WSB: Jonathan Rea's Aragon column
It was really positive weekend. Aragon has never been one of my strongest tracks. Last year I was 2nd and 3rd, the year before was 1-2 but bar-to-bar racing with Chaz in the first and in the second he rode off into the distance when the temperature rose.
With that in mind, I wasn’t very optimistic ahead of the weekend but we had a pretty good Friday, which sort of stemmed on from the pre-season test we had at Aragon in November. A long run on Friday afternoon gave me a lot of confidence for the rest of the weekend.
In Superpole I feel I put everything into that lap but made a small mistake. Pirelli have just brought out a new qualifier which is meant to last for more than one quick lap, so I thought I could go again but the grip just wasn’t the same. Chaz was a bit faster and took pole, but front row was our target.
Chaz led from the off in race one, it was quite easy to see just how differently our bikes were working. My bike, or my style, meant the first sectors were really strong for me and the last sector was better for Chaz as he could accelerate much quicker than me onto the back straight. I could regain what I’d lost from his advantage when we were back in the first sector which made it pretty close.
However, I made a few moves and he managed to pass me back on the back section every time. He knew he was strong there so it surprised me when he crashed. He didn’t need to push there, he always had that little bit more of a gap so it kind of gifted me the win. I had a few ideas where I could make a move but whether it would have paid off in the last sector I’m not sure.
Race two was fun. It was the most aggressive I’ve been in the last few years, especially in the first few corners as I moved up to third. The group eventually whittled down to the last men standing, me, Chaz and Melandri. Chaz was leading and I had a few goes but he always had a counter attack. Then he made a big mistake on the way into turn five and I put my bike on the inside, but had I been aggressive we could have collided so I left him to it and had another go at turn seven. I had another go into the penultimate corner onto the back straight but he did a good job to park it up and square me off and he won.
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For whatever reason, he’s been super strong there throughout his career so to fight bar to bar with him there is important. He’s riding super hard at the moment, I was really impressed with how he finished last season, but it's easier to ride like he did when your back is against the wall and you’ve nothing to lose you can throw caution to the wind. At the end of last season we were playing the long game with the championship so I couldn't afford to make mistakes. It's not like that now, so it's all out and trying to maximise each weekend.
Looking back it was a positive weekend for the championship, positive for morale as well as we’ve only dropped five points now in 150 so that’s a much better start to the season than I’ve ever had. 50 points after three rounds is an incredible gap, so we just need to keep doing what we’re doing and winning when we can and when we can’t we’ll finish as strongly as possible.
We had a good test on Monday, where I managed to test some chassis items to improve the bike a bit. I couldn’t do too many laps though as I’d been suffering from a throat infection and cold through the weekend and come Sunday/Monday I was struggling to breathe on the bike.
It’s important for us to be testing though, as our biggest mistake last year as a team was not going to Laustizring to test or even not testing much at all. I think we used about two of our eight days last year whereas this year we’re maxing that out. We’re testing in Portimao next week, then at Misano before the Misano race and then a private test at Lausitzring. We’re taking it pretty serious and I feel we can learn from our mistakes last year and be even stronger. Both Chaz and Tom are riding at the top of their game right now and Marco is quietly hanging around the outskirts. He’ll be ready to win soon too, so I have to be prepared to fight with all of them.