When someone asks you when Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) made history by winning three back to back WorldSBK titles, you will remember 30thSeptember 2017, as the Northern Irishman has been crowned MOTUL FIM Superbike World Champion this weekend in France. A match made in heaven with his Ninja ZX-10RR, Rea took the crown in race one with a stunning display of pure race craft. The 31 year old has made this seasons dominance seem effortless, and as he lifts the third consecutive title in a row he has cemented his name in the history books along the way.
Beginning his racing career in motocross, Rea moved over to the tarmac as he began to compete in the British domestic series. Making the step up onto the world stage in 2008 in WorldSSP, he quickly found his feet and moved into the World Superbike class with Honda – taking 15 victories overall. Swapping to a green machine in 2015, Rea quickly adapted to his Kawasaki Racing Team Ninja, and he secured his debut world title that same season.
It was from here the Northern Irish born rider became unstoppable as he took the 2016 title in style at the final round in Qatar, finishing a narrow 51 points ahead of team-mate Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team). Becoming the first champion of this millennium to secure back to back titles, he then went into 2017 looking to make history.
A strong winter of pre-season testing stood the 31 year old in good sted ahead of his title defence, and he began the season in true Rea style with pole position and a double victory around the Australian circuit of Phillip Island. Round Two in Buriram saw the dominance continue with another double victory and pole position, heading to Europe with a 30 point lead in the championship standings.
With already such a strong lead in the standings, the rider from Ballymena didn’t show any signs of slowing down. Rea was able to stop British rival Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) around MotorLand Aragon to take the victory in race one, before continuing his stunning run of victories at the TT Circuit Assen for Round Four, making it 11 wins in The Netherlands.
Rea faced some tough competition in the mid-part of the season, with Davies dominant in front of the Ducatisti around Imola and Sykes heading to his preferred circuit of Donington Park, but the champion continued with his consistency throughout the Rounds, only finishing off the podium once in Race One around Donington Park following a tyre issue.
Heading into the summer break with a 59 point lead following victories at Misano and Laguna Seca, talk of Rea securing the title this season had already began, of which he brushed off. Returning on track in August to the Lausitzring circuit, Rea again struggled to hold off Davies’ domination, but two podium finishes didn’t leave the reigning champion worried. Producing a masterclass of a double victory in Portugal seemed to seal the deal for Rea, whilst his team-mate and main title rival Sykes was forced to watch from the sidelines. Heading to Magny-Cours, Rea welcomed a fast pace from Friday and was able to secure pole position as the rain fell on Saturday morning. The title fight was never in doubt, as the Northern Irishman put in a stunning performance to dominate the 21 lap race in wet conditions, to take the title and his 12th victory of the season.
After securing this historic title, Rea is quickly becoming known as one of WorldSBK’s greats, with compatriot Cal Fogarty’s records in his sights. Ever the fan favourite and a dedicated family man, the three time champion is making his mark on the series in a big way and the question will continue to be asked; how many more can he win?
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team):
“To be honest I can’t sum up my emotions, I feel quite numb. I just feel super proud of my team and Kawasaki. It has been such a team effort, even though I’m the guy who rode it over the line, there have been so many people involved to make it possible.
Every season is different and special in it’s own individual way. 2015 was a seamless year, I joined a high level team with a well developed bike. I jumped on a bike that was ready to win and we won. 2016 was more special because we had a completely new ZX.10R, and I’m really proud of my team for the constant development. We had a lot of success last season and although we didn’t score as many points, we were able to understand the bike and it was a lot more difficult, so it was a lot harder.
This season we showed the strength of team, the manufacturer, the strength of Pere, and we went through some hard winter tests and we worked through the problems, and were able to go out and win at Phillip Island. I have to say thank you to Mr Matusda and everyone back in Japan as they work so hard to allow me to live my dream. I cross the line but there are too many names on the list who are involved to say thank you.
Straight away I am thinking about tomorrow and the end of the season. 2018 as a whole looks uncertain and we need to understand how the bike will work with some new regulations. Winter testing will be so important, and when we turn our attentions to 2018, I am 100% confident in my team and Kawasaki that we will always give our 100%.”
#FrenchWorldSBK at Magny-Cours: Race 1
1. Jonathan Rea Kawasaki
2. Marco Melandri Ducati +16.316
3. Tom Sykes Kawasaki +16.666
Championship Standings after Race 1, Round 11
1. Jonathan Rea (GBR) Kawasaki (456 points)
2. Tom Sykes (GBR) Kawasaki (327 points)
3. Chaz Davies (GBR) Ducati (302 points)
Credits : Photos and content courtesy of Dorna WSBK Organization Srl