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Rea thought he "f***ed it" in final corner of Estoril finale

Kawasaki’s Jonathan Rea admits he feared had undone all his good work when he suffered a major slide entering the final corner in Sunday’s World Superbike race at Estoril.

Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki Racing Team WSBK

Rea pulled off a brilliant last-lap pass on Ducati rival Alvaro Bautista to complete back-to-back wins in the third round of the 2022 WSBK season in Portugal, putting him within 17 points of the lead of the riders’ standings.

However, the Ulsterman nearly threw away the victory approaching the start/finish straight and was fortunate to hang on to his Kawasaki, taking the chequered flag by just 0.194s over Bautista’s chasing Ducati.

Explaining the error he made, Rea said: “I thought I f***ed it to be honest because on the last corner I had such a big slide. I thought, no, he's going to do me.

“But I kept riding the slide, riding the slide and then eventually I was able to get the job done. So, really nice when the last gap goes your way. 

“It was a great battle right from the early laps with Toprak [Razgatlioglu]. And then in the middle at some point of the race I felt, ‘okay, I'm faster, go to the front but just stay there. Go as slow as I can at the front for track position, conserve my tyre, conserve some energy’.

“I felt some urgency when Alvaro came past because it's like the race started again, his rhythm was strong. I tried not to make any mistakes or feel the urgency to pass him. I worked where I could be strong, where he was strong and then stuck with my plan and it worked.”

Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki Racing Team WSBK

Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki Racing Team WSBK

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Rea had to regroup after being overtaken for the lead by Bautista on lap 14 of 22, with the Kawasaki rider spending the second half of the race trying to find a way past his Ducati rival.

An ambitious move into Turn 7 on the last lap didn’t pay off as Bautista was able to retake the position immediately afterwards, prompting Rea to make a block pass into the Turn 9/10 chicane - the same place where he had snatched the Superpole win from Toprak Razgatlioglu earlier on Sunday.

“Going on the last lap, I got really good traction from the last corner, I used the slipstream for the first part of the straight," explained Rea.

“For the previous three laps Alvaro was missing the apex in Turn 1 a little bit, so I was able to just stop, hook the corner and already by Turn 3 I was right there. 

“When I saw how fast he was between [Turns] 4 and 5 and into 6, I thought no way. But I released the brakes, used the corner speed and picked the bike up and honestly the traction that I had was really good. I was able to drive close. 

“I felt earlier in the lap I could do it, the more I could gain track time before the long straight. I tried Turn 7, he cut back. 

“[Then I] parked it on the apex in the chicane and just stopped him a little bit from dropping on top of me. Then I did my line, tried to make a good exit. “

Championship leader Bautista said he was anticipating a passing attempt from Rea and tried to shut the door on him going through the chicane.

However, the six-time WSBK champion was able to make a lunge into the tight left-right-left sequence, forcing his way past Bautista en route to his fifth win of the season.

“On Turn 7 he tried to pass me and I was prepared to retake the lead - In fact, I did it,” said the Spaniard. “And in the chicane I knew he would try [to pass me]. I closed [the door], just left a few metres between the kerb and me, but he just put the bike inside.

“In that corner it is difficult to defend [any] more than I did. Also it is very difficult to recover the position because it is very close to the other corner and you don't have the space. I expected [him to make a pass], I tried to defend, but I couldn’t defend my position.”

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