February, 05 2013

Alpinestars Interview: Jonathan Rea

  • Herlings new jersey

We caught up with the one and only Jonathan Rea, who recently popped into Alpinestars' HQ in Italy to share his memories of a stunning 2012 and his views on the upcoming season ...

What brings you to Alpinestars HQ in Italy?

I’ve been in the Alpinestars family since 2006 and, due to busy scheduling, I don’t often get the chance to come here to say hello to the team. I’ve also come to get re-measured for a new leather racing suit, which needs a few modifications. With the team changing color a little bit this season I’ll also be wearing blue Supertech-R boots instead of red.

That was a fantastic 2012, what were your personal highlights?

The highlight for me was winning the Suzuka 8 Hours. It’s just one of those races that, when you grow up inside the Honda family, you get to hear about the prestige of it. Since I was a kid I’ve always wanted to do the 8 Hours. I competed in it in 2010 and we made a mistake in the latter stage of the race but still finished on the podium. But this year we were super consistent and smooth. Standing on top of that podium, I’ve never seen a crowd like it.

A close second to that obviously was riding in the MotoGP; competing with those guys just ticked another box for me. When I was approached by HRC about the ride, I couldn’t say no. You can’t say no to an opportunity like that, especially when I wasn’t in a championship-winning position in Superbike. I’m so glad I tried MotoGP, it was such a great experience.

What was the biggest difference between MotoGP and Superbike?

I enjoyed working with a different crew and learning how a different team works. The perimeters in MotoGP for changing the bike are so wide that during sessions we were making big modifications to the bike that you wouldn’t make in Superbike. Everything was fresh. I was like a sponge because I had more to learn. Working beside Dani [Pedrosa] on the other side of the garage was great. When we first compared my data with Dani’s I wasn’t a GP rider but after seeing his data I was able to get closer and closer, and I was really pumped to qualify within a second at Aragon.

What MotoGP lessons did you take back to Superbike?

One big thing was the braking set-up, especially how you apply the brake. This is my tenth season as a road racer, but by World Superbike standards I’m still pretty inexperienced compared to other riders. I still tend to panic, as a normal bloke would, when you are on the limit at 200mph and see that 300 yard board you think about slamming on the brakes. With the GP bike you cannot do that because the tyre would flex so fast then sponge back so fast, so you have to be much more progressive on the brake to load the tyre evenly. When I returned to Superbike I took that with me and started loading the brakes more delicately, which helps keep the bike in a neutral position. After the MotoGP experience my last two Superbike races in Portugal and Magny-Cours were pretty strong. I only regret crashing out of a ten second lead in race 1, but race 2 was good and I chased Tom [Sykes] to the end. I particularly enjoyed Portimao when in the last five laps I took four seconds out of someone like Eugene Laverty, which is practically unheard of.

What are your thoughts ahead of the new season?

I will reach a big landmark on my second race on Phillip Island as it will be my 100th competitive race. My team has pushed the boundary all winter as they have been working on a new development program for the electronics, where the biggest advancements are to be made on our bike. Also, on the engine side, I know they are working hard and we have made some improvements. So, as a whole, I know that I can prove every year that I’m fast enough to win races and compete with the best in the world.

Who are the riders to watch in 2013?

There are so many, and every year there is a surprise.

What about your new team-mate, Leon Haslam?

Leon is a fast guy and he’s proved before he can ride the Honda well. I expect him to be one of my strongest team-mates to date. I need that, the whole team needs that. We cannot continue with one strong side of the garage, and the other side struggling to make superpole. We need to attack the season with two strong riders.

You used to race motocross, do you still ride off-road?

Yes. Motocross is where I got my love of motorbikes. Motocross is the best start for young kids, and so many today's top riders come from it. The best thing you can do is start in motocross.