The wealth of experience gained, despite having less than two hours on track during a weather-hit weekend, gave Repsol Honda replacement rider Jonathan Rea confidence that he will be faster and more competitive when he replaces injured Aussie Casey 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 aboard the RC213V as possible.
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.
Rea said: “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, 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. “
Rea took eighth at Misano, riding with caution to gain better feeling for Casey Stoner’s RC213 machine.
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 tire and move back in the seat. Under-braking here, you can be forward to put the load on the front tire. 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.”
Unsure of MotoGP Future
Rea says he has no idea whether he will be lining up with Cal Crutchlow and Bradley Smith in MotoGP next year.
The British rider has been strongly linked with a full-time switch to MotoGP in 2013, with the Gresini Honda squad rumored to be closely monitoring Rea’s performance in Misano and Motorland Aragon this month.
Rea will continue to replace injured reigning world champion Casey Stoner at Aragon while the Aussie recovers from surgery to the right ankle he badly damaged in a qualifying crash at the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway last month. But the Ten Kate Honda rider says he is unclear on whether he will be leaving World Superbikes at the end of 2012.
“I want the possibility to come and race in MotoGP. I think it is every young guys dream to be in this championship. My hero was Kevin Schwantz, so to race in MotoGP would be an honor. My future is not in my hands right now, so I have to wait and see. I take things race by race and hopefully I can do a good job and we will see what happens.”
Rea was poised to make his premier class debut in Misano, having taken part in two test sessions on Stoner’s factory RC213V in Brno and Motorland Aragon recently.
He admitted Stoner’s cruel luck with injury has presented him with a golden opportunity to show his potential in front of the MotoGP paddock and he added: “It is a great opportunity for me to come into this paddock and to race with some of the best riders in the world. Brno wasn’t really a test and I was like a zombie. I had one-and-a-half hours sleep and there was so much to learn in a day. I got more comfortable with the bike in Aragon. I was closer to the riders on track there and I could see what they were able to do for more than two corners. I picked up a lot there and really enjoyed starting to feel the GP machine. It is a completely different bike and it takes time but I am really enjoying this learning experience. The gap between the bike and me is quite a lot but it is very motivating to get closer and closer. It is a test but I have been given the best opportunity to come with Honda on a competitive bike and it is not always like that. It is easier to go the other way and land on your feet with a great package in World Superbikes. The successful guys like Cal and Ben (Spies) have made their mistakes in year one but now they are two of the best riders here right now and are doing a great job. I’ve no expectation to compare myself against them right now. I’m just enjoying this opportunity and I am going to lap it up in front of the Spanish fans and hopefully do myself proud at the end.”