Ballyclare’s Jonathan Rea will replace injured Aussie MotoGP legend Casey Stoner for at least two races during September in the factory Repsol Honda team.
And having just completed a two-day test in Spain yesterday — where he got within two seconds of MotoGP title contender and new team-mate Dani Pedrosa – we caught up with the 25-year-old en-route to Germany where he will now be re-acquainted with his Honda World Superbike team, prior to racing at the Nurburgring this coming weekend.
“It’s been a positive two days but I still haven’t got the confidence to attack the track, which requires so much trust,” was Rea’s initial response on the RC213V factory Honda. “We’re not a million miles away but it’s just a confidence issue now. Getting used to the Bridgestone tyres is the main thing really.
“It’s a work in progress and we’re just chipping away. But what makes it more difficult is when you compare yourself after just two days to the guy sitting just next door in Dani Pedrosa, who is one of the best riders in the world.”
Showing maturity beyond his years, Rea added: “The last thing I need to do is throw the bike up the road or make a costly mistake.”
Then the racer in him took over the PR man and he said: “At times it’s bloody frustrating, especially when you see yourself two seconds off the pace.”
A lot of racing indeed — five weeks’ worth. On the request of Honda’s top brass in Japan [HRC], Rea will finish his World Superbike season in Germany and Portugal culminating at Magny Cours in France on October 7, with two confirmed MotoGP races in between at Misano and Aragon during September.
But as Rea explained, you don’t turn down such a request from the Honda Racing Corporation, despite trying to focus on his main goal in WSB.
“When it was requested from HRC, my team in World Superbike thought it was a good thing to do. I’m already pretty tired after what we’ve done so far this season and also the 8-Hour in Japan.”
The question is, will this opportunity now open the door for Rea to replace Alvaro Bautista at Gresini Honda next term?
His response was cautious, yet honest. “First off, I’m a substitute rider for Casey Stoner who is injured, but for me it’s a great experience.” But on the subject of 2013, he said: “There’s pretty much only one prototype ride left in the MotoGP paddock. We are still talking to try and get riding that bike and the next few weeks will see how that pans out.”