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SBK, Rea and Yamaha: a dream turns into a nightmare at Phillip Island

The pairing in blue had a disastrous start to the season in Australia. Having betrayed his pre-season intentions, he will have one month to get back on track before Catalunya

SBK: Rea and Yamaha: a dream turns into a nightmare at Phillip Island

The dream partnership between Jonathan Rea and Yamaha seemed to be born under a lucky star. In fact, the R1 seemed to have made its way into the heart of the Cannibal already in the first winter tests last November, when the most successful rider in the SBK World Championship had honeyed words to say after the first contact with his new bike, described as friendly, easy-to-handle with an engine output suited to his riding style.

The perfect bike to restore the smiles and ambitions of the 37-year-old Northern Irishman, eager to get back to battling for the title and leave behind the disappointments and difficulties experienced in the last two years. Problems that had pushed him to separate from Kawasaki after nine seasons and six world titles, precisely to seek new stimuli and competitiveness with the tuning-fork manufacturer.

The rude awakening of Phillip Island


The pre-season expectations, however, went unfulfilled at Phillip Island. Already from Tuesday's test, in which he was the protagonist of a heavy high-side, the Australian track produced a very different Rea from the optimistic and confident one who appeared in the first outings with his new team. The good feelings and great initial ambitions gradually gave way to the emergence of doubts and problems between Portimao and Australia, which left the Cannibal without any weapons to fight with.

“We struggle to pinpoint exactly what the problem is; the bike is very difficult to ride. Fundamentally something is not right but I have full confidence in the team to find the root of the issue. We are playing in defence and we have to try to fix the issues we’ve been having, otherwise it will be the most difficult races of my life", Johnny had prophesied after the first free practice sessions.

A fear that was already founded in Race 1, with Rea totally lost down in 17th place due to strong vibrations during acceleration and an error at the pit stop. “Honestly, we’re really lost, it's frustrating, we don't know where to intervene and what to change. Maybe we should just pack up now and go straight to Barcelona" commented the new Yamaha rider, increasingly confused and embittered. Tenth in the Superpole Race, the Northern Irishman concluded the opening round of the season without taking a single point. Also due to the bad crash he suffered in Race 2, which put an end to his weekend just when he was starting to gain confidence with the R1.

A month to recover from the abyss


A disastrous start. Made even more painful by the double win scored by his former teammate Alex Lowes, who jumped to the top of the championship standings with the Ninja ZX-10RR. But it's still too early to start thinking that Jonathan's decision to join Yamaha is a failure.

The season is only at the beginning and Locatelli's performances have already shown that the R1 has not lost the lustre that allowed it to battle with Bautista last season. As in any new adventure, the six-time world champion will therefore need a little time and patience to be able to find the right fit with his new bike and establish that amalgamation with the team that he had achieved in his chapter in green.

A job that will certainly take time, but the blue team will have almost a month's break and two days of testing (14 and 15 March in Barcelona) before the next round in Catalunya, set for the weekend of 22-24 March. Important weeks to try to understand what changed between Jerez and Australia and start afresh before returning to Spain, with the aim of erasing the false start at Phillip Island.


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