The mission is clear, to put an end to the championship fight. Jonathan Rea has had a tough season, with moments in which the title looked to be nothing more than a pipe dream, but now he comes to Portimao with more than one ace up his sleeve, determined to triumph.
The Northern Irish rider has turned the 2019 season on its head thanks to his consistency and speed, which have allowed him to profit from every single flaw shown by Alvaro Bautista and turn around a championship that, by round four, appeared to be already written. Yet Johnny heads to Portimao with a 81-point advantage over his closest rival, and with decidedly greater technical, physical and mental serenity.
“I'm really happy to be racing again - comments the number 1 – it's been a long time since we last races and I can't wait to start the weekend. I'll have a lot of fans over from Northern Ireland and hope to make them happy, I have a good feeling ahead of this round”.
Rea has always enjoyed racing at the undulating Portuguese track, and has won the last six races held there. “I love this track and in testing we found a clear direction to take with our work. I want to start working in the right way from Friday, so that we have a good package already for qualifying”.
Leon Haslam is also ready to return to the track and, despite his season so far having perhaps fallen short of expectation, he is clearly a podium contender.
“I've reached the podium with more than one bike at Portimao and the recent tests went very well, especially in terms of our pace with the race tyre, with which I was a few tenths from Johnny's best lap with the same tyre”.
Haslam doesn't hide the difficulties he's had thus far, but he is keen to be in the mix during the season's final rounds. “It's been a hard year, also due to some ailments, but I've always been quick at Portimao. The aim is to stick with the fastest guys and aim for the podium, and I'm interested to see if I can do it”.