They say it’s the luck of the Irish but Jonathan Rea will tell you once a champion, always a champion. Kawasaki Racing Team’s Jonathan Rea became the 2016 Superbike World Champion for an incredible second consecutive time on Saturday 29th of October as the Kawasaki rider sealed the deal in Race 1 at the Losail International Circuit by finishing second ahead of his Championship rival teammate Tom Sykes.
Hailing from Northern Ireland, Jonathan Rea began his racing career in MotoX, where he was British Runner up of the 60cc class in 1997 before making a switch to road racing in 2003. After a brief but successful stint in British Superbikes Rea stepped up to WorldSSP with Ten Kate Honda in 2008, where his first win came at Brno and followed through with wins again at Brands Hatch and Vallelunga. Rea’s progress was quick but his sights were set on WorldSBK, and he made the leap to the top the following year.
Rea’s WorldSBK debut in 2009 saw him ride for Hannspree Ten Kate Honda, a season that was scattered with podiums and wins. This was the story for his next two years with the Honda team, but he always just fell short of the Championship. In 2015, the then 28-year-old made the move to Kawasaki Racing Team and won the Championship, dominating the season with 14 wins.
This year Rea’s title defence campaign began with a double win at the opening round in Phillip Island, proving to his contenders that stealing the crown from him would be hard work. He didn’t have long to wait for his next win, which came at Round 2 in Thailand in Race 1. But Race 2 saw his teammate Tom Sykes step up and challenge for the title with a win, while Rea finished second.
The next two races at Aragon was the beginning of a fierce competition for the 2016 Crown between the two Kawasaki teammates. Rea’s second saw him finish one position ahead of Sykes in Race 1, while Race 2 saw their results alternate. Rea had two strong weekends at Assen and Imola, in which he finished ahead of Sykes as he won the double again in Round 4, followed by two seconds in Italy.
Sepang and Donington saw Sykes come out victorious over Rea, but the reigning World Champion came back in Misano with another double to further increase his lead in the Championship. In America, Rea was the man to beat but Sunday saw him crash out of the race while his main rival Tom Sykes won, adding 25 points against him. Then in Germany, Rea took the win once again in Race 2, bouncing back from a crash in a dramatic Race 1.
Magny-Cours saw Rea take pole, but Sykes had the advantage over him in the first race of the weekend when both riders made a pit stop mid-race to change tyres. Sykes eventually climbed onto the podium with Rea just missing out in fourth.
The points gap was slowly closing and Race 2 saw an epic battle between Rea and Sykes for the lead. Eventually, the ferocity of the duel unhinged them and Chaz Davies took advantage to steal the victory, as Rea pushed till the very end to come home in second ahead of his teammate. Heading into the penultimate Round at Jerez, Rea only needed to increase his overall lead by two more points to take the win, but in Race 1 Sykes came second ahead of the third-placed Northern Irishman. In Race 2 Rea had the advantage in second, while Sykes finished third. By collecting the same points, the gap in the standings remained at 48 points keeping the fight alive until the very last Round.
His crowning came in the heat of the night in Qatar after he fought to keep up with Chaz Davies, who stole the show in first. The Northern Irishman finished second and as a result, secured his second consecutive World Title.
Off the track, Jonathan Rea is a loving husband and the ‘best dad in the world’ to his sons Jake and Tyler. He’s a fan favourite in the WorldSBK paddock with his approachable nature and laid back attitude. He is a true champion in every sense of the word and role model for all.
2017 will see Jonathan Rea attempt to retain his crown for a third time, again with Kawasaki Racing Team.
Race 1 Results, Round 13
Chaz Davies (GBR) DUCATI 1’57.371
Jonathan Rea (GBR) KAWASAKI +3.904
Sylvain Guintoli (FRA) YAMAHA +10.498
Championship Standings after the Gaerne Qatar Round
Jonathan Rea (GBR) KAWASAKI (482 points)
Tom Sykes (GBR) KAWASAKI (427 points)
Chaz Davies (GBR) DUCATI (420 points)
Jonathan Rea WorldSBK Career Statistics
Race Starts: 191
Fastest laps: 26