Kawasaki Press Release: Jonathan Rea, Q&A With The 2015 World Superbike Champion

A press release interview with the 2015 World Superbike champion:

Jonathan Rea: Superbike World Champion 2015

After finishing fourth in the first WorldSBK race at Jerez de la Frontera in Spain Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) became the FIM Superbike World Champion for the first time in his career.

Born in Northern Ireland in 1987, Jonathan only joined the Kawasaki Racing Team for the 2015 season, after taking part in his first full WSB season in 2009.

He made an immediate impact on the Ninja ZX-10R in winter testing and won the first race of the year for Kawasaki, at Phillip Island on February 22nd. He won 12 of the first 20 races, and has not finished off the podium in any of them, before arriving in Spain to lift his crown.

A Q&A with Jonathan follows, below, plus some of his remarkable facts and statistics and comments from Kawasaki and his KRT team.

Q: What does it feel like, personally, to have a year like this, especially after having been in the championship for such a long time?

JR: Personally, it feels like a little bit of a weight off my shoulders. I have always believed that we were capable of winning a world championship right after I had stepped off a World Supersport bike onto a Superbike. Now, in this moment, it just feels like my time to be honest. It feels a bit like everything has gone my way a bit, even when a couple of things could have gone wrong. Like when the rain came in Portimao and I had a slide with the front in the wet, and caught it on my knee. When I had a big moment at Donington in lap one, and I landed straight back on the seat again, and was able to pick up a second place…

It has just panned out for me so smoothly. I have never had that happen before. I have been in Superbike quite a while and I have had two seasons that were dogged with injury, with my wrist and a femur issues in 2011 and 2013.

Q: How special has this season been after all that earlier frustration?

JR: The most special thing, really, is not just right now where we are, and in the position we are now in. It was joining Kawasaki and a team that had been so successful over the past few seasons, sharing a garage with one of the strongest riders in World Superbike. To come out and win the first race at Phillip Island… that is a feeling and memory that I will take with me for a long time. That felt amazing so from that point on every weekend - where even if we couldn’t qualify on the front row, or even the second row – because we have qualified in seventh or eighth position, we still won quite a few races. It is a testament to all the hard work that not just Pere Riba my crew chief, or Paolo Marchetti my electronics guy, but all the mechanics put into making sure we have a package on Sunday that works. It is proof that the Ninja ZX-10R is, if not the best one, then certainly one of the best packages right now on the grid.

Q: When you are riding at race-winning pace it looks like it is smooth and easy – although, of course it is never easy. What is it about that bike that helps with that, to make it look so smooth?

JR: I also felt that my previous bike fitted me quite well but the development from the KHI side, that our electronic guys Paolo and Danilo do, from the ECU side and engine management, there is no doubt we have the best electronics on the grid. And the two best electronic engineers – not just in our paddock but in the world – inside our box. Those are two massive factors to make the bike good. Then from a chassis point of view the bike just turns so well. I think the positive thing of developing and using Showa suspension is that we have got 100% of their attention. Now the Showa suspension and the way we are working with us has given us an incredible platform. They have shown that they are really behind it. By them solely working for us we have made massive gains.

Q: Coming from a racing background, and knowing that a lot of good riders will not get the chance to be world champion, does that make this year even sweeter to you?

JR: Anybody that has won a championship has not just arrived in that one championship. Everyone has faced adversity and hard times, and come a long way. But since I have been five years old I have been competing in schoolboy Motocross. So I feel like I have been riding competitively for such a long time. I came into the world championships at 20, quite young, but I feel like I have been racing bikes competitively for years and years, so I feel like it has taken me a little longer to achieve that goal. The good thing about it is that as a kid with a dream, I never gave up on my dream. I just kept believing in myself. It has been all nice and ‘limelighty’ at times, but there have been countless hours and days and weeks spent in hospital rooms or physio rooms or with trainers. I feel like I have faced enough injuries already so it also feels nice to have a season like this because it certainly makes up for the hard times that nobody really sees.”

