News 16 Feb 2018

Rea dissects revised WorldSBK rules as Phillip Island test looms

Where the 2018 handicaps could hinder or help reigning champion.

Image: Russell Colvin.

Three-time defending Superbike world champion Jonathan Rea believes the new technical rules introduced for the 2018 season won’t make a huge difference to the speed of his Kawasaki ZX-10RR as final preparations begin for the Yamaha Finance-backed season-opener at Phillip Island next weekend, 23-25 February.

Under the new regulations for the Motul Superbike World Championship, rev limits effectively replace weight penalties and air restrictors, meaning the all-conquering Kawasaki factory team of Rea and Tom Sykes is initially restricted to a rev limit of 14,100rpm – a 1000rpm reduction from the 2017 season.

However Rea, who arrived back in Australia earlier this week and was at Melbourne’s Langham Hotel today speaking with media, is adopting a positive outlook.

“RPM equals power, so we had to redesign the tuning spec of the engine so our bike is now producing a lot more torque at lower in the rev range,” said Rea, who spends time in the off-season at Phillip Island in the home he shares with his Aussie wife Tatia and sons Jake, 4, and Tyler, 2.

“For me and my riding style that’s quite good – it’s more manageable with less peaky power. I don’t see it being a disadvantage at many tracks, because there are not a lot of places where we are in sixth gear the whole time. When we are, we might suffer a little bit.”

However, Rea knows that if he dominates the early part of the 13-round championship – as he has during his stellar three-year reign at the top – there could be more penalties dished out in 250rpm handicaps on the way.

“The new regulations have tried to balance the field, which is a huge challenge for all the manufacturers, but at the end of the day, it’s cutting-edge Superbike technology and the more we simplify it sometimes I think the less appeal there is,” said 31-year-old Rea.

“Time will tell – and I hope it’s closer racing because it’s not nice seeing the chatter outside the championship about it being not cool to watch. From an engineering point of view it’s hard to manage the new rules because we have a fixed gearbox and we calculate that by understanding our maximum RPM and the demands of each circuit.

“We then design the gearbox accordingly. So if we suddenly lose 250rpm after three races or 500rpm after six races – or worse still, 750rpm after nine races – then our gearbox is completely wrong and we can’t change it. That’s where it ties the hands of the engineers a little bit, but I really hope it won’t get to that and common-sense will prevail.

“Like always though, after three or four races most of the riders and teams will find their place in the championship and I can’t see it being too dissimilar to last year as regards to who’s at the front and winning races.”

In the final European WorldSBK test before the paddock packed up and began the long-haul to Australia, Rea was fastest ahead of Alex Lowes (Pata Yamaha) and Leon Camier (Red Bull Honda), displaying the type of winning form that has driven him to the last three crowns.

Next up is a two-day official test at Phillip Island on Monday and Tuesday of next week, before the season kicks off back at the GP circuit three days later. The 22-lap WorldSBK races at Phillip Island will be held at 3:00pm on Saturday and Sunday.

A three-day pass for WorldSBK at the Island, purchased in advance through Ticketek, is $120 and includes free Paddock Access. Add camping at the circuit campground for up to four nights, and you’ve the perfect location for a summer long weekend away with your mates or family.

Opt for a Bar SBK pass at $260 and gain access to three undercover facilities, or go for a VIP option in the fully catered suites above pit-lane. And as always with World Superbikes kids 15 and under are free, as is your bike.

Advance ticket sales close Wednesday, 21 February at 4:00pm. Buy early and save or get your tickets at the gatefrom 8am Friday, Saturday and Sunday of race weekend on 23-25 February. For more information, visit or 1300 728 007 or Ticketek.