Jonathan Rea admitted his chance to ride double MotoGP world champion Casey Stoner’s factory Honda RC213V machine in Brno yesterday was a ‘dream come true’.
The British rider was drafted in by Repsol Honda to replace injured Stoner, who is preparing for surgery this week in Australia on the badly damaged ankle he suffered in a crash in Indianapolis earlier this month.
Rea dashed from a disappointing weekend in the Russian World Superbike round to make his first appearance on the factory RC213V 1000cc machine he is expected to race in the forthcoming Misano and Motorland Aragon races.
The Ten Kate Honda rider completed 61-laps and clocked a best time of 1.59.595, which put him a respectable 3.134s behind compatriot Cal Crutchlow, who topped the timesheets.
The test was certainly an eye-opener for Rea, who recently won the prestigious Suzuka Eight-hour world endurance race for Honda.
The RC213V is much more powerful than the CBR1000RR he rides in World Superbikes but also features much more sophisticated electronics, carbon brakes and Bridgestone tyres.
It was the Bridgestone rubber that Rea found the hardest to adjust to, particularly the front, but he was satisfied with his performance heading to a further two-day test at the Motorland Aragon track in Spain next week.
He told MCN: “It was my first day and I didn’t really want to over step the limit to find the limit and I was just trying to enjoy myself. I’m enjoying myself but there comes a point where it needs to be business and finding that next step is what we’re looking for. For the first time now in four years too I have got a team-mate that is really fast and I can actually look at some good data and learn something. In World Superbikes it is difficult to look at the other side of the garage and learn something because I’ve not learned a lot in the past few seasons. But it is bit of a culture shock. It was a big decision for me because my priority is in superbike but this is a dream come true. Not to just to come to this paddock for a race but to ride the best bike. I had to say yes. If I sacrifice something, the WSB championship is mathematically still possible, but realistically it is not so possible, so I think I can concentrate somewhat on this."
Rea was able to see data from Brno race winner Dani Pedrosa and understand where the Spaniard was able to lap consistently in the high 56s.
But he didn’t have the chance to see much of Pedrosa or Jorge Lorenzo on track.
“I learned nothing because I didn’t see them enough. I saw Jorge for two corners and I probably held him up, “said Rea, who has been linked with a permanent switch to MotoGP in 2013 with the Gresini Honda squad.
He also got the chance to chase Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Crutchlow, who had offered him a tow for a couple of laps.
But Rea said: “Cal was on circuit after a very strong run and he was kind enough to stay out for another two laps and try and help me. But he kept looking back to check how far behind I was. Back in our World Superbike days it wasn't like that, we were both in front of each other many times, so I felt a bit like an amateur with Cal checking were I was."
He had briefly spoken to Crutchlow about what to expect from Bridgestone tyres and he added: “I didn't want to be a hero because you get no points for crashing the bike, so I just tried to enjoy it. Apart from saying the F word about ten times Cal told me how difficult the front tyre was to understand and it took him a long time. What is of some satisfaction to me is that these guys have had a full race weekend at this circuit and have their set-up dialled so it was a big task to come here and share the same track. "
Rea will test next week at the Motorland Aragon before replacing Stoner in Misano on September 16 and then Aragon on September 30.
It will mean a hectic schedule but at least two tests and two races on the RC213V that Stoner has won 14 out of 28 races on gives him a golden opportunity to show his potential.
Rea said: “Knowing the tracks will be better and getting in two full days at Aragon at a private test with no pressure is good but it won’t be easy because my calendar means I’ll be racing pretty much in five back-to-back weekends. It will be tough but it depends on Casey’s situation and I am gutted for him and his guys because he is the guy that should be here. Misano is on the superbike calendar and I had a second there this year and it's good circuit for me. It will suit my style more on this bike because it is more stop-start whereas this circuit (Brno) is all about momentum and keeping speed and that was part of my struggle.”
For the exclusive thoughts of Rea on his factory Honda MotoGP debut and Crutchlow's view on his stunning maiden podium in Brno, see the August 29 issue of MCN.