Niall Mackenzie Column - Aug 2005

Rea of sunshine

Posted: 1 August 2005
by Niall Mackenzie

Niall Mackenzie Column


For a few years it has worried me that bikes have got to a point whereby they are just too powerful and too fast to allow any youngster - 16- to 20-year-olds - to make such a huge jump from even a 600, and ride competitively. In previous eras they could hop onto GP bikes, as did people like Kocinski and Spencer, and be really impressive. But even those bikes are nothing like today's ones, so I was worried that 2005 kids just couldn't do it.

But it was really nice to see Jonathan Rea qualify on pole at Mondello. I watched his style at every corner and he looked great. He obviously didn't go fastest by setting a one-off mad lap; he just looked dead cool and relaxed. It was encouraging to see that a youngster with the right talent and a good head could get on a 200bhp, 200mph bike and do the business.

The impressive thing was that when anyone got close to his time he reacted, went out and ultimately took pole. Unfortunately, he got taken out in race one with Michael Rutter, in a racing incident, and had a bit of a run around in race two. That was just because he was race rusty, and I have no hesitation in saying that he really could make the grade. At Croft he qualified third and he needs to keep a positive head on, even if things go wrong. If he does, he's going to go well.

The Red Bull Rookie structure needs a big pat on the back for bringing kids on. They start them on 125s, then put them on 600s and then they end up in Superbikes, like Jonathan did. So it's nice to see that we have a system that is beginning to work. When they can get someone to qualify on pole then it proves it works. Quite often a lot of these schemes start off with good intentions then they have nowhere to go. Obviously not this one.

Mac back

I saw Jeremy McWilliams wandering around in the paddock and he tells me everything is at ease with the team, that he's not riding just because of the back injury he got at Thruxton, which he aggravated at Mondello. He's just resting it until he's fit to ride again. Now, Jeremy is not a bullshitting type of person, plus there is a lot of money riding on this deal, so I'm looking forward to seeing him fully fit and back on track. Michael Laverty was running well at Croft and Mondello, and Gary Mason had a good race two at Croft, so they are also turning things around. Running two riders certainly seemed to make a difference with bike development, so this could work out well for Jeremy.

Foreign powers

Say what you like, but the two riders who did the winning at Mondello were the two riders who had never raced there before: Lavilla and Kiyonari. I think it's incredible that we have foreigners on the rostrum every weekend, and again at Croft both big name foreign riders won. It's a continuation of the idea I mentioned last month about foreign riders coming into the R6 Cup. There have been complaints and comments but the foreigners have been the fastest riders, so it's up to our guys to do something about them. In this class of racing there's still confusion about whether they are hungrier, more talented or better at sorting their bike set-up.Whatever the reason, it baffles me that we've got so many non-British riders at the front - even if the racing is great.

Maybe it's that the foreign riders have to win races to advance their careers. The only good they are going to do themselves is not by being here, but by winning here. Nothing else is good enough, because they would otherwise disappear. But now Lavilla is winning the interest in Spain is greater again, which can only help his career. These guys also seem to be able to ride closer to the limit, yet still have some degree of safety margin. Of all the riders in the championship, it seems that Kiyonari and Lavilla have the biggest plans to move on, or to move back to where they came from in global racing. They are desperately hungry riders and seem to get it right virtually every weekend.


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