Swapping Jonathan Rea & Andrea Iannone - An Idea Abandoned

Andrea Iannone has been something of an enigma since joining Suzuki. The Italian was blisteringly quick last year on the Ducati, which is one of the reasons Ducati took so long to choose between him and Andrea Dovizioso after they signed Jorge Lorenzo to the factory team. He was fast when he jumped on the Suzuki GSX-RR for the first time at the Valencia test, then carried that speed to Sepang, where he finished as second quickest overall.

Things have gone downhill since then. The Italian slipped down the order at the Phillip Island, then trailed further behind at the Qatar test. His season has gone from bad to worse since racing started: he has five DNFs from 13 races, and when he finishes, he usually ends up around tenth. His best result so far has been a seventh place in Texas, but that was the exception, not the rule.

He currently sits in sixteenth in the championship, with a paltry 33 points. Iannone, race winner in Austria last year, sits behind both Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rookies, and behind a total of seven riders on satellite bikes. His rookie teammate, who has spent most of the season banged up with injury, is threatening to beat him more and more regularly. How to solve an issue like Andrea Iannone?

There has been one possible solution floating around since early summer. The basic concept is a surprising, yet surprisingly logical, swap. The idea was that Andrea Iannone would be shipped off to World Superbikes to ride the Kawasaki of Jonathan Rea, while Rea would take Iannone's place on the Ecstar Suzuki in MotoGP.

This would kill several birds with one stone. Suzuki would lose a rider who was clearly underperforming for them, and gain an experienced, disciplined, and highly motivated racer with bags of talent. Iannone would get the best bike in the best team in WorldSBK, and get a chance to find his winning ways again.

Dorna would lose the rider who has utterly dominated WorldSBK and made the racing predictable (the biggest question in WorldSBK at most races is whether it will take Rea one lap or two to go from the third row on the grid in Race 2 to the lead). They would gain an exciting Italian with a big fan base capable of mixing it up at the front. Everyone would be a winner.

The idea first came up in early July. But all of the sources I have consulted say it was only ever short lived. By late July, the idea had been all but abandoned. Rea is to stay in WorldSBK, Iannone is to stick it out with Suzuki.

The obstacle, paddock rumor suggests, was Suzuki Japan. Japanese management were not keen on the idea of a switch, and would not be persuaded. They had backed the idea of signing Andrea Iannone to Suzuki, which originated with team boss Davide Brivio. Now, they were determined to see it through, and were not open to the idea of abandoning Iannone midway through his (extremely lucrative) contract.

Since then, the story has reemerged from time to time. But each time it does, the main players involved issue stern denials. Suzuki boss Davide Brivio told GPOne.com, "We've never talked about breaking Iannone's contract. I can't see how this change would be possible. It's not even conceivable."

At Portimao, Jonathan Rea was just as emphatic. "I think that it's more a case of fantasy than reality," the Kawasaki rider said." There has been no official communication between me and Suzuki and I am very happy here. I have a contract for 2018 and so does Iannone."

Rea did not categorically reject the idea of a switch to MotoGP at some point, but he was very clear that it would only happen if the conditions were right. "My heart is in Superbike. The championship suits me very well, I'm on a winning package and to move to Grand Prix it would have to be on a winning package. It would need to be an exciting project to make it worth my while because I know that I could go there and be in the front group if I had the right package."

Does this mean that the idea of swapping Jonathan Rea and Andrea Iannone between championships is dead? Such notions are never completely dead until the new season has started. As one anonymous manager likes to say, "contracts can always be broken." The situation around Sam Lowes at Aprilia is proof enough of that. Given the political will, and sufficient money, anything is possible. But at the moment, at least one, and probably both of those conditions are missing.

Gathering the background information for long articles such as these is an expensive and time-consuming operation. If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting MotoMatters.com. You can help by either taking out a subscription, buying the beautiful MotoMatters.com 2017 racing calendar, by making a donation, or by contributing via our GoFundMe page.


