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

Moto2 Pre-race Briefing by Triumph Motorcycles

Moto2 Pre-race Briefing 
2020 Round 15AlgarvePortugal20-22 November
 

A look back to the last race – Valencia Grand Prix

  • Jorge Martin took his second Moto2 victory of the season (and his second ever using Triumph power) last weekend in the closest race of the season, decided by just 0.07 seconds 
  • With erstwhile series leader Sam Lowes crashing early in the weekend and rescuing just two points, Enea Bastianini extended his title lead to 14 points with only 25 remaining 
  • Further demonstrating the closeness of competition, during the race four riders set exactly the same fastest top speed of 279.5km/h 

Winner: JMartin #88 Pole position: 1m 34.418SManzi #62 

Fastest lap: 1m 35.291, H. Garzo #40 Top speed: 279.5km/h, M. Ramirez (Race) 

Race lap record1m 34.820, T. Luthi (2019) Circuit best: 1m 34.418SManzi (2020) 

 

Enea Bastianini, Moto2 race, Valencia MotoGP, 15 November 2020. Picture courtesy of Triumph

A look to this coming race – Grand Prix of Portugal 

  • The final round of the 2020 championship will be the first ever Moto2 grand prix powered by Triumph to be held at the Algarve International Circuit, also known as Portimao 
  • With a lack of previous data, the final race could throw some surprises up, not least because mathematically the top four riders all have a chance of sealing the title 
  • The 4.6km circuit features a 969m straight which is the third longest of the season and drops downhill into turn one, and with the long sweeping final corner could we see another 300+ km/h top speed? The current record starts at 301.8km/h, set at Australia’s Phillip Island in 2019 

Triumph Triple Trophy #PoweredbyTriumph 

  • Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46) is the first winner of the Triumph Triple Trophy! 
  • He’s scored points at nine races this season, including the doubles of top speed and pole in Jerez and top speed and fastest lap in Austria 
  • On Thursday in Portugal, he will be presented with his prize of a custom Triumph Triple Trophy-liveried Street Triple RS, which boasts the 765cc triple from which the Moto2 engine is derived 

About the Triumph Triple Trophy #PoweredbyTriumph 

  • The Triumph Triple Trophy #PoweredbyTriumph runs alongside the Moto2 World Championship in 2020recognising that there are more stories of success from a GP than simply the race win, and will award one rider with a Street Triple RS at the end of the season 
  • Points will be awarded to the one rider at the top of each of these categories (or multiple riders in the case of a tie): fastest top speed of the weekend, pole position, and fastest race lap 
  • Fastest top speed: 7 points for the fastest rider / riders in case of a tie
  • Pole position: 6 points for the rider on pole
  • Fastest race lap: 5 points for the fastest rider / riders in case of a tie 

The Triumph Moto2™ 765cc race engine is a development of the class-leading Street Triple RS 765cc road motorcycle and produces more than 140PS and the same visceral soundtrack.

Jorge Martin, Moto2 race, Valencia MotoGP, 15 November 2020. Picture courtesy of Triumph

2020 Moto2 World Championship top ten: 

Pos  Race #  Rider  Chassis  Engine  Nation  Points 
1  33  E. Bastianini  Kalex  Triumph 765cc  ITA  194 
2  22  S. Lowes  Kalex  Triumph 765cc  GBR  180 
3  10  L. Marini  Kalex  Triumph 765cc  ITA  176 
4  72  M. Bezzecchi  Kalex  Triumph 765cc  ITA  171 
5  88  J. Martin  Kalex  Triumph 765cc  SPA  150 
6  87  R. Gardner  Kalex  Triumph 765cc  AUS  110 
7  45  T. Nagashima  Kalex  Triumph 765cc  JPN  89 
8  16  J. Roberts  Kalex  Triumph 765cc  USA  85 
9  23  MSchrotter  Kalex  Triumph 765cc  GER  77 
10  97  X. Vierge  Kalex  Triumph 765cc  SPA  73 

 

2020 standings – Triumph Triple Trophy #PoweredbyTriumph: 

