content enough to let other riders go up the road, safe in the knowledge that his rival could not score sufficient points to make any meaningful inroads (if any at all) to his lead.

Described like that, it is a brutal suffocation of his rivals. Yet there is a fine art to it – and is very difficult to spot on track. Certainly to a casual observer. Rea has to always ensure that his rival (Redding in 2020, Tom Sykes in 2015) finished behind him.

You cannot afford to ride slow with this tactic, let’s make that clear.

If someone puts together a string of qualifying-style laps in an attempt to break away from the field, Rea uses his judgement to let them go. He has a target pace to ride to, with a small margin to increase pace should he need to recover places later in the race.

Many riders attempt to employ this tactic. Few succeed. Even fewer succeed year after year. As racing goes, this is psychological warfare: Grind down your opponent until he believes you are always that little bit better or faster than him. When a rival cracks – as Sykes and Redding did respectively – it looks sudden and spectacular as the defeated challenger loses heart and finds himself falling back through the field – or worse crashing out.

This kind of moment ensures that race result which ultimately seals the championship, but it has taken weeks, sometimes months to grind the opponent down to such a state.

Jonathan Rea Celebrating his six WSBK titles. Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK

You cannot pull that off overnight. Neither can you be taught it. A state of mind. You have to be utterly ruthless with your opponent – yet at the same time make it so subtle very few can spot what you’re doing until its too late.

Jonathan Rea – a true master of his art.

Ed Hocknull

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