World Superbike: Jonathan Rea’s California Experience

Up, down, and around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with one of Britain’s biggest racing stars.

Jonathan Rea race action shot

Jonathan Rea's quickest lap in part 1 of red-flag-riddled race 2 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was 1:24.299, more than half a second slower than the fastest lap of the race up to that point set by race 1 winner Marco Melandri. But the Italian crashed out of the second restart, as did blisteringly quick Davide Giugliano, leaving the door open for Rea, who strung together four consecutive sub-1:24s, capped by a 1:23.696. Slipping under Toni Elias entering Rainey Curve, the Pata Honda put himself on the final step of the podium, a big improvement from race 1, in which he finished sixth.

Rea left the Central California track third overall in points, well down on championship leader (and race 2 winner) Tom Sykes but within striking distance of Melandri's Aprilia teammate, Sylvain Guintoli.

“Had I put myself in the position to challenge at the front in the first lap,” Rea said after the second race, “as opposed to getting stuck behind slower traffic, maybe the first race could have been even better.”

Rea missed the FIM Superbike World Championship’s return to Mazda Raceway last year with a broken leg. Prior to arriving in Monterey, he had only seen the iconic Corkscrew turn in photos and on video.

“There was so much hype that I was a little bit intimidated” he admitted. “You change direction over the biggest peak, so the bike actually flows really well through there. The scary part is when you do your last backshift and tip it in, you have no idea where the left curb is, so it takes some laps to build up.”

SBK Race 2 podium with Jonathan Rea finishing third

Turn 1, the uphill blind dogleg left just past start/finish, was even more worrying. “They say the Corkscrew is difficult,” Rea said, “but turn 1 over that rise is one of the scariest corners in the world. It’s sixth gear, almost on the rev limiter; the red light is on.

“When you put lean angle to the bike, you’re sliding already, and then you go over the rise and the bike wants to wheelie. That’s where I was making a lot of time. It’s a really good part of the track, probably my favorite turn.”

Rea was a hit with fans in the post-race paddock show. “I really enjoyed the experience here,” he said. The track is unbelievable—such a unique circuit, with loads and loads of challenges—and the crowd is insane.”

According to Mazda Raceway, SBK’s only US stop drew 49,408 people over three days, a 20 percent increase from last year.

While most of the rest of the SBK paddock enjoys the summer break, Rea and teammate Leon Haslam will be heading to Japan for the annual Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race, which he won in 2012.

This year, Rea will be racing against one of his childhood heroes, 1993 500cc World Champion Kevin Schwantz, who turned 50 last month.

“I respect so much what Kevin is doing,” Rea said. “He can sit with his feet up at home and enjoy his career, but he chooses to come out and race because he loves motorbikes, so big respect to him for that.”

SBK Race 2 start.

Jonathan Rea entering Rainey Curve.

Jonathan Rea reflects in pit lane.

SBK Race 2 podium.