Jonathan Rea revealed he was suffering from a blistered rear tyre in the closing stages of Saturday’s WorldSBK season opener, causing him to slip to fifth. The reigning champion was running third for much of proceedings before losing time dramatically in the final seven laps, eventually falling behind Chaz Davies and Xavi Fores.
With memories of his horrendous crash at Donington Park last year fresh in his mind, Rea admitted he had no option but to cautiously nurse his Kawasaki home.
“I had a blister in the rear tyre from around lap 16 which was really unfortunate because until that point I felt quite good with the bike. It is a double-edged sword because, of course, the tyre did not stand up to the job and the way I was riding, but also the way I have been riding is not 100% natural right now. I am still trying to find a good way. We have been changing the bike quite a lot to feel really comfortable. We could not make it happen. The vibrations were that much that I kept thinking I was going to crash, like Donington. It crossed my mind to come into the pits and pull out but I just nursed it through all the lefts and finished the race to salvage some points.”
By contrast, team-mate Tom Sykes enjoyed an excellent start to the season, taking second place after leading for much of the race. The polesitter was delighted with his competitiveness at Phillip Island although he also hit tyre problems towards the end.
“I was smiling from start to finish. I had a good launch off the line on the Ninja ZX-10RR and I was really happy with the race package. We had done our homework in the test, and in free practice when we used one set of tyres for two sessions. Today, with the heavy wind, I was not able to finish some of the corners as efficiently as yesterday in practice. Ultimately, that is what put the rear tyre in a kind of fatigue mode with five laps to go. Shortly after that point we started suffering with the front in turn three, and in places like the last turn. Tomorrow is another day and I am quietly confident.”