Jonathan Rea, the most successful ever
Nobody ever succeeded in the feat before him. He is the most successful rider in the 30 years of history in the top series for modified production motorcycles. In the category, he is the rider with the most world championship titles, the most individual wins, the most podiums and the fastest race laps. For the fifth time in a row, Jonathan Rea won the FIM Superbike World Championship on a Kawasaki.
Born on 2 February 1987 in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, Rea began his racing career in motocross at the age of sixteen. His first FIM Superbike World Championship season was in 2009 with Honda in which he ended fifth in the final ranking racking up eight podiums in total. Six years later, he joined the Kawasaki Racing Team and on 20 September 2015, having secured a fourth place in Race 1 in Jerez, he was named world champion with two rounds to go before the end of the championship, allowing the Japanese manufacturer to win their first constructors' world championship award for modified production bikes.
Rea scored three more world titles before this year's success. In 2017 was appointed member of the Order of the British Empire for services to motorcycle racing by Prince William and in 2018 he received an honorary degree in literature from the University of Ulster for his outstanding contribution to sport. In the same year, he published his autobiography, “Dream. Believe. Achieve.” telling the story of his dedication, of his successes and above all of the determination that drove him to become a champion.
In 2019, Jonathan Rea wrote another chapter, this time in WorldSBK history. On the last weekend of September, he played his masterstroke in Race 2 at Magny-Cours and took away his fifth world championship, once again with two races to go before the end of the season. The resounding achievement placed him above legends of the calibre of fellow Brit Carl Fogarty and Australian Troy Bayliss, who stopped at four and three titles, respectively.
The Northern Irishman has been competing in the modified production bike series for eleven seasons but never was a championship more fiercely fought than the one that ended this year in Losail. With no wins the first 11 races and finishing almost always behind Ducati rider Alvaro Bautista, he was lagging 61 points behind the leader.
The weekend in Imola marked the turning point with Rea winning Race 1 and the Superpole Race. The following round in Jerez the Spaniard fell in Race 2 taking everyone by surprise and putting Rea, now at -41 points, back in the running for the title. It was the beginning of a memorable comeback with six wins and six second places in the next thirteen races. Riding his Ninja, in the third to last round of the championship, he became the most successful rider ever in Superbike history.
“This year I have learned never to give up and to believe in myself more”, said Rea after the last race of the season. “We scored in every race this year and I am so proud of this. I am not stupid enough to think that I am going to win forever. I know that some racer is going to come or maybe a new bike, perhaps an injury, there is going to be difficult moments, but I want to try and keep what I am doing now. Let's see!”
Sitting in the Kawasaki stand at the EICMA in Milan, Rea told us about his victories, his bike and what the near future has in store.
How did you feel about winning the FIM Superbike World Championship for the fifth time?
It's amazing, especially at the prize ceremony in Qatar, when it all became a little bit more real. But to be honest, I don't have time to reflect on what happened because we have already turned our focus to 2020 and testing starts already next week.
How was this season for you, mentally and physically?
In the beginning, mentally it was quite tough because it was a new situation to come from behind in the first races. Physically, I felt great this year. I started working with a new trainer back home in Ireland and I felt much stronger in the races. I think that also helped to be mentally strong during the season.
What is it like to work with your team?
It's incredible! We're a big family. I'm really lucky that all my mechanics and my crew have become good friends. And as much I look forward to riding my bike, I also look forward to having dinner together in the evenings.
What do you want to improve on your bike for the next season?
We are trying to improve the last part of braking when I go into the corner to get some more feedback from the front and we are constantly working on the balance of the bike to be comfortable to adapt to each and every circuit.
Can you describe your feeling with the Pirelli tyres?
Pirelli have done an incredible job in the past year in developing tyres always bringing something better for us riders. The one thing that sticks out about Pirelli is the safety and confidence feeling. It really gives you amazing feedback to push on the limit and the performance of the tyres at such a high level.
Which is your favourite circuit to race on?
My favourite circuit is Portimão in Portugal because it's like a motocross track, it's quite a roller-coaster ride. I also like Qatar for all the reasons, because it's a night race and the atmosphere is really cool.
What was your favourite race so far?
This season my favourite race was probably Donington Race 1 in the wet because it was a big motivation to go out and try and win back my championship on the track.
What's your biggest superstition?
I do not really have superstitions but more habits. I always put my left glove on before my right glove and my left boot before my right boot.
What are you most scared of?
I'm not really sure what I am most scared of. I think I am scared of drowning, I always had nightmares about drowning.
If you could go to any sporting event in the world, other than WorldSBK, what would it be?
I'd like to go to the Tour de France final day at the Champs-Élysées to see the atmosphere there. And also round one of AMA-Supercross in America.
What would you have become if you hadn't been successful in WorldSBK?
I have no idea. I would have probably worked in my family business with my father. It's a transport company.
What are your motivations facing the next challenge?
To keep winning, I'm so motivated because it's almost addictive and right now it's the only option for me.