Rea doesn't fear repeat of Bautista's early 2019 dominance

Kawasaki rider Jonathan Rea feels the gap to Alvaro Bautista is much smaller this year compared to 2019, despite the Ducati rider taking a double win in the Aragon World Superbike round.

Rea doesn't fear repeat of Bautista's early 2019 dominance
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After drawing first blood in the opening race of the year at Aragon, Rea played second fiddle to Bautista for the remainder of the weekend, unable to put up much of a fight to the 37-year-old once the latter had gained confidence on the Ducati Panigale V4 R.

Rea previously had to overcome a serious challenge from Bautista during the Spaniard's first spell with Ducati in 2019, when he annihilated the competition in the early part of the season with 11 victories on trot - some by a margin of over 15 seconds.

However, Rea doesn’t think Bautista and Ducati can be as dominant as they were three years ago, explaining how much progress Kawasaki has made with the ZX-10RR during this period.

“In 2019 I didn't get to race too much with Alvaro because either I was winning or he was winning by a long way,” he said. “This year I think can be a lot closer. I feel good with my bike. The operating margin, the window, is wider than last year. 

“Today I was able to outbrake Toprak [Razgatlioglu], which I could never do in the past. I'd always ride myself into some issue. it's a positive for us and something we can keep working with. step-by-step and not get carried away."

Alvaro Bautista, Racing Ducati, Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki Racing Team WSBK

Alvaro Bautista, Racing Ducati, Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki Racing Team WSBK

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Rea battled with Bautista for the lead in both races on Sunday as part of the lead group, but lost time while trying to keep Toprak Razgatlioglu and Michael Ruben Rinaldi at bay, allowing Bautista to pull away at the front.

The Kawasaki rider felt he was just as quick as Bautista in clear air, but the Spaniard’s strategy to be aggressive in the early laps and build an advantage ultimately proved decisive in his favour.

“On Saturday, Bautista wasn't riding, the bike was doing the job, let's say,” he said. “Strategy-wise I was a little bit better in the race. 

“But on Sunday he knew that. His opportunity was to go in the front with clear air and hope there was a bit of chaos behind and that is what happened. 

“So congrats to him. He did a really good first laps, both races, quite aggressive in the first laps, especially in the Superpole race he got a clear track. And he did what I expected to be honest.

“I felt like my pace was similar to Alvaro, but [only] on a clear track. Rinaldi and Toprak were too excited to take track position and I just really struggled to do my rhythm. 

“I needed a clear track to be fast. It took a long time to get that. The race was very aggressive again. I made quite a few mistakes, it was windy out there and the wind changed direction. 

“But to be the best of the rest today, I have to be really happy and move forward to Assen.“

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