Jonathan Rea: We made a lot of mistakes yet still fought for the title last season - that fills me with positivity
It’s been a hard few years for everyone with the restrictions on people’s lives because of Covid and looking back now to 2020, it’s actually kind of hard to believe the limitations we all faced.
I just hope that things can get back to normal for everyone this year because it has been pretty depressing when you flick on the news channels for so long now.
When the first lockdown came in during 2020, I actually quite enjoyed the time at home because I never really got a break before. The weather was great and we were fortunate enough to have a back garden, so we were outside playing football with the boys and we had a trampoline for them as well.
But the lockdown last year was pretty hard because it was the same old, and the weather wasn’t so good that time. It was just more doom and gloom and I think now everyone just wants this to be over.
It’s been hard for my wife Tarsh because with her parents living in Australia, where the restrictions are very strict, it will have been two years this February since she last saw them, going back to 2020 when we had the first round of the championship at Phillip Island right before the first lockdown.
Tarsh had actually booked to go back to see her mum and dad in early January, but with all the uncertainties we had to cancel. But we’re looking forward to hopefully going out there at the end of this season over the Christmas period, and in the meantime I think her mum and dad are going to come to Europe, which would be nice, and hang out.
Tarsh is an absolute rock because I drift in and out of being at home and then being away for long periods during a season. As an average, you’d spend 100 nights away from home and that’s a long time, but I guess it’s what we know. In these times of Covid it’s been hard to travel all together and the kids are in school now too, which is an important routine for them, so we have to pick and choose the races they can go to.
The championship has been strange over these past two seasons as well because of the impact of Covid, and last year we had a late start and a late finish. This year, we start in early April and it should be a more normal calendar.
A couple of my weaker circuits on the calendar aren’t included this season; I always enjoyed Jerez but my results there were never so good, and also Navarra is off the calendar – a circuit I really didn’t enjoy last year. So the calendar looks strong for us and I’m really excited about it.
I think in the back of my head it really helps my mental preparation because of all the hype around Toprak (Razgatlioglu). He’s a talented rider, but there are lots of talented riders on that grid. He put together a really good season last year and he had some misfortune along the way out of his control, but aside from that he was solid all year.
By contrast, I didn’t have a solid season at all and we made mistakes – I made a lot of mistakes – and we faced some technical difficulties and made some bad decisions about set-up direction at times. But yet we went to the last round of the championship and fought to within 13 points of the title, so that in itself fills me with positivity going into this year.
It’s really hard to improve when we have been the reference for the previous six years. But last year when Toprak came strongly with Yamaha, we would go to some races where I could see that he was doing some things that I couldn’t do with the bike, so you can focus on some of those things – such as trying to brake even deeper and turn in with the rear wheel in the air, which is something I can’t do right now.
But we can’t just magically find power, which was our biggest handicap last season in terms of straight-line speed, although there are lots of other areas where we can improve. We have already addressed some of those areas straightaway in our first winter test and I felt really good. I’m excited and in some instances there is less pressure because I’m not talked about as the favourite because of the hype surrounding Toprak, so the pressure is firmly on them, especially with talk around his future in MotoGP.
I don’t think it’s going to be just about Toprak and there are a number of riders who could be strong this year, but I know one thing: If I do what I know I can and make good decisions, and remain healthy, then we will fight for a world title again.
Jonathan is a supporter of Aware NI (www.aware-ni.org), a charity whose work has been a vital source of support and comfort to those struggling with mental health issues. The charity’s offices are temporarily closed in line with government restrictions due to coronavirus, but a support line for mental health support and information operates from 11am-3pm from Monday to Friday. Telephone 07548530931 or 07340488254.
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