World Superbike points leader Jonathan Rea says this year’s Kawasaki allows him to ride more like he did in his first title-winning season in 2015, after two years of riding a “Tom Sykes”-style of bike.
Unhappy with the ZX-10RR after the opening round in Australia, Rea has since started to feel more comfortable and has tallied up two wins, firstly in Thailand and then last weekend at Aragon.
The lower rev limit imposed on Kawasaki as part of WSBK’s 2018 ruleset has forced Rea into returning to a riding style which favoured corner speed, as opposed to the more stop-and-go nature the bike of the previous two seasons demanded.
“So this corner speed style, I’m trying to learn quickly,” he said. “[It’s] kind of a little bit like in 2015 when I arrived at Kawasaki, I rode this way. The ’16 bike was completely different, it was like a ‘Tom Sykes’ bike, a stop-and-go bike.
“So for two years I’ve been learning how to ride that bike, and now it’s with no top power anymore and no real acceleration, I’m going back to ’15 style. I’m trying to jog my memory now. At 31, that’s not easy.”
Sykes – who is seventh in the standings and 51 points adrift of Rea – admits he has found it hard to adapt riding style on the second Kawasaki.
“We’ve had a good set-up this weekend, just really struggling with the other riders when I have to go back to more stop-and-start, I have trouble,” he said.
“It’s funny because that used to be my style, but the nature of the beast, unfortunately it doesn’t like that. When it’s on its own [the bike] does good laptimes.”
Kawasaki close to the limit
Though only three rounds into the season, Rea feels Kawasaki is “quite close to the limit” with its bike, and admits updates have been few and far between as a result of the restrictive new rules.
He said: “It’s been a long time since we’ve had some kind of upgrade, and it’s hard because in the past we’ve been working to push forward, try to improve the bike and now we’ve been given a big penalty.
“It’s difficult to work in this area, it’s like having your hands tied behind your back and trying to fight a little bit.
“So we’re just trying to figure out right now chassis, especially working with Showa suspension. We’re trying to find a bike that gives me a lot more confidence to release the brake and turn the corner.
“We’re focused a lot more on chassis balance and turning on the track, trying to maintain corner speed but also trying to save the rear tyre because I think a lot of races this year are going to be won with tyre consumption, and that’s where we need to improve a little bit.”
Additional reporting by Lorenzo Moro