Back to top


I think the only party that would be interested in this switch would be Dorna and the spectators.

  • If Rea fails chances are that his will end his career within 2 years being on an non competitive package in motogp, circulating around place 8-15
  • Kawasaki can only lose some or just equal the usual level
  • Suzuki can only lose since when results will not improve all causes point to the bike (and I think it is the bike, or more specifif the high level on motogp)

Ofcourse Rea will only go to Motogp with a winning package, not to a team that runs around 10 th place

  • Rea's career wouldn't be over. He could go back to SBK any time. Teams would be fighting over him.
  • Tom Sykes is plenty capable of keeping Kawasaki on the top step. If Rea was gone he'd win just about every race.
  • The Suzuki is a winning package. They won last season. The argument could be made that the other teams have moved the bar higher...but I think a factory Suzuki ride would tick all of Rea's boxes. I for one hope it happens! Rea has nothing left to prove in SBK.

With Rea gone - it would leave Chaz Davies to win the championship or be in a close battle with Sykes. When Tom partnered Baz - Tom spared no opportunity to criticize his team mate but with the arrival of Rea - Mr Sykes is not the racer he was.

WSBK is just dull and predictable. Melandri has been a disappointment. Davies is inconsistent. Honda need to go back to the drawing board. 

Rea winning everything reminds me of the Schumacher years in F1 and why I gave up on F1.

Got to agree with comment about Rea having nothing to prove. Even the rules to push him back to 9th or whatever it is in race 2 has little effect.

I have to correct a couple of your points...

With Rea gone Sykes would still have to contend with Chaz and (to a lesser extent) Marco on the Ducati. It would be a close fought competition but you can't say Sykes would dominate like Rea because he hasn't shown that ability.

Last year's Suzuki was a winning package. You know the one with the concessions allowing more engines, unlimited testing, etc. This year's Suzuki without the concessions is struggling to get into the points each race.


Suzuki have a their own WSBK team. Kawasaki have been in MotoGp in the past. I recall they did OK with Olivier Jacques, John Hopkins, Marco Melandri, Andrew Pitt, Akira Yanagawa, Garry McCoy, Alex Hoffman, Ant West, Randy de Puniet, Shinya Nakano(great helmet), Naoki Matsudo, Fonsi Neito or was he only SBK. Ollie Jack took second place in China behind VR 46. in err 2005 I think. Shinya scored a couple of podiums, 3rd at Rio de Jenero 2004 & 2nd at Assen 2006. Randy was 2nd in Motegi 2007. If Jonathon Rea was to go to MotoGp it would be easier to stay with the same manufacturer surely? It would be great to have another manu in MotoGp. Excellent PR for the big K. Kawasaki gain face by competing in the big show. The only problem there would be JR says "I'm on a winning package and to move to Grand Prix it would have to be on a winning package. It would need to be an exciting project to make it worth my while" I'm assuming it would take quite a while for Kawasaki to get to that level. It might be exciting. Something needs to be done to improve WSBK. I don't have the answer.

Suzuki do not have a WSBK team, hell they haven't even wildcarded anyone this year. They of course cleaned up in Moto America in 2017. They currently spend so much in MotoGP perhaps they just don't want to bother with WSBK, plus the fact that Dorna doesn't really want factor teams in WSBK (from what I've read -- to keep the likes of Kawi & Duc from winning all of the time). Kawi are not going back to MotoGP. They spent, what, 30 million euros a year and never even won a race? Whereas they can spend far less in WSBK and with the right riders can win over-and-over? What's their incentive to move to MotoGP? Well, unless they destroy WSBK by utterly dominating the championship for another 3 years.

I really don't understand Jonathon Rea. This last race really made me think he needs to get out of WSBK and take on a new challenge. Suzuki would be ideal as Maverick showed what the machine was capable of. If Rea could do the same then perhaps another factory would pick him up if he really cannot win the championship on the Suzuki (assuming he's at the same level as Marquez/Dovi/Maverick/Rossi). But time is running out as Rea isn't getting any younger. At this rate I am not sure I will renew my WSBK on-line package. The racing is too predicable now...

