Jonathan Rea on 'Ride for Five' in World Superbikes Championship
WHEN you’re as dominant in your sport as four-in-a-row World Superbikes Champion Jonathan Rea is then you have to set yourself special targets.
Next year is obviously about ‘The Drive for Five’, or, more accurately, ‘The Ride for Five’- but, somewhat surprisingly, he wants to win it in a certain fashion, one where he’s pushed all the way to the winning line and to the top of the standings.
“If I could pick, I would win in the last round of the Championship, in a last lap battle, and that would be a euphoric feeling you’d have,” says the 31-year-old.
However, the east Antrim man isn’t complaining: “Not really. The only anti-climax I feel is, with two races on a weekend, each of the Championships I have won have always been in race one.
“So there’s that feeling like you’ve just done something absolutely amazing – but you’ve got to go out and race again the next day, or in a few hours before it was split over different days…
“When I win a World Championship I want to go and celebrate with my team, go out partying or have a nice celebration meal, but you can’t, you have to re-focus and do it all again in 24 hours’ time.”
His first world title in 2015 came in unexpected cirumstances – the first time he wasn’t on the podium in race number 21 of that campaign: “That was really strange. I’d had an incredible year with Kawasaki and that was my worst result of the season…
“2016 got a bit better, I finished second [in his title-clinching race] – although I got beat hands down. 2017 and ’18 I managed to do it with a race win and that was unbelievable.
“But winning never gets old, it never becomes normal. I could recite every single one of my race victories, for different reasons.”
Having done all that he’s done – including a first ever WSB four-in-a-row and a record-extending 68 victories – Rea could be forgiven for resting on his laurels, but he believes there is more to come from himself:
“100 per cent. I’m in a lucky position with a factory team, and I’ve got great people around me, but these last years I’ve beefed up my inner circle. I got a riding coach in 2016, Fabien Foret, to try to help me on track a little bit.
“I never feel like I’ve ticked the box and I’m the best – I always want to improve. Next year we have a new bike coming which should be a step forward, I feel like I’ve influenced the development of that bike, but of course other manufacturers are also releasing new models next season, so it never stands still.
“The technical regulations this year got suppressed quite a bit, trying to slow us down, but as a factory team we reacted really well: this is probably the best bike we ever had.”
After achieving the ‘Four of a kind’, he’s now setting sights on a straight flush, arguably a Royal Flush as they would all be in the same suit (of leathers) with the Kawasaki Racing Team.
A two-year contract extension was confirmed in June and his appetite for success remains as ravenous as ever:
“After winning four, you can’t aim for anything less than winning. Kawasaki are an incredible company and great people – but they don’t employ me because I’m a good guy, they employ me to win.
“There is a lot of pressure, but having good people in the garage, the mechanics and the technical people have become good friends, so I don’t feel that pressure. I always feel that I’m going to work to have fun.”
All that he needs now is a little more competition from his rivals…
* 'Dream. Believe. Achieve' , the autobiography of four-in-a-row World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea, is out now from HarperCollins, priced £20.