World Superbikes: Jonathan Rea hails 'incredible' title fight
Jonathan Rea says he is embracing his absorbing battle for the World Superbike title with Toprak Razgatlioglu.
Only a single point separates the championship protagonists at the top heading into Saturday’s opening race at round 10 at Jerez in Spain, with Pata Yamaha rider Razgatlioglu holding a slim advantage in the points standings.
Rea is engaged in the toughest defence of his world crown to date as the 34-year-old strives for an incredible seventh successive title, but the gritty Northern Ireland rider is spurred on by the challenge he faces from his Turkish rival.
“It’s been incredible, lots of good moments, tough moments, and lots of twists and turns in the championship,” said Rea.
“It’s cool – we’re fighting and we’ve had lots of good battles on track, and I’m looking forward to continuing this weekend in Jerez.”
The Spanish circuit might not be the strongest of venues for Rea in comparison to his stellar track record at Assen or Portimao for example, but Rea is focused only on the present as he attempts to overturn the deficit this weekend and return to the championship summit.
“I’d be happy with three race wins – that’s clear!,” said Rea.
“But we have to see how the weekend builds up. The trends of the past never really matter when we’re in the present.
“I was terrible in Estoril in 2020 and this year I was very strong there, so I think we’ll just focus on what we’ve learned this season with our bike and I feel in a really good way.”
Reflecting on the previous round at Catalunya in Barcelona, Rea said he was ‘relieved’ when the weekend was over after struggling with a rear-end issue with the Kawasaki ZX-10RR.
“I was quite relieved after Catalunya because I was quite stressed during the post-race briefings as I didn’t understand any data,” he said.
“We had a clear issue with the rear of the bike and it was hard, because I felt like I was fighting in that race with my hands tied behind my back.
“But we showed how competitive we could be in the Superpole race over the weekend and I think we did a good job, I felt more comfortable with the bike.
“In the wet [opening] race, we didn’t have the best compromise of set-up but during those situations it’s so difficult to make a set-up on the grid.
“We didn’t maximise our full potential but I think we can be satisfied.”
Fellow Northern Ireland rider Eugene Laverty returns this weekend in the BMW Motorrad team as a replacement for Tom Sykes, who suffered concussion in a crash last weekend at Catalunya.
Laverty hasn’t raced in almost three months after his RC Squadra Corse BMW team took time out from the sport due to internal problems.
“First of all I’d like to wish Tom well in his recovery,” Laverty said.
“I’m very excited to get back racing after almost three months on the sidelines. BMW have made big strides forward with the M1000RR lately and I’m keen to see where we’re at.
“I’ve really missed that feeling of being on the grid so I can’t wait to get stuck in on Saturday.”
Meanwhile, Welshman Chaz Davies has announced he will retire from the sport at the end of this season.
Davies, who is riding for the Team Go Eleven Ducati squad this season, finished as the runner-up in World Superbikes in 2015, 2017 and 2018. Davies also won the World Supersport title in 2011.
Race one at Jerez on Saturday is due at 13:00 BST with Sunday’s Superpole race at 10:00 BST and race two at 13:00 BST.