A tough start for Rea in Donington Superbike opener pays off in the end

By Giles Spencer

Round one of three for the re-scheduled 2020 British Superbike Championship held at Donington Park, Leicestershire last weekend (7-9 August), didn’t get off  to the flying start South London racer, Gino Rea would’ve hoped for, with technical gremlins forcing him to retire from a points scoring position.

Set to ride a Ducati Panigale V4 R (the same model which won the championship last year in the hands of Scott Redding), the outbreak of Covid-19 meant that the bike was still stuck in Italy when testing resumed forcing a quick change of manufacturer to Kawasaki and their ZX10R.

The lack of testing, yet again, put the Tooting born rider and his Bike Devil Racing team on the back foot with a lot of development work having to be done in Friday’s practice sessions.

To make matters worse, technical issues meant they only completed a handful of laps before qualifying on the Saturday where Rea managed to improve his time to a 1:08.220 to put himself 25th on the grid.

Despite riding a strong race to haul himself through the pack in round 1 on Saturday, improving his best time to a 107:917, more machine problems forced the unlucky team out of a good point scoring ride on lap 10 of 22.

Round 2 on the Sunday saw Rea improve his time to  a 1.7:301, battling with Kawasaki mounted Storm Stacey to finish frustratingly outside the points in 19th at the flag.

The final round of the weekend saw Rea make an excellent start, initially moving up to 17th place on the first lap before settling in 19th, becoming involved in a 5 way battle for the final point scoring positions.

Six laps in and Rea was pushing hard to bridge a gap that had just started to open up to  a large group of riders ahead, setting his personal best time in the process.

By lap 10 Rea had joined the group headed by BMW mounted Luke Mossey for 14th – 18th places.

Four laps later and Gino’s up to 17th, never letting his momentum slow, less than a second off the points.

Twenty laps down and the group has turned into a trio of Peter Hickman, Joe Francis and Rea who can’t be separated as they hunt down the BMW of Bradley Ray in 14th.

VisionTrack Ducati rider, Josh Brookes  crashes out of the lead battle on lap 24 of 26 after contact with Honda Racing’s Andrew Irwin, promoting Rea up to 13th.

Last lap time and Rea pushes the Kawasaki ZX10R to its limits, closing down Hickman ahead of him but just runs out of time, taking the flag for a hard fought 13th place, later promoted to 12th and 4 points after Irwin was disqualified for the incident with Brookes, only 0.291 second behind the BMW man with a personal best race lap time of 107:160

“It was a really testing weekend but we didn’t give up and we were rewarded with a great finish.” Rea said

“We haven’t tested with this bike properly before the race weekend and we missed the first practice and race with technical issues, so we used the races on Sunday as a test to learn about the bike.

“We made big steps in the right direction for race 2 which is always a risk going into a race. We went the right way and made the bike much more manageable and after a couple of laps adapting to the new setup, I was able to actually come through the field.

“I almost got Peter Hickman on the final lap but didn’t quite manage it so ended up 12th (after Irwin’s disqualification), scoring our first points.

“I had a very consistent pace and we’ve learned a lot about the bike, so it’s nice to finish positively.

“I want to thank everyone on my side of the garage for the hard work over the weekend; it was tough but we got there in the end!”

Next time out for the British Superbikes will be travelling to Snetterton in Norfolk for rounds 4-6 of the Championship on 21-23 August.

Photo’s by Bonnie Lane

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