Kawasaki Comments About Rea’s Championship Win

Steve Guttridge: Kawasaki Race Planning Manager: “Bringing Johnny into our Kawasaki Racing Team this year was like a dream come true. He's delivered everything we expected on the track and much more as part of the team. Racing alongside Tom, it is a dream team and we really have to thank them both for their efforts to deliver these good times with Kawasaki.”

Guim Roda: KRT Team Manager: “I’m so happy for Rea and of course for all the Kawasaki family and all our sponsors, especially Motocard, Elf and Monster. What Johnny completed today is really great and we all have to be proud. Rea has worked all the year close to excellence and this is very difficult to achieve. He proved he is not only a fast rider but also a solid and consistent one. We are happy he found in his Ninja ZX-10R the tool he needs to show his potential. What he found in combination of his mechanics and his crew chief Pere Riba has been great, all done within not even a full year. I cannot wait to see him on the 2016 bike. We cannot forget the great job Tom Sykes did, and is still doing too. He did not start the season so well but now he is getting really strong too. We really wish he can take second place in the championship and that would be something for us all to be proud of too.”

Selected ‘JR’ WorldSBK Statistics

Date of Birth: 2 February 1987
WorldSBK Career: 2008 – present day
WorldSBK Race Starts: 161 At Race 1 Jerez
Pole positions: 6
Race wins: 27 At Race 1 Jerez
Podiums: 62 At Race 1 Jerez
Fastest laps: 19 at race one Jerez
First race: Portimao, 2008
First pole: Assen, 2010
First podium: Kyalami Race 2, 2009
First win: Misano Race 2, 2009

Round Number: 

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congratulations to him. i wish him well in the future. on another note, it still amazes me how quiet it is here in the wsbk section. the racing is just as good as motogp, but without the drama. oh well.

Lack of drama or lack of reporting? I'm sure that, if interest levels were the same, then some more drama could be drummed up in the WSBK scene. Sykes watching Rea come in and trounce him on his own bike would be an easy place to start.

The racing may be just as good, but the racing in moto3 is better than both - and it normally only gets reported in the bottom of the motogp thread. Most people are only interested in the premier racing series.

I didn't mean a lack of reporting about the race, I meant a lack of reporting about the drama. I mean, I'm sure the same drama goes on in WSBK as motogp, just that the rumours don't flow, and it doesn't get as much written about it because it's not as popular.

You do a great job Jared, and it's good to see your style developing, makes a good counterpoint to David's. I think the general sentiment is that WSK somehow isn't captivating at the moment and (in my view) hasn't been for the last few years. Given there's really no difference between this and any other series - at the end of the day it's a bunch of people throwing extremely fast bikes around short circuits - it's probably down to the lack of 'critical mass' in exposure and reporting i.e. there aren't enough journo's bigging it up and it doesn't get the TV airtime. It feels to me that the series lost something when Bayliss left, in the UK at least, though the decline may have had more to do with Rossi making a previously dull 500 series shine, Foggy (and then Bayliss) departing, 500/MotoGP getting mainstream coverage on BBC, and WSK only getting a pitiful 30 minute highlight on channel somewhere-down-there-with-the-rest-of-the-crap. But things change. Thanks to being levered by BT into their pay-TV products as a means of watching MotoGP, I also get full WSK coverage on Eurosport, and there's no doubt at all that pay-TV is the direction of travel. Right now the take up of BT from motorcycle racing afficionados seems low, but my guess is this will inevitably grow as the general population reluctantly accepts that you won't get it as part of the licence fee anymore. (And by the way, it was nice to hear Parrish commentating again this weekend).

And I wonder what will happen to MotoGP when Rossi finally retires - you'd think it can only be two or three years away at most. Will people still watch if Marquez romps to the title year after year? Who knows. But maybe the planets will align again for WSK, and decline for MotoGP. Or maybe WSK will just pick up again, thanks to you and others keeping at it.

