Jonathan Rea has signed on for two more years with the KRT team in WorldSBK. The Northern Irishman will continue racing a Kawasaki in the World Superbike championship for the 2023 and 2024 seasons.
The press release from Kawasaki appears below:
The greatest WorldSBK championship fight for many years has just gone all the way to the very last day of competitive action. The new best Superbike rider in the world managed to become the most tip-top Top Cat after a season-long fight with the greatest WorldSBK rider of all time. And don’t forget another bloke in red, not blue or green. He also won more than a fistful of races.
Five of the top six riders also won at least one race, on four of the five competing manufacturer’s flagship products. All five manufacturers took multiple podiums.
When you see the final WorldSBK outcome written down like that then obviously 2021 will be regarded as a classic.
The past season will be remembered for many things, but primarily for Razgatlioglu vs Rea. It was, as even the most cursory glance under the roller-shutter pit garage doors proved, much more than just enthralling man-to-man combat.
I guess it is a credit to modern motorcycle engineering that so few bikes that get looked after properly in racing break down in actual races any more. With major parts of most WorldSBK machines coming from a production line somewhere, along with the rest of the bikes destined for the street, that’s remarkable in itself. Given that they all have upper rev limits and just a little bit of something in reserve on the computer design screen simply because you have a very limited engine allowance through the racing year, overstraining even your purpose-built racing components is a risky business nowadays.
Especially as in all but a few straights, the electronics spend a lot of the time attenuating the power you already have. Most of these bikes make too much power now, so the way it makes it matters more.
The reason I mention this potential race bike breakdown thing is that as I am clattering the keyboard in a hotel in Murcia, halfway between Barcelona and Jerez, the championship lead is a mere point, with Toprak Razgatlioglu just one ahead of Jonathan Rea. But, without an unfortunate front-running breakdown, due to an electrical charging system and voltage drop problem in Race One in Catalunya, Razgatlioglu would be leading by quite a few more points. He’s running away with this championship, if only he didn’t keep losing points.
I am striking while the iron of competition is hot here. In addition, it is halfway through the season now, so time for a recap. This is a chance to indulge in a bit of fortune telling and then possibly a nightcap when the laptop lid closes on another busy workday.
It’s just a short time since the racing fates piled into the 2021 WorldSBK street fights that took place in the shadow of a heavenly Czech Castle in Bohemia and the reflection of a ‘flame-off’ from whatever satanic mill was blasting away just down the hill from the Motodrom Most.
At a characterful but sporadically outdated new WorldSBK venue, the 2021 WorldSBK championship trendometer swung to full scale deflection once again as those aforementioned racing fates jumped on Toprak Razgatlioglu’s pillion and helped him win two, and nearly three, races on his factory Yamaha. Fairly turbocharged him they did, and a treble was almost achieved.
After the first few races of the 2021 WorldSBK championship some trends have already become apparent.
One, the usual one, is that nine races/nine podium man Jonathan Rea is leading the championship by a fair margin of 20 points. That’s equivalent to a second place in a full race. Four 2021 race wins under his awning already, he became the first rider to smash through the 100 race victory barrier in WorldSBK history at the opening round.
Two, Toprak Razgatlioglu is now turning into the more rounded, consistent force his talents have always pointed towards. Maybe his factory Yamaha too? Hence it is he and not two-time race winner Scott Redding who went from 35 points behind Jonathan Rea after Estoril to 20 points behind after the long-awaited return of Misano after two years. Redding is himself a full race win of 25 points behind Razgatlioglu. So that’s 45 points - yes, numerology is clearly not just for cranks and conspiracists - of deficit to the leader for the person many thought would challenge Rea most strongly after his great 2020 ‘rookie’ season. And he still might, of course. He’s still many people’s best bet, for obvious reasons.
Back to back rounds kicked off the WorldSBK season and after six races, Jonathan Rea has opened a commanding 35-point lead. Estoril showed that the field is competitive but that Rea and Kawasaki still have the edge thanks to their experience and consistency. Over the course of a full season he’s very hard to beat, but over a race weekend it can be a very different story. Here’s some of the biggest stories from the paddock in Portugal.
Jonathan Rea is the margin for error
I said it on commentary this weekend, Rea is your margin for error. Whatever the circumstances in WorldSBK the Northern Irishman can make the most of the situation. He doesn’t make many mistakes and he’s always ready to capitalise on those of his rivals. On Sunday it was Scott Redding’s mistake when he tried to retake the lead that Rea took advantage of.
The Kawasaki rider has claimed over 100 victories by, amazingly, being more risk averse than his rivals. It’s very rare that Team 65 go to the grid with question marks. Rea and his crew chief, Pere Riba, generally use tried and tested settings rather than looking for a magic bullet on their tough weekends.
The opening round of the 2021 Superbike World Championship is in the books and after three intriguing races there’s a lot to dissect ahead of this weekend’s round at Estoril.
The “new” Kawasaki ZX10-RR certainly looks different. With aerodynamic upgrades it has a very different profile, but this is very much a facelift rather than a new model. Engine upgrades were quite limited but with some new parts they had found a not insignificant 500rpm. During the winter Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes both commented that the bike was now much better as they wound on the power.
With a much fuller power curve the big advantage is found mid-range rather than in outright power. The Kawasaki doesn’t make its power at maximum revs. “We’ve been filling in the gaps of the power curve” was how Rea explained the improvements. That didn’t mean the team weren’t frustrated to lose the extra revs though.
Clearly annoyed at finding improvements and not being able to use them will always leave a team feeling exposed but in Aragon they found a way to make it work. The Kawasaki came away with podiums in all three races and leading the standings. It was a fantastic weekend for Team Green and gives them a lot to build on.
Rea’s performances will never surprise. Winning his 100th WorldSBK race on Saturday got a monkey off his back but as he was always going to win races this year, it was a question of when, not if.
Well, nearly. WorldSBK will start for real in 2021 not only with summer upon us as we kick off at Motorland in Spain, but so late in May there will be a 20-something in the dates of the races.
Covid is to blame, of course, but after MotoGP has ravaged a full five weekends of its schedule, WorldSBK is just about getting ready for round one to start. Normally it is the other way about.
WorldSBK seasons have started at the glorious Phillip Island circuit in Australia for years now. And at the end of February, ferrgoonessakes, which really means the middle of February because the official tests take place a few days before the opening round.
In the greater Superbike firmament there has been an endless reduction in the kind of special parts and technologies that allow a flagship streetbike to become a true championship contender. And only if you get the right crew, set-up and riders on board of course.
Bike racing is truly a team game, as those few people who do most of the winning would recognise, publicly or privately. It escapes some others at times, especially those who think they should be doing more winning. There is no escaping the fact that WorldSBK being such an equipment sport means you have to have all the right tech stuff, fettled and then ridden by people who also have the right stuff.
In an effort to even things up, reduce tech costs and then cut costs some more, we have seen either an endless dumbing down of WorldSBK’s technical packages or a increasingly realistic approach in what is fundamentally a production derived category of racing. The net results has been more and more rules to level things up in terms of tuning and performance.