Rea after Barcelona struggles: “It’s been a very disappointing weekend… the tide has to turn”

The level of the 2024 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship is extremely high, so much so that six-time World Champion Jonathan Rea (Pata Prometeon Yamaha) could only salvage an eighth place in Barcelona’s Race 2. The second round of the year welcomed a return to Europe for the field and despite a positive test, gremlins and misfortune continued for Rea.

In Race 1 on Saturday, Rea stated that he “fried the clutch” on the grid and had to retire after one lap. However, he had another bite at the cherry in the Superpole Race but he could still only manage P13 after being forced off-track at Turn 1 on Lap 1. For Race 2, he went from the fifth row again but this time, managed to make big gains and put himself in contention in the latter parts of the race. Making up four positions on the opening lap, he was up into P7 by the end of Lap 6, although he dropped back behind Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team), Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) and Sam Lowes (ELF Marc VDS Racing Team) in the next laps. He managed to recover the position with Sam Lowes on Lap 17 but was unable to get on terms with ‘Petrux’ and his ex-teammate despite closing in.

“IT’S NOT WHERE WE WANT TO BE RIGHT NOW” – Rea speaks after first 6 races of 2024

A tough start to 2024, Rea gave a summary of his weekend: “Overall, it’s been a very disappointing weekend. Like the trend of Phillip Island, we have made progress even if it might not look like that. We’ve taken our first points of the season in Race 2. Race 2 was a problem-free race without issues. I struggled starting from P13 because you don’t have track position and you have to be a bit more aggressive in the beginning. Then, after that, I’d already wasted some tyre and then tried to conserve as much as possible. Guys like Remy Gardner, Danilo Petrucci and Michael van der Mark and Alex, I thought they’d come back to me at the end. They dropped their pace a little bit but not enough. I was catching but I ran out of laps.

“There are some positives in there; it’s not where we want to be right now but we’ll move onto Assen and try and have an open mind with what could happen there. The tide has to change; we’ve had a lot of issues thrown our way and we’re dealing with them in a really good way as a team by trying to breathe and turn the page.”

Rea’s eighth place does at least give him his first points in what has been a very tricky start to the year; he was best of the team too after Andrea Locatelli (Pata Prometeon Yamaha) was caught up in a crash at Turn 4 when Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Team Motocorsa Racing) took out Axel Bassani (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) on the opening lap, leaving ‘Loka’ nowhere to go but through the gravel.

Talking about how tight it is now in WorldSBK, Rea said: “You don’t have to be too far off the pace now to be fighting outside the top ten and I don’t have that ultimate pace on the bike yet. I’m still finding my feet and trying to understand the bike. I’m really pushing the team to give me what I need to be fast. It’s taking time but I’m sure it will arrive. I really believe in the people around me so there’s a lot of credit to them; they deserve this as much as I do. We’ll keep with it, not give up and Assen is a happy hunting ground for me so there’s no better place to go next to try and score some big points.

TALKING TOUGH: “If the stars aren’t aligning, you’re on the struggle bus”

“You have to take these small wins; we’re not fighting for the podium, that’s always the target. The class is stacked; last year, you could be a little bit off and fight easily in the top ten. Now, if something’s not right or not there or the stars aren’t aligning, you’re on the struggle bus. We need to maximise our weekends and try and stay out of trouble. Superpole is super important; I messed up my lap so I have to shoulder some of that but we probably didn’t prepare in the right way either with Free Practice 3 being tough. When you start from the fifth row, your race is almost written on the wall. Assen’s focus will be getting a bike that I can race with well but also starting further up the grid. We can’t force the wave to come but when it does, I’m sure we’ll ride it well.”

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