WorldSBK champ Rea | Don't punish Ducati, Kawasaki just wants its 500rpm back

Six-time WorldSBK Champion Jonathan Rea dismisses notion that he wants 'outstanding' Ducati to be reined in, but believes Kawasaki should get 500rpm back

Alvaro Bautista, Jonathan Rea - Ducati, Kawasaki - 2022 WorldSBK

Jonathan Rea has rubbished suggestions Ducati should be penalised for its newfound dominance in the WorldSBK Championship as both he and defending champion Toprak Razgatlioglu face an uphill challenge to overhaul runaway series leader Alvaro Bautista.

Former MotoGP rider Bautista has spearheaded a remarkable return to form for Ducati on his return to the Italian manufacturer, the Spaniard putting two lacklustre seasons with Honda behind him to collect 11 wins so far this year, including three crushingly dominant victories last time out in Barcelona.

They are performances that evoke memories of 2019 - Bautista’s first season of WorldSBK on the then all-new Ducati Panigale V4 R - when he romped to victory in the first nine races in similarly formidable fashion.

Back then, the FIM acted to clip the Panigale V4 R’s wings with a 250rpm reduction in revs to even up the competition. This preceded a collapse in form by Bautista during the mid-season that ultimately allowed Rea to overhaul him for the title, though it should be noted the Spaniard went on to win seven more races after the change.

Fast-forward to today and there are calls for the FIM to act on the Ducati Panigale V4's superior acceleration and top speed, attributes used to devastating effect by Bautista with his smaller profile.

While some have called for a minimum weight to be introduced on the understanding the Ducati’s pace is being dictated by Bautista’s lightweight stature [56kg he told], others have suggested looking again at the RPM figures, currently capped at 16,100rpm for the Panigale V4 R.

Not among them, however, is Rea despite regularly airing his frustration of being overtaken by Bautista easily in a straight line.

Indeed, while the Ulsterman agrees it was right to restrain Ducati in 2019 when Bautista was winning races by upwards of 15secs, his says both the rider and team’s ‘outstanding’ performances in 2022 aren’t due to an unfair technical advantage.

"At the beginning of the 2019 season, Bautista won races on the Ducati by a margin of 15 seconds," he told Speedweek. 

"Then he collapsed. It's not that Ducati suddenly improved, their bike was already a weapon in 2019. Of course their bike is better today, but they no longer win by 15 seconds. 

“A lot has to do with Alvaro's riding style, the Ducati was never tailored for Chaz Davies. Ducati are doing an outstanding job, why punish them? That's why Kawasaki needs to improve. In a championship where we have a big handicap, that's very difficult."

Kawasaki wants its missing 500rpm returned

While Rea doesn’t believe Ducati should be penalised for its efforts, he is frustrated the FIM hasn’t returned the 500rpm it denies the current Kawasaki ZX-10RR package.

Indeed, while a new generation of the Ninja sportsbike with a 15,100 rev limit arrived for the 2021 WorldSBK season, the FIM homologated it to the same specification as the 2020 bike after reasoning it didn’t feature enough new components to be considered a different entry.

It means Kawasaki has been forced to relinquish 500rpm (14,600rpm) despite the ZX-10RR being capable of more, much to Rea’s frustration.

"In the past I've enjoyed an incredible bike and we've had an advantage over our rivals and customer teams. Today we must fight with all our weapons - and that is not enough. We're trying to improve, but it's very difficult with the current rules. 

“It would be nice if we had the RPM that Kawasaki homologated the bike for. 500 rpm more, which the FIM has decided not to give us. 

“Alex [Lowes] and I ride for a factory team with a huge budget - can you imagine where a private Kawasaki is when it's only revving at 14,600 rpm?”

Rea is currently in the midst of his longest spell without a victory since joining KRT in 2015 and his 2022 title aspirations slipping away having fallen 67 points adrift of Bautista.

In an effort to recover its authority, Kawasaki is understood to be working on an update substantial enough for the ZX-10RR to be homologated with 15,100rpm as a new entry for 2023.

There is talk that Kawasaki will then overhaul the entire package for 2024 with a brand-new model that is set to go further than the 2020 model’s largely cosmetic changes.

Ducati, however, is understood to be working on a significant update for the Ducati Panigale V4 R that will be revealed in the coming weeks, while a new generation Yamaha R1 is also tipped to arrive in the next 12 months