Rea: “I saw Bautista was out and I think I went slower!”

"I’m sure if you look at the chronos, my lap time the following lap was much slower because I was like ‘ooh what’s gone on’!" - A fifth win of 2019 moves Jonathan Rea to top of WorldSBK standings.
Rea: “I saw Bautista was out and I think I went slower!”

Jonathan Rea has joked he probably lost time after being informed that World Superbike Championship title rival Alvaro Bautista was out of the first race at Donington Park, as the Kawasaki’s fifth win of 2019 saw him moved top of the standings for the first time this year.

The Ulsterman was in unstoppable form in wet conditions on home soil, snatching the lead from pole sitter Tom Sykes by turn one at Redgate before instantly putting the hammer down aboard the factory Kawasaki Racing Team ZX-10RR

Quickly establishing his advantage over the opposition to lead by five seconds after only two laps, Rea’s joy was compounded with the knowledge title rival Bautista had crashed out for a third time in three rounds.

With a maximum points’ haul allowing him to overturn the pre-race 16-point deficit into a newfound nine-point lead, Rea was delighted with the result, admitting he probably lost ground to the chasing pack as he grappled with the mathematics of his potential win to Bautista’s DNF.

“I saw the bike, but I didn’t catch which of the bikes it was - then I saw the pit board,” he said. “I’m sure if you look at the chronos, my lap time the following lap was much slower [Ed: It wasn’t] because I was like ‘ooh what’s gone on’ but then I composed myself.”

Explaining his rapid pace at the beginning, Rea played it down as simply an affinity with the ZX-10RR package that allows him to find the limit of the conditions quicker than his rivals.

“I have been riding this bike for a few years now, I know we don’t ride in the wet a lot but the wet set up is pretty good and even with a change of conditions – full wet, or half-wet, drying track – you can extract a lot of stability out of it.

“I knew if I could arrive on the limit of the package quite early, I could take a gamble as the rest of the guys got up to speed. Without taking too much risk it was quite easy to do that.”

Reflecting on Bautista’s latest crash – following falls at Jerez and Misano – Rea feels he was somewhat fortunate because the Spaniard appeared to be slowly gaining momentum in wet conditions on the Ducati Panigale V4 R, as he did in Misano when he salvaged a podium in his first-ever wet race.

“He hasn’t had a lot of time in WorldSBK in the wet. I had a good gauge coming out of Turn 14, with Bautista entering the fast corner and by mid-race his lap times were quite strong so I thought he could step up. But my wet record in the past has been quite consistent so it was a good opportunity.”

The swap to the top of the standings signals a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for Rea, who only five races earlier faced down a huge 61 point deficit to a rider that had by that stage won 12 races to his two.