Bike India

‘Maybe, my mind works differentl­y’

The steamrolle­r keeps on rolling — six consecutiv­e World Superbike (WSB) titles and 99 race wins. How does he do it? Our seeks to find out


HOW TO UNDersTaND WhaT GOes ON iNsiDe The brain of a successful motorcycle racer? it’s not easy, but this wee tale may help. i’m going to start by asking you to imagine you are a top superbike racer and you’re leading the world championsh­ip by a nice margin with a few races to go. all you need to wrap up the title is a few decent finishes — no need to try killing yourself for another win. in this race, there’s a young hotshot ahead of you, riding out of his skin, apparently willing to risk full-body sacrifice to score his first WsB victory. What do you do?

Do you go after him, risking a crash that will lose you a load of points and possibly leave you injured? Or do you tell yourself that discretion is the better part of valour, that a certain 20 points is better than gambling 25 points against zero points? any normal mortal would, i think, take option two.

Which is why normal mortals don’t win six World superbike championsh­ips. ‘Maybe, my mind works differentl­y, but when i have a good points gap, it’s easier to take more risks, because it doesn’t matter if i win the championsh­ip by one point or 101,’ says Jonathan rea. ‘When you have a margin, you can always afford to lose them points and bet on yourself, “hey, i’m going to win the next race, don’t worry”.’

The race in question was the last race at september’s aragon WsB round, where rea was chasing Ducati rider Michael rinaldi, who will be scott redding’s factory Ducati teammate in 2021.

rea’s pursuit of the italian youngster had him in all kinds of trouble a couple of times, most memorably braking into Turn One, where he locked his ZX-10r’s front tyre at the same moment the airborne rear tyre returned to the asphalt. The bike went into convulsion­s and rea only just held on, but even that didn’t convince him 20 points were better than none.

‘i made a conscious decision i could win the race, even after those moments. i was playing close to the limit many times, but once you believe, you have to go all-in and try and make it happen, regardless of the championsh­ip.’

That’s how your brain needs to work if you want to make it in motorcycle racing. here’s another wee tale, a real wee tale, that may further improve your

understand­ing of a racer’s need to focus and sacrifice everything in pursuit of victory.

‘this happened on the grid at donington a couple of years ago,’ rea recalls. ‘i was sitting on the grid and i was absolutely bursting for a pee, so i started going in my leathers; so much so that it dripped down and there was a small puddle under my bike. the three-minute board was shown, when you have to unplug your tyre warmers, and my chief mechanic uri [Pallarès] spotted the puddle. he gently tapped my other chassis mechanic: what’s that? he was thinking it’s water or oil or something else from the bike.’

Pallarès tested the fluid, by dipping a finger and tasting it.

‘i won the race and in uri asked me, “You peed on the grid, didn’t you?” and slapped me! i said, “Yes. sorry, mate”.’

in october, rea wrapped up his sixth consecutiv­e world superbike title and took his 99th wsB race win. he is 33 years old, married to tatia, has two kids, with nothing left to prove. You’d think retirement might be on his mind, but not at all. this is bad news for redding and anyone else with an eye on his crown.

‘it’s the winning feeling that keeps me going — it’s like a drug,’ he says. ‘once you get that feeling, you don’t want to accept getting beaten; so the motivation comes from the fear of losing, rather than the feeling you get when you win.

‘i feel like i’m at the peak in the way i’m riding. Plus, i’m still learning new things. i feel very adaptable to changing my riding style as the bike develops and i’m still as motivated as ever to get up in the morning and train and sacrifice a lot. that’s never dwindled. i wouldn’t say the best is yet to come but i still think i have a lot to give.

‘i think it will be pretty evident when the day comes when i get up in the morning and i don’t want to go training or i see my flight details come up for my next flight in a couple of days and i’m like, “oh, do i really have to go there?”. that day will come, but right now, i can’t see it.’

‘Five years ago, i joked that, maybe, i’ll win another world title and be happy to walk away, but the other thing that keeps me going is the atmosphere inside my team and the life i have at home, which keeps me really happy and motivated. that’s really hard to find in racing — that little bubble where it feels great, because you’re out there putting your balls on the line every weekend and it’s tough and there’s super-fierce competitor­s, but when you can really enjoy it and then go home and have a good family life as well, it’s incredible.’

rea has made a lot of history in world superbikes but many people still want to know why he hasn’t had a proper crack at MotogP. Basically, he couldn’t find the bike he wanted. also, wsB makes a lot more sense for a family man.

‘we have 13 rounds a year, while MotogP has 20 [in normal seasons]. usually, my wife and kids come to 70 per cent of the races and we don’t have a nanny that comes with us to parent our kids for us, which i’m super-proud to say.

‘i don’t think we could do that if i were away 20 weeks racing, another few weeks testing, and then Pr commitment­s on top of that. i get home from races and take the kids to school on Monday, whereas if i’d had the

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