I think that what WSBK lacks is the impression that you are watching the absolute best guys in the world ride a bike. Dont get me wrong I have massive respect for the ability of the current wsbk riders, but right now I dont really think any of them would seriously challenge marquez,lorenzo or rossi in a straight fight. Im not particularly proud of it but thinking that makes me care a little bit less about the outcome.

Wsbk might get a little more attention next year if Nicky Hayden joins the grid. I like wsbk but I would definitely be more interested in it if Nicky was competing. I used to follow it more closely when Marco melandri was challenging for the title.
I think I have heard someone say that sports are like soap operas for guys, and a soap opera is only interesting if you are invested in the characters.

I agree it would be great to see Nicky in the championship and see PJ Jacobsen come up, there is something the Americans bring to the show that benefits everyone. There is something that is just not right at the moment, the series does not get the pule racing like it use to.

But well done Jonathan on winning the championship

The 2015 WSBK narrative had a number of plot failings - too many of the front runners come from the UK, it's recently lost some charismatic characters and one manufacturer dominated the front end throughout the year. Normally I enjoy WSBK racing more than MotoGP but this year has been a bit of a snoozefest.
It's a shame, but I don't have many ideas what can be done. Perhaps regulations which encourage more competitive racing. Celebrity racers may or may not be the answer - multitudes turn up to watch Audi, Porsche and Toyota duke it out at Le Mans with second tier drivers at the wheel. Perhaps WSBK could peel off those headlight decals and add some real ones - along with a couple of Endurance rounds.

A truly deserved title after a commanding season.
And not to stir some, but I'd like to think Jonny's win is a kick in Honda's butt for not improving their bike enough. Poor Guinters had to inherit Jonny's inferior bike, right after taking last season's title, and look at where he is now.

Jonathan Rea is a class act and should have been in MotoGP years ago. He remained loyal to Honda, despite their lack of investment in making the CBR1000RR into a truly competitive package, as they promised and promised him a crack at MotoGP.

You could understand that despite his domination of this years championship with Kawasaki, that JR could be regretting his loyalty to Honda.

I loved watching WSBK on TV, especially during Ben Spies rookie year, with Nori Haga et al. But it's no longer on TV in the States. If it is somebody please tell me where. And I don't mean where I have to pay to see it.

I had followed the series since before Ben Spies got there when there was still accessible coverage via broadcast television.

Last year I was a video subscriber because the series (before Dorna took over) was a more entertaining series than the MotoGP product. I still watched MotoGP because of the prototype bits but WSBK was where I went for the "show" racing. Then last year happened.

Technical glitches with the video feeds on some platforms that were not fixed despite requests for a solution, an inferior quality video stream (compared to the MotoGP stream), poor announcer team, poor scheduling (I hate the multi-week gaps in the schedule), last minute race cancellations, a shortened schedule without offer of any type of compensation to paying customers and a (perceived) lack of drama in the series.

After Dorna took over from the Flamini brothers, "the show" was decimated by rule changes in order to drive people to MotoGP (at least that's my take on it). A minimal Aprilia threat without Melandri, Biaggi or Guintoli. Entertaining but hopeless riders on mid-pack grid filling Honda's and Suzuki's and no more BMW's surprising from time to time (like Badovini a couple of years ago). Its always going to be a Kawi or Duc taking the podiums *yawn*

If not for the Sofuoglu-Cluzel wars, the lower class would be devoid of all interest.

The worst thing that happened to WSBK was Dorna taking over the series.

I am sad that I missed Loyal Johnnie Rea's championship run after being held back by the machinery he was on for all those years but I'll watch it someday. Just not by paying a premium price for a second rate product and delivery system.

When they were at the helm the series itself had more passion. Now it all seens more like work. The de-icing on the cake was adding headlight stickers, signifying there's nothing special see here folks. Move along.

Come on. Frankie Chili. Haga. Edwards/Bayliss title fight. A real Superpole? Does no one recall Troy Corser on camera told Haga at Laguna, paybacks a bitch? Excuse me while I dry my eyes.

Yes this current group are as hard as their for fathers, but the Dorna system has been deluted too much.