Reigning World Superbike Jonathan Rea has admitted that he was surprised to discover that he had not broken but obliterated the Suzuka 8 Hour lap record today, after putting together a strong run in qualifying to end the day over a second faster than his nearest rival at the prestigious endurance race.
The Team Green Kawasaki rider, paired with Japanese rider Kazuma Watanabe and 2019 WSB teammate Leon Haslam for the event, went nearly a second under the existing lap record, dating back to MotoGP rider Pol Espargaro in 2015.
Setting the time in the second of the day’s open track qualifying sessions and not in the one-flying-lap format Time Trial event and despite sharing the track with 70 other riders, Rea admitted afterwards that it came as a bit of a surprise when he realised he had beaten the previous record by 0.9 seconds.
“It was nice to set the time but it wasn’t that important to do it today! I thought with a qualifying tyre that with the previous record being a 2’06.0 it would be good to do a time in the mid-fives, but to do it today in qualifying practice was mad! It’s a long lap at Suzuka and there’s a lot of corners to make mistakes at, but it was a good lap.
“I caught one slower guy and kind of compromised my line a little, but I have the third sector nailed and was able to make up the time there. When I saw the time on the LCD dash, I thought that it was 2’06.1 and that one of the lines had gone missing!”
But while he might have phenomenal one-lap pace, Rea says that it’s still to be seen how the race will play out – even as he continues to find his feet back at Suzuka after a four-year absence.
“We don’t really know the strategy yet, but I’m happy to finish the race if we need to. I’m still adjusting my eyes to the darkness, because sometimes you peel it in a little early and find yourself on the kerbs. In endurance racing, it never comes down to the line – the race finds its feet before the final hour – but you can never be sure and you need to be ready.”