‘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

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - GOR­DON RITCHIE WSB RE­PORTER

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

Rea says that when his con­tract is up in 2018, he may walk away from rac­ing

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