‘I think it is a realistic target because I am with one of the strongest manufacturers in World Superbikes and I feel I am riding in my prime’
Jonathan Rea reveals how he’ll make it three in a row
Jonathan Rea has just become the first winner of consecutive World Superbike Championships since Carl Fogarty in 1999. In doing what other legendary Superbike figures have missed out on, he has already become a great.
A few more seasons like this and he could become the greatest ever.
He spoke to MCN exclusively about his 2016 season – how he got there and where he’s going next.
MCN: Why has it been so difficult for anyone since Foggy to defend the championship?
JR: I’m not exactly sure, but I think the modern ethos is that manufacturers are bringing out new models, but not coinciding with each other. This year, Kawasaki brought one out and next season there are more new models from other manufacturers. It just makes different teams competitive at different times. If you have one strong manufacturer in prototype racing, that is devoting everything to it, they tend to be the cream of the crop for years. Here, in a production-based series, it is a little bit different.
MCN: Can you go for three championships in a row now?
JR: I am not thinking about it as three in a row. I am trying to divide it up and target another championship win. I think it is a realistic target, because I am with one of the strongest manufacturers in WSB. We have a very fresh bike and we understand where our main difficulties are. I feel like I am riding probably in my prime right now and there is no reason why we can’t. But, like always, I just want to approach it like a new season and not have that added pressure of a new record, or going back-to-back again.
MCN: What about Foggy’s record of four championships?
JR: It is a very realistic target, but, in saying that, my rivals this season have been very strong. We have seen full factory efforts from Kawasaki and Ducati but next year Aprilia will be coming back in with a satellite team, Honda is coming with a new bike, Yamaha will come with more factory involvement and two very good riders. The championship could be at an all-time high from the competition side. We have to be realistic and also respect the competitors before everything can fall our way. I am determined to be there and, while it is realistic to target the record, it is not a foregone conclusion. We have to be clever and try to forget about what we have done in the past and look to next year as a new year.
MCN: What is the long-term plan for your career now?
JR: I think it is everybody’s ambition to retire at the top, but I am not sure where my career is going to take me. What I do know is that the next two years are at Kawasaki. I think that when that contract completes, that will be the pivotal point for me, because it could give me the chance to bow out of the sport. I have given everything I have to being competitive, since I was six years old, on a 50cc motocross bike. I have been winning races from then and that sacrifice of a normal life - to be almost robotic and be selfish at times - is hard. I really enjoy travelling the world with the kids, but there is going to be a time where that is not so possible. It’s a tough question, because I feel I am right in my prime now and I have some more good years left at the top. If there are some other interesting projects coming my way, then we will see. But right now I am in the middle of a four year commitment at Kawasaki and I’m not really thinking about life after that.
MCN: What about Motogp? Has that ship sailed?
JR: That ship sailed a long time ago, I think. At 29, and with another two years at Kawasaki, I do not have a burning desire to go there on uncompetitive machinery. I think the boat has sailed on me getting a factory ride, for sure. I feel that opportunity never really came when I was at Honda all those years ago. I don’t think it is going to come now just because we are doing well in Superbike. In reality, when you stand back, I understand that Motogp is the pinnacle, but from a human perspective I enjoy winning and Superbike creates that opportunity. Also, while this is my dream, and I love racing motorbikes, it is a huge sacrifice as well. You have to be rewarded for your efforts and in Superbike I get rewarded in financial terms a lot more than I would in Motogp, outside a factory team. That is also important. I feel valued in World Superbike and, for me, there is no reason to move because I am happy. I’m winning, I’m financially secure, and it is a lot less stress on family life having a 13-round championship rather than an 18-round one. The Superbike life is the one for me.
MCN: People think you hung on with Honda for so long just to get that Motogp chance. So do you not feel resentful about not getting it?
JR: No, I’m not resentful. I can’t be resentful, because if I had not gone through the Honda motions I would not have been prepared for this opportunity that came my way with Kawasaki. I feel that prepared me in the best possible way. Right now, I am sure I am one of the happiest guys in the motorcycling world – in any championship. I cannot be resentful. It has taught me a lot of lessons. Especially that in that world (Motogp) there are a lot of people who are... how can I say this? It is a lot more political and I did not quite understand that until I was on the receiving end of your face not fitting - for political reasons and not for ability reasons. Once I understood that, I realised that there were certain people there who were very two-faced. It is quite easy to accept and not be bitter about it. I do not hold any grudges. Of course, it would have been nice to understand how far in that world I could have gone, but I didn’t go and I have no regrets. If I wasn’t happy with that then I could understand going to bed each night with that chip on the shoulder. I have accepted the hand I have been dealt and I am running with it and enjoying every moment of it.
‘When my contract is up it could give me the chance to bow out’ JONATHAN REA