As part of the build-up to the Yamaha Finance Australian Round of February 2017, Jonathan Rea was invited to cycle around the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit on Friday morning. However, the Kawasaki Racing Team (KRT) rider was not expecting a mass gathering on the starting grid with Bass Coast Mayor, Cr Pamela Rothfield and the ‘Key to Phillip Island’.
Busy riding the 4.45-kilometre circuit with a group of friends, Rea was stopped by Mayor Rothfield and Fergus Cameron, the circuit’s Managing Director, plus a crew of pupils from the local Cowes Primary school which Rea’s wife Tatia once attended. Now a double WorldSBK Champion, Rea was awarded with the giant key and invited to accept his status of ‘adopted citizen’ to the southern Australian island, in the company of wife Tatia and sons Jake and Tyler.
In a further twist, the school children then whisked the WorldSBK title holder onto a bus and across to the karting circuit on the inside of Doohan Corner, Turn 1, where they duly unveiled a Jonathan Rea go-kart in full Kawasaki green livery, complete with his race number 1. Even the World Champion was taken aback!
“That was a massive surprise with my cycling mates!” Rea laughed. “We pulled into the circuit and I got awarded the key to Phillip Island and got some special recognition from the community which was so nice. I really consider Phillip Island my second home. My wife was born here and lived her for many years and it’s nice to come back. The double win last February here was amazing. It’s always the best round of year for me and we have it in the summer here, which is incredible.”
The Northern Irishman added that his target remains to become the first rider since WorldSBK’s inception in 1988 to claim three consecutive Riders’ Titles, before summing up the surprise of Friday:
“I feel like an adopted son down here. Cycling is quite a social sport, we all go and have coffee in the local café after the rides and hangout; it’s a nice switch off for me and it is also when I start my physical preparations in December for 2017 before I head back to Europe testing in January where I throw some motocross into the mix, a lot more gym work and by the time I come back here in February for Round 1, I’m really ready to kick start the year.”
The Yamaha Finance Australian Round will once again kick off the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, witnessing the all-new Race 2 grid format across the weekend of 24-26 February 2017. Tickets to the much-awaited start to the new campaign can be purchased at https://tickets.worldsbk.com.au/.