Tell us what role you perform for Jonathan Rea.
Initially I was like a trackside spotter but my role has been changing throughout the years. I have got a little bigger picture, I would say. I am still a spotter but it is also a lot to do with the mental aspects, the confidence and strategy for the race and even stuff like training, nutrition. I try to make sure all things around him are good and he does not have to worry about anything. So he can focus on his race weekend. It is like a coach position.
How is JR65’s mental approach – tell us what you think about the way JR65 goes about racing in a mental way.
Every year we face a different situation. Last year, with Alvaro starting the year that good, it was like a very difficult moment to manage with Johnny and that is where the mental aspect has to keep up and stay positive. It is the key to be involved and finally win a championship. This year is also something new, with Covid, not starting great, with one crash and having a new guy like Scott putting in a high performance. So, every year and every moment is like a different approach. Johnny is like everyone else. Yes, he is super-strong mentally but he also has some moments were he does not have the same confidence. I know the person very well, so that is like a key to be able to manage the situation according to what he thinks. It seems to be easy but when you deal with the best you have to be clear and precise, not just talk to talk for its own sake, and be sure in what you say.
600 racing is all about corner speed whereas for a Superbike many riders “square the corners” can you see this ever changing or will WSS600 approach and Superbike approach always be different?
It will definitely always remain the same because clearly on a Superbike if you want to use the power and full potential of the engine, with 240 or so horsepower on the new bikes, you cannot stay on the edge of the tyre. The tyres cannot give you the drive. It is a compromise and the more you put the bike up the more you drive the more you need the potential of the engine. But in 600, the engines are improving, but still about 100bhp less than a superbike, so you have to find the time with corner speed. Even if we go a little bit more in that direction, with the slick tyres, then it is more about corner speed again. So definitely this difference will remain wide.
You had great success in World Endurance Racing - how do you change your approach between a 24-hour race and the sprint atmosphere of a World600 race?
It is like two different sports. Riding the Endurance bike is different to a 600 and it is always difficult to accept to stop the bike a bit more with a 1000. That is the riding aspect and the approach of the race it is hard to accept and understand sometimes from this championship that if you go down the race is over. You can keep going and repair things, but it is better to accept and lose like a second here and a second there in overtaking. But also to be aggressive enough so that you are not losing a second or half a second every lap. Every lap on a good bike you overtake one, two three, four riders – a lot – so you cannot be too conservative, but you have to be smart to know when it is too risky to make the move. The big thing in Endurance is overtaking.
You have ridden many 600cc class racing machines – what makes the Ninja ZX-6R such a good race bike?
The Kawasaki was a good package. I don't think the Kawasaki had one special area where it was really, really good and one where it was really not that good. The chassis was pretty good, and he engine was OK, although let’s be honest it is now difficult against the more modern bikes in the WorldSSP class. The feedback from the bike for the rider, the way to find the limit on the front was quite good. It told you it was reaching the limit.
You are rider coach for both JR65 and Lucas Mahias – do they each require different things from you and what are those things?
Yes, they are so different. You need to know the guy you are dealing with to be honest. It took me not that long to understand Lucas. When we started to try to work together. I said I was going to give it a go, but I wanted to see how open he was. He trusted me and we went OK. There was a very different expectation from me, not in the results, but definitely Lucas has a good talent but he won a championship on his talent, and not on how he could work with the team, his crew chief, his feedback, his preparation. He was on a good team and a good bike and with his talent all together he was able to win. Now you need to work better at home, physically, mentally. I taught him somehow, a little bit, how to proceed. Finally, now I feel he can maximise the full potential of himself and the bike. I spend most of my time in the pitbox, as even though it is getting much better I have to still manage the way he is controlling his emotion and his frustration.