Jonathan Rea was practically perfect in the first race at Magny-Cours. He not only won, but he dominated from the first to the last lap laying down a pace that was simply unapproachable for all of his rivals. A truly sensational performance by the Northern Irishman, an appetizer to a sixth world title win that is getting closer and closer for the Kawasaki rider.
"It was really difficult to stay in the front for 21 laps - commented Rea - the race pace was incredible and I must say that I had a really perfect set-up as regards the electronics of my bike. The guys in the garage did a great job and the Magny-Cours track has also made a big leap forward with the new asphalt. Here, lapping at 43 or 44 means racing hard and in the wet we were able to lap in 1m48s, which is incredible. I have to say thanks to my team , because when it rains you can never get the perfect set-up because the conditions change quickly. In some places you can find a lot of water, maybe in others there is not so much and the most important thing is the compromise. Today we had an excellent set-up, a nice compromise ".
Today you were clearly superior in the wet. It depends on what? Do you think you are the most talented rider in SBK?
"I don't know what my superiority depends on. Maybe it's experience. The same bike, the same team, even the fact that I'm very calm in such different situations helps me. Sometimes when the pressure is high it's easy to get negatively influenced. I always feel good in these circumstances, I don't feel the pressure. I think it depends a lot on the fact that I've been here for a long time. I don't think it depends on my talent because I think there are other riders on the grid who have a lot of talent, but maybe they don't have the right people around them, the right package. I can only be happy for the people who work in my corner of the garage. "
During your victorious ride, did you think about the title getting closer, did you feel pressure?
"I don't want to think about the sixth title. I will answer this question when and if it arrives. Of course today we did a great job for the championship. This year the most complicated thing compared to 2019 was the lockdown period, because when it started I was fourth in the championship after Phillip Island. I worked hard on myself during the lockdown, then the team made good progress thanks to the tests in the summer so when we got back to racing I was in really good shape, and I knew I could be really strong. "
There are a lot of new rivals on the track for you. Did this complicate your plans at times?
"It's always difficult when you don't fully understand your rivals. I raced very close to Rinaldi at Aragon, and I had to learn for example where he was strong compared to the other Ducati riders. But actually I always try to forget who I'm racing against and just try to do my best with my bike. "
But what happened in FP3?
"I was over-confident. I was on hard tyres and there was really a lot of water. The left side of the tyre was colder than yesterday, but I didn't feel all that difference. Only it was enough for me to crash. It was a reminder for me to avoid doing something stupid after. The idea in FP3 was to go back to the pits and then maybe do the starting tests at the end. But that’s me, I like to ride and I saw that the times were going down. So instead of waiting in the garage, I wanted to go out again and do some more good laps. So I tried to get back to the pits straight away, but a track marshal pointed me in the wrong direction and I found myself at a point where I should have been back on track on the main straight. I thought if I crossed the track, they would give me a penalty or something like that. So I decided to stay there and wait."
What’s your celebratory T-shirt going to be like?
"I don't know what the T-shirt will look like, I have no idea (laughs, Ed.)! I didn't have any conversation with the team about the shirt. The first time I thought I could win the title here I was on the plane and I was thinking 'heck, I could win the title this weekend.' I just talked about the colour, not the graphics or the details. I don't want to get too excited about it, because there's still a lot of work to do. "
Audio recording by Riccardo Guglielmetti at Magny-Cours.