Pos  Race #  Rider  Nation  Points  Team 
 1  72   M. Bezzecchi  ITA  74   Sky Racing Team VR46 
 2  10   L. Marini  ITA  30   Sky Racing Team VR46 
 3  22   S. Lowes  GBR  27   EG 0,0 Marc VDS 
 4  33   E. Bastianini  ITA  24   Italtrans Racing Team 
 5  88   J. Martin  SPA  23   Red Bull KTM Ajo 
 6  42   M. Ramirez  SPA  21   American Racing 
 7  16   J. Roberts  USA  18   American Racing 
 8  12   T. Luthi  SWI  14   Liqui Moly Intact GP 
 –  99   K. Daniel  MAL  14   Onexox TKKR SAG Team 
 10  97   X. Vierge  SPA  13   PETRONAS Sprinta Racing 
 –  62   S. Manzi  ITA  13   MV Agusta Forward Racing 
 12  87   R. Gardner  AUS  12   Onexox TKKR SAG 
 13  45   T. Nagashima  JPN  10   Red Bull KTM Ajo 
 –  40   H. Garzo  SPA  10   Flexbox HP40 
 15  23   M. Schrotter  GER  7   Liqui Moly Intact GP 

Silverstone Circuit to be resurfaced ahead of 2019 British Grand Prix

The Silverstone race track is to be resurfaced in June ahead of both the F1 and MotoGP races.

The news comes as bosses of both Silverstone and F1 desperately scrap to come to an agreement to keep the F1 race alive at Silverstone, and try to avoid the British GP moving to a different and perhaps less favourable home.

Situated on the site of what used to be a military airbase converted into a race track in the 1940s, Silverstone has been the sole home of the British Grand Prix since 1987, having alternated with Brands Hatch and Aintree prior to that.

Last year saw a resurfacing job completed on the track ahead of the start of the F1 season. Now, another resurfacing will be completed just a month before the Formula One race towards the end of June, and two months before the MotoGP race in August.

2018 British Grand Prix, Sunday – Wolfgang Wilhelm

So, why the same job twice in as many years? You may remember the MotoGP race that was supposed to take place in August last year, but never did. Race day brought with it typically British weather, and alleged drainage problems meant the rainwater could not be cleared. As such, the race could not be contested or even rescheduled, and travelling fans had to be reimbursed after what turned out to be a disaster of a weekend for them. The track is thus being resurfaced again to avoid the same problems from occurring this year.

The source of the funding for this year’s job is as yet, according to Silverstone managing director Stuart Pringle, uncertain. There is still an ongoing investigation as to whether Aggregate Industries – the company who surfaced the track last year – were at fault for the cancellation of the 2018 MotoGP race, and therefore should have to compensate for this year’s job, or whether the Silverstone circuit will have to fund it themselves.

If Silverstone has to pay for the job itself, it will be a huge dent in its plans to host the race beyond its current deal which expires this year. Last year’s MotoGP cancellation cost Silverstone a huge amount of money, and having to pay for a job they feel should be paid for by the company whose alleged poor drainage cost them will result in struggles to pay the F1 race hosting fees beyond this year.

The Silverstone management is not the only disgruntled party. Lewis Hamilton described the 2018 resurfacing as ‘the worst job ever,’ so all was not well even before the MotoGP disaster of August.

Ferrari Media

In terms of the racing, the change in surface will mean that the track will not be rubbered in and there will be no racing line, resulting in less grip. Therefore, the lap times over the course of the weekend will take longer to fall as the drivers try to find traction.

There is, however, another potential plot twist. Stuart Pringle was quoted as saying that he ‘hopes’ the job will be complete ahead of the F1 Grand Prix. Missing the race would be another big hit in terms of revenue, and it would mean that F1 would have to search for a new home for the race. British GT will be the last event run before the F1  race, and several club meetings have already been cancelled to accommodate the job. They will be hoping and praying the track will be ready for F1’s British Grand Prix weekend between the 12-14 July.

The race is an extremely popular one for the fans, drivers, and teams alike. The campsites along with by the ample grassland allow for fans to enjoy barbecues over the course of the weekend. The track is vastly expansive and the Maggotts, Becketts and Chapel complex is truly a sight to behold.

Because of the popularity of the track, it would be nice for F1’s British Grand Prix to stick around in Northamptonshire for a few years yet, but the resurfacing job really is just the surface of the many issues the Silverstone track faces in 2019.

 

[Featured image – Andrew Hone]