WSB: Jonathan Rea's Portimao column
That was probably one of the most solid weekends of my career. Everything was pretty much plain sailing!
Right from the first session the bike was in the ballpark. Normally we go from race to race as a team and always start on a Friday morning with how we finished the previous weekend because during the year your style and references with the bike change subtly. But because of the unique character of the track at Portimao we forgot what we had at previous races and went back to the exact set-up we used at the test there in May.
It was a really good strategy from Guim Roda and the KRT team to go test at Portimao in May as opposed to January when everybody else went. In January the track was really cool and there were a lot of bikes on track, whereas we went in May when the temperature was similar to what it’d be in the race weekend and there weren’t a lot of bikes on track so we were able to get through a lot in the two days.
It made sense to start with that set-up and from Friday morning it became clear we had a bit of an advantage, which is a nice feeling to have.
Unfortunately, FP3 was a game changer in terms of the momentum in the championship as Tom was injured. It’s something you never want to see from a rider’s point of view, a championship point of view or a fan’s point of view. I rode past the accident and saw it was his bike on the ground and I was really sad at that moment as he’s the guy I’m racing against and I didn’t want him to be out. He’d broken some bones in his hand, which was horrible to hear for the team. I hope he can get back for France to fight for his position in the championship as that’s still close.
Chaz made a mistake in Superpole and without Tom he’s the strongest guy on track, so him being further back on the grid allowed me chance to get away in the first race while he was in traffic. I couldn’t believe my first lap, I did a 1’43.6 from a standing start which might just be one of the laps of my life! After that I was just riding to my pit-board, I kept increasing the gap for my own mentality and built up a great lead.
We made some changes to the bike for race two thinking about the 2018 rules, it’s unclear how it’s going to be, nothing is defined yet but what is clear is that the organisation is going to try and balance performance a little bit from engine or ECU side. The best thing we can do right now is maximise the stability of our chassis so for race two we changed the weight balance of the bike completely to give me a bit more entry traction as that’ll make me a little faster on corner entry where I’ve been struggling. It didn’t really materialise like that, but my bike is really agile so I picked off the riders in front quite easily and set off about my race. It was incredible to do the double with two fastest laps and pole as well. I couldn’t ask for anymore!
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We can now go to Magny Cours with a realistic aim of trying to win the championship and that’s that! With 150 points remaining and I’ve got a gap of 120, it completely takes the pressure off me. I don’t need to think about defending the championship anymore I can just go out and try and win as many races as I can.
We were testing on Monday and Showa brought some new suspension items thinking about 2018 and I was able ot find some positives with that, we’ve even had some ideas that we can implement towards the end of next year.
Next year the regulations look like they’ll change but nothing is defined right now. It doesn’t give any manufacturer a long amount of time to adapt so this winter test programme is going to be really important and with the position we are in right now it might be a case of using the end of the season to try and prepare for 2018. Dorna really want to balance the regulations to take the advantage away from Kawasaki and Ducati. It also looks like Aprilia might get hit pretty hard. It’s now up to us to try and adapt to make a bike that’ll be really strong under the new proposed regulations whatever they’ll be, but I know I’ve got the best guys inside the garage to do that.