Jonathan Rea took heart from an encouraging debut MotoGP weekend in Misano after he qualified and finished inside the top 10 on Casey Stoner’s factory Honda RC213V.
The wealth of experience gained, despite havig less than two hours on track during a weather-hit weekend, gave Rea confidence that will be faster and more competitive when he replaces injured Aussie Stoner again at the forthcoming Motorland Aragon clash.
Starting from ninth on the grid, the Ten Kate Honda World Superbike rider finished eighth at the end of a dramatic race that turned out to be a disaster for the Repsol Honda squad with Dani Pedrosa punted out of contention on the opening lap.
For the most part it was a lonely debut for the 25-year-old, who rode with a little bit in reserve to make sure he completed the race and gained as much experience as possible about racing the RC213V.
He did threaten to chase down factory Ducati rider Nicky Hayden in the closing stages but couldn’t quite get close enough to the experienced American to contemplate snatching seventh.
He told MCN: “I set Nicky as my target. In the beginning he just dropped me but I could pick up some things from him on the track and applied them to my riding and I closed the gap to one second but I think he had a little bit in reserve in the last few laps.
"The whole race I was just concentrating on my riding, so when I looked at the pit board I guess there were five laps to go, so I thought I had better get my act together and that’s when I started to catch him. But in two laps he pulled out the gap again.”
Rea said he enjoyed his debut but specifically didn’t go out ‘to be a hero’ and he added: “It was fun. I was asked to be sensible and get through the race and enjoy and learn, so in the back of my mind I was like, 'just do that, don't try to be a hero’.
"I was riding a bit cautious and not carrying the same lean angle as in qualifying. I know I have got more to give in the next race. We needed a starting point this weekend and we have it now.
"Sitting on the grid I didn’t feel more nervous than normal but the target was to finish the race. I was asked to finish and try to make a constant race, which we did. But I had this in my mind the whole time, so I was riding maybe too smooth but I enjoyed it.“
Asked how the experience of racing in MotoGP differed from a physical and mental standpoint he said: “It isn’t so much physical because my body position stays in front of the bike for all the braking whereas on the superbike you have to take the load off the front tyre and move your arse back in the seat.
"Under braking here you can be forward to put the load on the front tyre. Now I’m waiting for the second race but I don’t get another chance.”
If he had a second race like the WSB format, what would he have done differently?
“I wouldn’t settle in the race so fast. I probably settled a bit too early and let Nicky (Hayden) pull a big gap. I would have tried to hold on to the guy in front a little bit more and then see what happens.
"But I got comfortable straightaway and that’s what the team had told me. They said get comfortable, learn the bike and you’ll come strong at the end and that’s what I did,“ Rea told MCN.
For the exclusive thoughts of Rea on his MotoGP debut, see the September 19 issue of Motor Cycle News.