2018 world champion discusses the secrets to his success
As the chequered flags were waved in France, it was the start of a bigger story for Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) as the Northern Irishman became the first rider in history to secure four back to back WorldSBK championships. But how did he get here? Each title was different, needing different tactics for each win. We spoke to the champion about the key to each title.
2015 – The birth of Team 65
“I think the key was the integration into Kawasaki and the birth of Team 65, the staff had really believed in me and they built a really nice atmosphere inside the box so moving there felt really, really nice. That was the key, so I walked straight into a family environment; the previous riders and everybody at the factory had done an incredible job with the bike; it was the last year of the old model, so it was a fully-developed bike and I just had to win and piece everything together. Before I joined that year, we had no idea we’d have that kind of success, but we won 14 races and it was incredible. It was a bit of a surreal year, but the key was that atmosphere the box and making that first year with the team feel good.”
2016 – Year of consistency
“In 2016 it was about consistency, because there were times that year when we faced a lot of difficulties; at the beginning of the year I had a lot of issues with the gearbox and we did a lot of testing, with lots of new parts arriving. Also the engine spec changed, it was a completely new bike so it was important to make our weekends as good as they could be. We had two setbacks – one in Laguna with a technical issue and then I crashed in Race 1 at the Lausitzring and it put us on the back foot, but we stayed consistent to the end of the year and that was what allowed us to win. There were times on track when we weren’t the fastest; Chaz Davies won more races than me that year but he just wasn’t as consistent and that’s what got the championship done.”
2017 – Having a brutal pace
“The key to 2017 was my pace – at times it was brutal. I could just turn it on when I wanted, and we had 16 race wins, so it was like a snowball that kept getting bigger and bigger! The only races I felt we got beat flat-out were in the Lausitzring and in Imola by Chaz, but the rest of the weekends we were really strong. To start the year with a double at Phillip Island and to finish how we did by breaking the points record was incredible. We learned everything about the new bike in the off-season after 2016 and put into practice for 2017, so the teamwork allowed us to turn the pace on, which was just incredible.”
2018 – Managing the points
“In Phillip Island we were right in the battle for the win until I had an issue with my tyre so I went backwards very quickly. This year has been about managing points and we further refined the package with the new bike and stepped up; qualifying we’ve been able to put ourselves on the front row a lot, so my pace there has been better. But, we’ve faced some difficulties with our bike and the regulation changes hampered any advantage we had last year, but collectively we dug deep when things were against us and it feels like we’re getting every ounce of performance out of our bike week-in and week-out.
Which is down to teamwork; from all the staff behind the scenes, mechanics, technicians, engineers in Japan, riders – it’s been a huge teamwork year. Consistency as well, because other guys have been as fast or faster than us on their day, but not as much, which is nice because honestly 2016 was the most difficult year and the one that ‘might not have been’, but we’ve managed to now have four in a row.”
Enjoy all the highlights from Rea’s title winning season, all with the WorldSBK VideoPass.