Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki ZX-10RR) – The reigning six-time world champion tested a variety of setup options on the new Ninja on the Autodromo do Algarve (© Kawasaki Racing Team).

Positive Kawasaki test feedback from Portugal

The competition should have a few more worry lines on their foreheads when they read about the last test of the world champion and his team. On the track near the coastal town of Portimão, in the absence of Rea’s team-mate Alex Lowes, the works team sorted out a bunch of things in order to be ready for the season opener in an estimated two months. Of course, more tests are planned for the next future, but everything that has already been done definitely brings advantages. If you consider that BMW and Yamaha and their riders have not covered a meter on next year’s bikes in racing conditions since October 2020, this gives one pause for thought. The season opener in the second Corona year is not surprisingly still unclear, but BMW in particular has apparently completely missed its homework.

Jonathan Rea in conversation with his crew chief Pere Riba, formerly a WSBK and WSSP driver himself. For more about his active time, see our constantly growing history (© Kawasaki Racing Team).

Jonathan Reas Crew Chief Pere Riba on the Portugal Test

Pere Riba: „During our previous test in Jerez it was very important for us to try different electronics and the feeling was very positive. The weather forecast here wasn’t that good, so we started at 9am and with what we had in Jerez. We reaffirmed the direction in which we want development to go and Johnny was quick. Very fast. The track has new asphalt, and it is smoother, a bit bumpy and the grip and our feeling are not the same. However, it seems like we are going in a good direction step by step.

The racetrack in the interior of the Algarve is definitely one of the most attractive in Europe for spectators. However, it is still very questionable whether visitors will be allowed to attend the races in the coming season.

How about the performance of the new Kawasaki?
Riba: “For example, we used an SC0 racing tire and ended up using an SCX – no qualifier, just the SCX – but Johnny still set the fastest time of 1:41.4 and last year it was 1:41.8 he drove. This means that the improvement is there. We have gathered information, can now analyze and take the next step. I am satisfied with our results and with the basis for 2021. There was a possibility of rain on the 2nd day and since we had gathered all the information, we decided to leave it at one day. With the new rules, we have to adhere to our test days for the start of the season and also on other tracks.

Leonardo Taccini (Orelac Racing Kawasaki) – The Italian supersport rookie was also on the track with Rea (© WorldSBK).

The feedback from the reigning world champion

Jonathan Rea: „ It was a positive test. We drove 48 laps today. I felt good on the bike and was pretty quick straight away. The people here have also done a good job with the new asphalt. I’ve been able to try a lot, but more importantly, we focused on the bike setup and confirmed a few key points that we will start the season with. We played around with gear ratios and final gears and worked with electronic strategies to control power. I feel very comfortable with it now, and we were able to achieve very good lap times. The latest seat unit has arrived, so we focused on the aerodynamics of the bike and achieved a comfortable riding position. With the new seat unit and wing tunnels in the back, we were able to get some excellent information. In addition to the new seat unit, we did some back-to-back tests with the old and new trim. It confirmed that the 2021 version had additional speed on the straight, which was very encouraging. Now we can wrap up happily and healthily and move on.

The other competitors should be warned

In particular, BMW with the M 1000 RR and Yamaha are anything but well-prepared at the moment. While the YZF-R1 was only slightly modified by Toprak and his brand colleagues, the German bike is completely new. Last year, BMW had a lot of trouble keeping up with the best with the S-1000RR. How do you imagine it in Munich to get the M version race-ready within just 1 to 2 months? It would therefore border on a miracle if the blue-whites could keep up from the start. With this in mind, it would not be surprising if Scott Redding were the only rider to have the speed and consistency to challenge Rea and Kawasaki. So far, Toprak has shown weaknesses too often over the season, something that most reporters overlooked. The rookies may even be more convincing than established BMW aces like Sykes and “Magic Michael”, it would not be a surprise for many observers.

Our photo from the VIP Tower and on the left in the background the pit area and main stand of the Autodromo do Algarve. The conditions in Portugal were not ideal, but at least unexpectedly dry with only a little below 20 degrees Celsius, as a rain probability of 90 percent was predicted.