REA REVEALS ALL: "Winning is like a drug… it's a battle that's going to ride until the end of the season"

2022-08-02 02:30
Ahead of the Czech Round, six-time Champion Jonathan Rea discusses his new Kawasaki deal, motivation and the ongoing title fight with Alvaro Bautista and Toprak Razgatlioglu

As the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship descends on the Autodrom Most for the 2022 Prosecco DOC Czech Round, six-time Champion Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) reveals all about his decision to re-sign with Kawasaki, motivation and always looking forwards in his career and the title battle in 2022 as he goes up against Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) and reigning Champion Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha with Brixx WorldSBK) in search of an unprecedented seventh WorldSBK crown.

REA-SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED: two more years for Rea in Kawasaki green

After the UK Round, it was announced that Rea had agreed a contract with Kawasaki for the 2023 and 2024 WorldSBK campaigns, bringing him to a total of ten seasons in green. It has been a partnership that has produced unrivalled success with six titles, 186 podiums and 102 wins as a partnership. Rea gave his first thoughts on re-signing for Kawasaki at the Autodrom Most ahead of the Czech Round.

Rea said: “It's so exciting to sign for two more seasons with Kawasaki because it's my family. They give me the opportunity to join the World Championship in a Championship-winning team with so many credentials. And I could never have imagined in 2015, when I joined that I would have the history that we've made together. It was more understanding of how we could keep making the package competitive, I could keep improving myself and if the desire to continue racing was there. Right from the first race this season, I wanted to just understand my potential where I could be and my heart's burning with desire to keep working and keep being strong.”

REA REMAINS ‘VERY MOTIVATED’: “I'm always looking forward to the next challenge!”

Rea won six consecutive titles between 2015 and 2020 before Razgatlioglu was able to end his incredible streak in the 2021 season after an epic title fight between the pair that went down to the final round of the season in Indonesia. Now looking to reclaim his title in a three-way fight with Razgatlioglu and Bautista, Rea discussed his motivation and why he remained with Kawasaki as he looks to write more history. He also opened up on what he was looking for from Kawasaki and himself during negotiations.

Rea explained: “After all the success we've had together, it's more or less easy, to keep motivation higher, because winning is like a drug. It's so addictive, that when you struggle, you want to work even harder, you want to be harder on yourself, harder on your team, harder on the bike, and I still really enjoy this side of things. I never looked back on my success. For example, I'm always looking forward to the next challenge. I think that's natural just to keep looking forward and keeping very motivated. To be honest, it wasn't much of a negotiation. It was more understanding the desire from my side to continue, speaking with my family, speaking with the team and also understanding the future ambitions of Kawasaki. Whilst WorldSBK now is such a competitive place, with so many different manufacturers being strong, it's important to be with a manufacturer that's proactive; that keeps working forward. You're speaking with technical management in Japan, speaking with my team manager and everyone. I'm with one of the best projects inside the paddock so we can put those thoughts to the back of my head and just concentrate on my riding, doing the best I can every weekend.”

2022 TITLE FIGHT: “it's going to get a lot more exciting before the end of the season!”

After five rounds of the 2022 season, Rea lies second in the Championship standings on 229 points; 17 points behind leader Bautista. Razgatlioglu is third, 43 points back on Bautista with both Rea and Razgatlioglu closing the gap to the Ducati rider through the UK Round at Donington Park. All three riders have scored 13 podiums in 15 races in 2022 with Bautista on six wins, Rea on five and Razgatlioglu on four.

Discussing the title fight, Rea said: “The fight for the Championship is a challenge because Toprak and Alvaro have their own strengths and weaknesses, their bikes also. When you have to calculate racing with these guys, sometimes you learn things that you can put into practice. For example, competing with Alvaro at Estoril, I played my cards perfectly, but I understood exactly where I couldn't pass him. With Toprak, riding him bar-to-bar for the last couple of seasons, even at Assen in Race 2, when we came together, I learned a lot. I understood how to race with this guy sometimes, how ruthless he can be, how I need to manage the situation. There's a lot more information coming so the fact that everything's so different, both riders are different, it's nice to be in this battle because you can play different cards with different riders. I think it's really good for the fans, they see a really exciting race. For now, everyone's getting on, which is nice. It's always nice to have respect for your rivals. I think it's a battle that's going to ride hopefully until the end of the season.

“It's more difficult to race three riders in a Championship battle than race with two as in previous seasons. Sometimes, when you have a tough weekend, you can lose nine points or more if you're off the podium, than lose five. It is more crucial to be competitive every weekend and not have, let's say, an average weekend because if your rivals pick up race wins, then you're losing a lot of points. But for me, it's better because I've seen big battles with myself and Toprak, Bautista and me, Scott and me, but never really Toprak and Bautista. And I think this is a rivalry that's going to start to blossom as well. And you can see the dynamics of how these guys are going to fight. And even after Donington now, when the championships so close, it's going to get a lot more exciting before the end of the season. I think the Championship's in a great place right now with, three different nationalities, three very different riders and manufacturers at the front. And it's really, really exciting.”

BEYOND EXPECTATIONS: Rea reviews 2022 so far

With a 17-point deficit to Bautista after five rounds, Rea reviewed his 2022 so far coming off the back of a season where, despite finishing second, he had several crashes as he looked to keep up with Razgatlioglu in the title fight. He said: “2022 so far… I was going to say about expectation but perhaps it’s over my expectation, coming from such a difficult 2021 where we struggled, I was making mistakes, riding on the limit of the bike. And in the offseason, step by step, we didn't improve anything radically but all the small areas that we needed to address we improved. My best moment of ‘22 has to be winning races at Aragon, the first round of the Championship to get good momentum and last lap battles with Alvaro. The worst moment so far is not being competitive in Misano. That was a struggle. I was behind, Toprak was so strong, Alvaro was so strong, and I was just doing everything to be there but still quite a way off the off the race win.”

Source: WSBK

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