C'mon Jonny, give MotoGP a try!

had more overtaking in one lap than both WSBK races combined!

WSS and Stock 1000 both had interesting progressions during the race, but the FIM really needs to change the red flag rule to be the last completed sector and not the last full lap - two riders on consecutive race weekends now robbed of a finishishing position by someone else crashing or having a bike blow up.

There wasn't any! Could this be a bit of Dorna PR? Something to get people talking and keep the journalists busy? Not expecting VR to be back from injury and even if he is back, keen he shouldn't be the only story in town, happy that people should talk about MotoGP and WSB in the same breath, wanting to stoke the interest in WSB engendered by Micky's prospective ride on VR's bike.............Why, it's breaking Ianonne's contract not a move to WSB that Suzuki Japan won't sanction. And why would Kawasaki risk their world championships in WSB - manufacturer and rider - especially with Tom injured, by replacing their lead rider with a fragile crasher - even if he'd go? That said, it's a pity we may never get to know how good Rae is. 


The most interesting thing to happen in WSBK this year, was a non story, about its best rider, not leaving to go to MotoGP. I think someone needs to do something, and soon!

as they have collaborated on a few bikes/engines.

But surely the main stumbling block would be Iannone's ego.  From all reports I can't see him packing up his entourage and exiting the MotoGP paddock willingly.

Realistically I don't think Rae is the real issue, there are any number of riders who could take it to Rae, but the stumbling block is the NASA level effort Kawasaki have piled into the ZX10R.  Dorna need to take a leaf out of MotoGP/BSB and give the guys on track a fighting chance rather than letting Kawaski's stubby fingered coding crew run riot. 



I've never spelled "Rea" as "Rae" in my life....aaaaah, the joys of niteshift knightschift nightshift!

Beg your pardon Mikhailway my mistake You are correct Suzuki aint in WSBK. Once upon a time they was. What I was attempting to say was, Swapping JRea & A.I.29 very implausable. If they swapped championships and rode for the same manufacturers, may be plausible. It would be easier to suspend disbelief if Jonny Rea & Crazy Joe the Maniac remained with their current employers. one comment i read from inside Suzuki suggested that "Iannone was Davide Brivio's idea" It read as though they are sticking with A.I. 29 because Brivio doesn't want to loose face.

How to solve an issue like Iannone?

No one can but himself.

He has the knack to do MUCH better. But something else has his attention. And it is his own story about himself and the world. An aggrandized self involvement. I don't dislike him, cheering him on and appreciating his bold skill. His ego however? No.

He has taken a Pramac Ducati to the front of races. Double passes where a sngle one wasn't available. Superb bike control.

He needs firm clear expectations and consequences to put a press on his errant focus. Motivation the hard way. Ignoring his crap lets it fester. If he hangs his big shiny balls out that far, squeeze them. For his own good.

I for one would love to see this swap go through. It would be risky for both. For Iannone there would be no excuses. He would be taking command of the best machine in World Superbike, bar none. If he cannot produce similar results to Jonathan's, he will be exposed. And who knows what happens to his career at that point? I couldn't even venture a guess except to say that it most likely would be over. 

For Jonathan there is some risk as well. If he gives up his title seat and then srtuggles on the Suzuki what are we to think of him? And let's be fair, there are any number of reasons why he might struggle on that machine. Failure to integrate with the team, inability to come to grips with those crap Michelin tires ( he wouldn't be the first), or just the fact that the bike isn't really that good.  Sure, he could go back to WSBK. As mentioned, there are teams that would fight for him, but what sort of package would he end up on? Would he land with a team that could contend? Again, anybody's guess. 

It will not happen, I'm sure, but a grand experiment it would be.