He switched places with Kenan Sofuoglu for the 2008 Portimao Round – the rest is history
On November 2nd, 2008 two riders swapped championships and bikes for the final races of the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, one event earlier than was initially intended. 2007 World Supersport Champion Kenan Sofuoglu had moved up to the World Superbike grid that season, but after a tough year in the top class the decision was made for him to return in 2009 to the series where he would soon become an all-time great.
Taking his place in World Superbike for 2009 was the same rider that had picked up the Turkish rider’s title-winning Honda CBR600RR the previous year. This youngster had shown tremendous talent all the way through his debut season in the World Supersport class, so ahead of the season-ending 2008 Portuguese Round the Hannspree Ten Kate Honda team decided to bring forward the switch a few months: he would partner Carlos Checa and Ryuichi Kiyonari in WorldSBK, while Sofuoglu made a triumphant return to WorldSSP.
In the following decade Sofuoglu would go on to pick up four (more) world titles and win more races than anyone else in the history of his series. His ‘replacement’ did the exact same thing.
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) raced for the first time in the World Superbike championship ten years ago to this day. 2008 was, with the benefit of hindsight, a fairly extraordinary year for debuts in the production-derived series: Checa, Tom Sykes, Cal Crutchlow… But perhaps none with the longstanding impact of the reigning WorldSBK champion’s: 71 race wins, four world championships, an almost endless list of accolades to his name…
As for that November morning, Rea wasted little time in making his presence felt. The then Honda rider qualified on the front row for that Race One and put in a praiseworthy ride to finish fourth ahead of several top riders. Race Two was a more complicated affair, but Rea still managed to finish 15th and in the points once again. A small taste of what was to come for the Portuguese fans (he has since claimed seven wins at Portimao and another seven podium finishes).
As fate would have it, November 2nd, 2008 was also the day Troy Bayliss retired from World Superbike – brief 2015 comeback aside. The Australian stepped in to the championship to replace Carl Fogarty and stepped out the day Rea arrived, WorldSBK’s three most revered riders connected by circumstance.
Watch Jonathan Rea’s debut WorldSBK race today for free! And relive all the best moments from his illustrious career thanks to WorldSBK VideoPass.