Jonathan Rea steels himself for critical trio of World Superbike rounds

Jonathan Rea is preparing for an unprecedented challenge as the reigning World Superbike champion steels himself for three back-to-back rounds over the coming weeks at Catalunya, Jerez and Portimao.

Thursday, 16th September 2021, 1:06 pm
Updated Thursday, 16th September 2021, 1:29 pm

It is only the third time in the history of the championship when three successive rounds have be held, and the first time since 1999.

Kawasaki rider Rea is locked in battle with Yamaha’s Toprak Razgatlioglu as he bids for a seventh world crown, with the Turkish challenger leading the way by seven points after eight rounds.

The hectic trio of race weekends, featuring nine races in 16 days, will be pivotal in determining the outcome of this year’s championship, leading up to the penultimate race in Argentina (October 15-17).

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A final round at the new Mandalika circuit in Indonesia is scheduled from November 12-14, although doubts remain over whether this will go ahead due to the Covid-19 pandemic and ongoing construction work at the venue.

Rea will be eager to turn the tables on Razgatlioglu this weekend in Barcelona – the home round of the championship for the Northern Ireland star’s Kawasaki Racing Team – after finishing second behind the Pata Yamaha rider in all three races at Magny-Cours in France two weeks ago.

However, the 34-year-old was declared the winner of the Superpole race in controversial circumstances after Razgatlioglu was penalised for exceeding the track limits following a protest by Kawasaki, demoting him to second place.

The sanction cut Razgatlioglu’s advantage in the title race to seven points and the championship is on a knife-edge heading into round nine this weekend at Catalunya.

Rea, who has won nine races in 2021, became the first rider ever to win a World Superbike race at Catalunya last year when the long-term MotoGP circuit was added to the calendar for the first time.

“It’s exciting to go back to Barcelona, for many reasons,” said Rea.

“I had a win in the first ever World Superbike race there last season and Montmelo is the team’s home round. I spend a lot of time there and even during these Covid times we will have a lot of guests and sponsors there, so it will be even more important to be at 100 per-cent to do the best job we can.

“The circuit’s really nice, I really enjoy it, especially the new Turn 10, which is much more open than the past and the track has more flow now. We have tested there in the summer and we were able to make a good step with our Ninja ZX-10RR.

“It is a circuit that is very critical for tyre wear, so we need to focus on that to be strong at the end of the race,” Rea added.

“I feel good with our bike and I was able to fight in Magny-Cours for the podium and in Barcelona the target will be the same. The championship is very close and now we have three rounds in a row, so it is so important to be strong, but also to be consistent and make no mistakes.

“What happens in these next three weeks will have a big impact on the championship, so I am super-excited to get going.”

Ducati’s Scott Redding also retains an outside chance of winning the title, although last year’s runner-up is 72 points behind Razgatlioglu after a disappointing weekend last time out at Magny-Cours.

Free practice at Catalunya takes place on Friday with Superpole qualifying on Saturday followed by race one (14:15 BST). The Superpole race on Sunday is at 10:00 BST with race two at 14:15 BST.