Jonathan Rea 'having nightmares' over long straight and Ducati top-speed edge ahead of World Superbike round at Estoril
Jonathan Rea admits he’s ‘having nightmares’ about the long straight at Estoril in Portugal going into the third round of the World Superbike Championship this weekend.
The Kawasaki rider is concerned by the top-speed advantage of Ducati’s Alvaro Bautista as he weighs up his prospects, although Rea feels some areas of the track also play to the strengths of his Ninja ZX-10RR.
With an 18-point deficit to Spaniard Bautista after the first two rounds, who capitalised when Rea and reigning world champion Toprak Razgatlioglu had a coming together in the final race at Assen last time out, the 35-year-old is hoping to reduce the gap, starting in Saturday's opening race (14:00 BST).
“We were very average at Estoril in 2020 but last year I was much better,” Rea told the News Letter.
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“The start/finish straight is nearly a kilometre long so I’m already having nightmares about that, but the rest of the track has quite a few twists and turns, which should play into our strengths as well.
“Let’s see, but of course it is never easy giving away so much top speed to Ducati right now, but I think in terms of fighting, we’ll be able to have a bike that will fight to the end.
“So far we’ve had two very different circuits – Aragon has heavy braking and Assen is much more flowing, and our bike was pretty good on both with different set-ups, so I feel good,” he added.
“Race two in Assen didn’t go as expected and it was really frustrating to lose points, but we’re right there.
“I remember the fight I had with Alvaro in 2019 – I couldn’t fight in those first couple of races, I was just picking up points, whereas this year I can fight and win.
“I’ve won three this year and Alvaro’s won three, so let’s move onto Estoril now.”
Rea has made a strong start to the season as he bids for a seventh world crown.
The Northern Ireland rider feels his team successfully addressed the ‘weak points’ of his Kawasaki throughout pre-season testing and the six-time champion certainly appeared to be able to ride the bike exactly how he wanted to at Motorland Aragon and Assen.
“I don’t like to say too much because it’s very early in the season and I don’t want it to bite me, but I feel like we really have made a step,” said Rea.
“So far I feel really confident on the bike and it’s a bike that I can fight with on track – it’s very nimble but also very stable.
“So I’ve got to thank my team for pulling out all the stops and technically last year we were dealt a massive curve ball [with a late RPM reduction] and of course that RPM handicap is still coming into account this year.
“But we left no other stone unturned in our preparations with everything else on the bike, like chassis-wise, electronics, tyre consumption – we’ve addressed all our little weak points from last year that we could see on track battling with Scott Redding and Toprak.”
Rea was sixth fastest in FP1 at Estoril, 1.1s down on pacesetter Garrett Gerloff on the GRT Yamaha.
Razgatlioglu slotted into second on the Pata Yamaha, 0.2s back, with championship leader Bautista a further 0.3s adrift of American Gerloff.
Eugene Laverty was seventh quickest on the Bonovo Action BMW.