A NEW BLUE CHAPTER BEGINS: Rea inks two-year contract to replace Razgatlioglu at Yamaha

Monday, 4 September 2023 12:02 GMT

After the news he would leave Kawasaki at the end of the year, Rea’s new home has been announced: he will join the factory Yamaha team for the next two seasons

Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) will switch from green to blue for the 2024 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship as he links up with Paul Denning’s Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK squad after he leaves Kawasaki at the end of the season. The six-time Champion has spent nine seasons at the Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK and won all his titles with them, as well as over 100 race wins, but will now start a new challenge in Yamaha blue in 2024 as he replaces Toprak Razgatlioglu, who switches to BMW for next year. The Ulsterman will line up alongside Andrea Locatelli, who also has a contract for the same period, with the duo currently engaged in a fierce fight for third in the Championship standings.

THE BIG SWITCH: the Rea-Yamaha combination goes for gold…

Yamaha were the manufacturer who ended Rea’s title streak back in 2021 when the #54 claimed the crown in a final-round showdown in Indonesia. The 36-year-old remained a key figure in the 2022 season as the ‘Titanic Trio’ battled it out all season long, but it was Alvaro Bautista ( Racing – Ducati) who came out on top as he secured that year’s title, with Razgatlioglu in second and Rea in third. In 2023, after eight rounds, Rea has secured only one win and 11 podiums as Bautista and Razgatlioglu share most of the spoils. Can Rea’s huge switch to Yamaha turn his fortunes around, and can Rea help Yamaha win the Championship while he’s at the manufacturer?

A THIRD MANUFACTURER FOR REA: Honda, Kawasaki and now Yamaha

After nine seasons at Kawasaki, Rea makes the switch to Yamaha, and they will be his third manufacturer he’s raced in WorldSBK. He started his World Superbike career with Honda at Portimao in 2008, and then secured a full-time seat in 2009, Rea took 15 races with Honda before jumping to Kawasaki. It was there where Rea’s talent matched the rewards as he hoovered up WorldSBK records left, right and centre: six titles, 104 wins with Kawasaki, 256 podiums in total (214 with Kawasaki) and many more. It’s truly the end of an era as Rea makes the swap to Yamaha for the next two seasons, with the pair aiming to continue re-writing the record books.

YAMAHA REACT: “We believe Rea can add to his Championship tally, confident he can achieve this with us”

Eric de Seynes, President & CEO, Yamaha Motor Europe, outlined the ambitions of both Rea and Yamaha for the Northern Irishman’s stay with the manufacturer. He said: “We are very happy to welcome Jonathan to the Yamaha family and we are very much motivated to collaborate with him for the future. We have the same motivation to win, and the same passion for WorldSBK. Like him we have been world champions in recent years, and we want to be back on the top of the box once again. Jonathan’s drive, determination and hunger for success have been constants throughout his career and these attributes will contribute to our future common success. We truly believe that Jonathan can add to his World Championship tally, writing his name even larger in the history books, and we are equally confident that he can achieve this together with us. We are working hard to improve further our race proven Yamaha R1, to ensure that we provide Jonathan with exactly what he needs to achieve his and Yamaha’s goals in 2024 and 2025.”

MORE HISTORY AWAITS: those who achieved big rewards with brave switches

Whilst 2023 may be seeing the biggest switches of all-time in the ultimate silly season and an irrepressibly wild rider market, there have been some sizeable ones before. For 1996, Carl Fogarty switched to Honda for a year, which didn't work out and he returned to Ducati for 1997. In 2000, Troy Corser left Ducati after multiple success in 1998 and 1999 to lead the Aprilia project, which he took to race wins across 2000 and 2001. When Marco Melandri joined WorldSBK with Yamaha in 2011, he moved on to BMW for 2012, one of the biggest moves at the time. Jonathan Rea himself made headlines in one of the biggest moves when he originally joined Kawasaki in 2015, whilst Alvaro Bautista’s comeback to Ducati has been nothing short of remarkable after two years in Honda doldrums in 2020 and 2021, completing unfinished business from 2019 when he took the title in 2022. Razgatlioglu’s own leap from the Kawasaki family to Yamaha came in 2019, which proved successful with a race win on his debut and the title a year later. You can read more about each one here.

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