The 2022 Motul FIM Superbike World Championship went hot this weekend, and six-time World Champion Jonathan Rea took first blood of the season. Beating heavy-hitting rivals Alvaro Bautista (Ducati) and last year’s champion Toprak Razgatlioglu (Yamaha) in an absolutely breathless 18-lap battle at MotorLand Aragón in race one; it was the edge of the seat thriller fans had been waiting all winter for.
Rea had been feeling confident heading into the championship’s opening round, saying: “throughout testing, I was getting such a good feeling from the bike. It was giving me much more margin than last season’s bike. Like last year if I got tangled up in the braking zone I felt like I’d struggle to stop. Whereas with our new bike I can play with the limits much more and feel confident about where I place on track.”
Trading places with Bautista and Razgatlioglu nearly every corner and lap-by-lap, it all came down to a precision cutback move by Rea on the final corner of the last lap, followed by a flat out drag race to the line with less than a tenth of a second separating the two riders. Better still, the win marked the fifth of Rea’s career to open a WSBK season, and gave him 21 consecutive podium finishes at Aragón (22 in total), which is the most of any rider at a single WSBK circuit.
After the race, Rea said: "It was a really exciting race, and I really enjoyed the battle a lot. I think we really showed the strength of our bike. It was very agile, stable on the brakes, and I could change direction. Behind the handlebars, I was smiling like a kid. The work we did in the off-season, focusing on the softer tyres in the SCX family, is really bearing fruit now. I was able to be very fast until the end with a soft tyre, in a very cool temperature. Even before the race we were thinking, ‘OK, we have done all this work but we had never, ever made this SCX work in 24°C of track temperature’. So big credit to my team, Kawasaki and Showa because it was a really big win for us to do that. Not just to win the first round of the championship but the way we did it.”
In the wheel tracks of his win in race one, Rea scored two further podiums throughout the weekend at Aragón racing to second place in both the Superpole and Race Two on Sunday. Teammate Alex Lowes gritted his teeth through a tougher weekend, retiring from race one after an accident at turn 12, and then taking a fifth-place during race two.
After the weekend Lowes said: “The race was obviously disappointing, even more so because we have worked all winter on used tyres and being consistent. I think we just made some mistakes with the setting on the bike. It is frustrating really that with the experience we have got we ended up where we are. We all have to take responsibility. Congratulations to Jonathan and all his crew because it was a mega race win for KRT, so it was nice for us to start the year with a win. We have a lot to do to get me feeling comfortable, as right now we are not working as I expect. We have work to do.”
Next up the championship heads to Assen in the Netherlands on the 24th of April, after which ten further rounds race across Europe, Argentina, Indonesia, and finally Australia on the 18th of November. We’re excited, and you should be too!