WSBK Interview: Ten Kate Honda's Johnny Rea
Date: May 11, 2009 07:30
Jonathan Rea is one of a crop of young British riders who have exploded onto the world motorcycle road racing scene in the last 3 seasons. Rea has been a standout contender in the British Superbike championship where he finished runner up in 2007, then in his rookie season of World Supersport in 2008 he took runner up again, taking 6 podiums and 3 wins in the process.
At the end of 2008 he made his World Superbike debut with Ten Kate in the season finale where he finished a strong fourth place. This year he is racing full time with the Ten Kate Honda superbike squad and currently sits tied for 6th place. We took a few minutes to talk with the affable and exciting-to-watch rookie WSBK rider at TT Assen.
How has the challenge of World Superbike this year been compared to your year in World Supersport and your time in British Superbike? How is it shaping up for you?
You know it's a completely different challenge. Really in BSB the competition was...firstly I had a very good Honda team. Secondly, the competition was very fast and very quick but not so many people. It was always easy to be in the top five on a good machine. So when we come to World Supersport it's also very difficult because all the bikes are quite similar so you have to ride very fast to win.
In World Superbike there are so many fast riders and bikes, not just Honda, and you need to be completely perfect all weekend to win races, and this is what's really hard for me. But it's good for motivation, to keep trying and we're getting there slowly.
Does that give you a little bit of satisfaction that when you're doing well over here, you just beat a guy who 20 gp races or you just beat this guy who's a 2-time world champion?
It's not really like that because it's all relevant to the year you're in really and what bikes everyone's on. I try not to sorta get big ego'ed about that . You need to keep your feet on the ground. We've got a hard job this year, the bike's already now one year old and we've learned a lot about it.
But, right now the state of the tune on the engine is really aggressive power. So we're trying to make it more like a street bike, like a standard Honda Fireblade. Which [means] trying to get it more like a nice smooth feeling. And that's what we're working on right now.
So is that kind of what happened with the bike? It's got a lot of power now but it's not quite as usable as maybe it needs to be?
That's exactly what the problem is. We've made a huge step forward this weekend but we've had pretty shit luck to be honest and we had a little niggling problem in [the] first session. Then I went out and crashed being frustrated. And in Superpole 2 we had like a sensor failure which is like...it's not [even] a Honda part it's a little 2.99 part off something. So that was really frustrating as well. But, you know we have some pace but starting from the third row is gonna make it tough. We've just gotta roll with it and see what happens.
One thing that I've noticed since watching you in BSB is that you've kinda started to change your approach to weekends. It seems like as a rider you have grown a lot over the years. Can you talk a little bit about what are the changes you've made to your riding style and your approach to the weekend?
Well the major thing really is for me as a person is that I'm a lot more prepared. I don't care about image anymore, I remember four years ago it used to be all about the hair gel and the girlfriend on the arm and stuff like that.
But it's all about results now and being prepared. And that goes down to making sure all my house is tidy before I leave. Making sure all of my worries are [left] at home, whatever that may be, it's all sorted out. And coming away and making sure I have enough leather suits and helmets so when I'm at the circuit I'm quite content and nothing's stressing me out.
I remember in BSB I'd arrive at a circuit and sometimes I'd forget my earplugs two minutes before the session, and you're like, "Ah shit what do I do?" Like, last year even it was a big learning experience traveling the world and knowing what routes to take. But this year I know it all, I've got some good people working with me. And my mum does a lot of organizing, so I've got someone booking all my flights. So it's quite easy for me and I'm left to really concentrate on what matters.
And that's like arriving at the track early enough to get over either jet lag or get acclimatized to the place and learn the new circuit. Whether that be running around the scooter or whatever and be prepared for Friday morning practice.
Can you talk a little about how your personal goals are proceeding this season?
I kinda looked at this season and thought, you know, I wanna be in the top six. That's where my benchmark is and we still have a lot of work to do to achieve that. It's not changed, I don't see why it should change, we just need to work harder to strive towards that goal.
If it doesn't happen I'm not gonna beat myself up. It's been a tough year and my first goal in mind has to be to beat my teammates in the championship. I'm the rookie guy coming in and shaking up the pot but these two are legendary in their own [right]...like with Kiyo in BSB, he beat me more than I beat him, and also he's a legend...he's been to Moto Grand Prix and he's a legend in Japan so I've got two top benchmarks right now on the other side of the pit box. So, I need to run with these guys first and that'd be really nice to be in the top six in my first year but it's a really tough championship this year. But we'll see what happens.
What has been the biggest surprise for you this year, it could be with the other riders, bikes, your challenges. It seems like World Superbike has turned out to be a lot different than maybe what people thought it was going to be this year.
My biggest challenge or surprise was how hard it is to go superbike racing and how many factors you can change. It's not like, you know, you take a Honda streetbike and it's great, but you make it into a superbike and you have to bring in full factory suspension, full electronic packages, and there are so many little minor things there for error. That's proven to me to be quite difficult because I don't completely understand all of it, but I'm learning every time. Every time we go out I understand a little bit more about the electronics or traction control parameters or where we should be working. That's really difficult.
But it's also difficult that, I think that one second covers so many people, it's frightening. So if you have a semi-OK day, that's really bad. Where you could have a really good day and still be 4th or 5th. So it's quite hard that way.
So I have a last serious question, and I need you to think about this one. So, which country has the hottest women?
Man I dunno. It's like...I'd say I'm looking forward to going to the US this year. I haven't been there,
Man you're putting pressure on us, I hope we don't disappoint!
[But] so far, I'm not sure. Maybe Italy, because every time we go there it's in July and it's warm and all the girls are in bikinis. But also I'm been through some like Asian fetishes, like when I to Japan last year I was kinda liking the Japanese women but after a week of that I wanted to see a blonde again!
I think all women are hot, you know, there's hot women in every country.
Last edited by JMU R1 on
May 11, 2009 18:39