Tooting born racer, Gino Rea, is back in the saddle, full time, for the first time since the end of 2018 to compete in the 2020 British Superbike Championship.
Riding for the Bike Devil Ducati Team who he rode the last few rounds of the 2019 season for (on an MV), Rea is looking to carry on the good form he ended 2018 with on the OMG Suzuki GSXR1000.
“I had signed with the team when we were out in Milan for EICMA, then a week later they terminated my contract stating a conflict of interest.” said Rea, “It came as a surprise because no one had discussed any issues with me before the sudden termination and unfortunately it left me without a ride very late for the next season.”
“We started off together, my first year of BSB and their first year of racing and it was our combined efforts that resulted in the improvements we made throughout the season. It was the start of something that could’ve been good but it is what it is.”
Left without a ride in BSB for 2019, the 30 year old kept himself busy mentoring and coaching a new team, Ready 4 Racing (R4R), in the hotly contested British Superstock 600 Championship, run as a support series to the main BSB races.
Through Rea’s knowledge and experience, the young riders of Caolan and Rhys Irwin grew in confidence and stature, taking 4 podiums and a Superstock 600 win in their debut year.
Whist in Spain over the 2018 winter period doing his rider instruction, Rea stumbled across the Polish Wojcik Racing Team testing at Almeria and upon learning he was looking for a ride, signed him up there and then to test the bike and do the Endurance World Championship with them.
“It developed really quickly from there. Obviously, I had been talking to the Irwins about rider coaching and mentoring so that ended up with me running the team for them with my partner from Vision CPS, I was racing in the Endurance World Championship and in what little spare time I had I started up a custom leathers company, Mass Sports UK (www.masssportsuk.com), so I was pretty busy!”
“It was good, I learned a lot from racing in the EWC on a different bike (Yamaha R1). It re-installed a lot of confidence in my riding. The bike did what I wanted it to do and I was always fast and consistent on it.”
“I adapted quickly to it. The R1’s a really user friendly bike and it opened my eyes to areas I was missing out in 2018.”
A stunning 2nd place finish at Bol d’Or in France has been the highlight so far in a season that goes on until Le Mans in August.
“Wojcik are relatively new to the EWC and it’s a new venture for me. We worked together really hard as a team and I brought my experience from MotoGP, World Superbike and British Superbike paddocks and helped build a bit more structure and direction within the team.
“We had flashes of being fast or being towards the front and battling with the factory guys but over EWC race distance it was really, really tough to compete with them.”
“When we got to Bol d’Or it was really unexpected. The biggest thing was it went really smooth. The bike and the tyres worked great at that track and things just clicked.
“I led the race for the first hour and in the wet and dry conditions we were right at the front and I just couldn’t believe it getting on the podium.
“It was another new track to me too….a crazy, crazy event!”
The next round at Sepang, a track Rea knew from his days in the MotoGP paddock, didn’t go quite so well.
“Sepang was really good until the race. I qualified in 2nd, a few tenths behind Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha MotoGP rider and 2017 Moto2 World Champion) and in front of all the usual world endurance teams. That was almost a highlight of the year for me, on our Privateer Yamaha against the Factory teams and MotoGP riders.
“We made some improvements to the bike from Bol d’Or but in the race we had monsoon rain conditions and we had problems with the engine on the sighting lap and that ruined the race.”
Getting the chance, late in the 2019 BSB season to stand in for another rider at Cadwell Park, Rea showed his ability to adapt and ride quickly on any bike by scoring the teams best ever result, bringing the MV home in 12th.
“It was extremely last minute but the weekend went great. We didn’t have one problem with the bike and it showed in our progress over the weekend and in the last race we were battling for the top 10.
“We decided to do the last couple of rounds together and even though we had a lot of bike issues we worked well as a team and kept our head down and did the best with what we had.
“Accepting our situation and trying to make the best of it instead of spitting the dummy out every time made for a good team environment, (Dave) Tyson, the team owner, was happy with my riding and the way I approached it and we wanted to carry on working together for 2020.
“That was the first stepping stone for getting back into BSB and that lead to us along with my sponsor, Vision CPS, changing manufacturer to Ducati. Another new bike to me!”
Although the Ducati is a well proven package in British Superbikes, the South London racer is two steps behind in testing terms, missing the first two official tests of the year.
Now with the Covid-19 virus effectively locking down most of the world, even the racers have no idea when they’ll be able to get back on track.
“We missed the tests as the bike wasn’t ready and was still in the Ducati factory being prepared over the winter. We just hope that we can get out on it now before the race.
“It’s never good to start off on the back foot in a championship as competitive as BSB but at the end of the day the package as a starting point has proved it’s capable.
“We’ve just got to get our heads down and not expect too much from the beginning and just try to catch up to where we should be.
“We’re not sure if they’re going to let us test again but ideally we’d like to get out there before the race. I think that’s only fair”
Even though riding may be banned at the moment, Rea’s still able to make the most of his lock-down in Spain, keeping race-fit.
“We are not even allowed to go outside to go running or cycling. We’ve got a small area in the house I use as a gym. I’ve got my rowing machine, indoor cycle and weights to do circuits and strength stuff so I’m quite fortunate that I’m still able to train. Luckily, I’m a qualified CrossFit trainer so I like to come up with different and fun workouts. I was well conditioned as it was, so now I’m fine tuning.”
“The most important thing in the world at the moment is to stop the spread of Covid-19 by being responsible, get over that and then hopefully we can get back to normal.”
As well as making his full-time Superbike comeback, Rea’s also back with the R4R Vision CPS team in the British Superstock 600 class in collaboration with the Bike Devil Racing Team, on new Italian MV machines.
The team has new riders in George Stanley who raced Superstock 1000 in 2019 and 15 year old James Bull who has to wait till his 16th birthday before he is allowed to race the bike in BSB.
R4R Vision CPS are now the official MV Superstock Team for 2020.
With his previous success in the BSB championship and his ability to go fast and have success on an array of machinery last year, don’t be surprised to see Rea’s name at the sharp end of the Superbike races very soon.
The opening round of the championship was officially meant to start at Silverstone on the weekend of the 10-12 April but has now been postponed to later in the year. With all racing banned until at least the end of April the earliest possible date to resume would be the 1-3 May at Oulton Park in Cheshire but please check www.britishsuperbike.com for up-to-date details.
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