Exclusive Interview: Jonathan Rea on 2017, his competition and MotoGP

Published: 07 December 2017

After another year of total domination, Jonathan Rea is fast becoming the Valentino Rossi of World Superbikes.

Winning three WSB crowns in a row had never been one before – not even by former series greats Carl Fogarty and Troy Bayliss. And at the age of 30 and his future confirmed in WSB, Rea is exploring the limits of what is possible within his chosen category – just like Rossi did in the previous decade in MotoGP.

MCN sat down with Rea to find out what makes him untouchable.

Carl Fogarty has called you the WSB GOAT, what does it feel like being on the verge of beating his records?

It is nice! I grew up travelling with my parents because my Dad raced. He and Foggy raced together and had respect. We bumped into him once at a motorway service station when we were travelling to a motocross race and he was talking to my Dad like an old friend. I was kind of in awe… Carl really appreciates what I do on track, he is sending me messages after races and it’s really nice to have that kind of support.

He has always spoken very highly of me compared to the other riders I race against, so to get his blessing means a lot. He is the greatest of all time and to hear that he rates me so highly is nice.

Could Chaz Davies do what you are doing if he was on the Kawasaki?

I cannot really talk for Chaz, that is a question for him. I read in MCN at the end of last season, when Chaz was dominating so much, that he was going to win so much and how he knew exactly how he could beat me.

It was that interview and that article that gave me so much motivation over the off-season. It was something I hung on to.

Some people say that my first year at Kawasaki was plain sailing, the bike was really good and I bonded well with the team. I had a few bad weekends off the podium and one DNF.

Last year was really difficult but we still managed to win because we were so consistent. This year, no-one can say it was about consistency. No-one can say it is about the bike. This year I have been the class of the field, won more than 50% of the races. Last year was maybe Chaz’s chance and he made some mistakes.

Some people outside WSB think you have no competition at all?

From the outside it looks like a demolition job, but it is completely not like that. I do not ride with one arm behind my back. There were no races I was dominating until the last part of the year.

I do feel Chaz and Tom are the best of the other guys, but they are also on the best equipment. It’s hard to know sometimes but I break my balls every weekend. I am not twiddling my thumbs. This is not easy.

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If you had a good bike in MotoGP, how would you get on?

You can never say. But I have 100% faith that with a top machine I could be a top five guy. I have no doubt whatsoever, but I would be surprised if that opportunity ever came my way. Even in 2019, I have no idea. It’s too far away!

Normally that championship starts to sort itself out earlier than here, so probably in the first quarter of the MotoGP season people will start talking. It’s quite good for me that most people are out of contract at the end of next year. I used to feel that the opinion over there is that 30 is too old. In recent times it is starting to show that 30 is the age that riders are peaking. Valentino is well into his 30s, Dovizioso is now in his 30s, so there is a lot to be said for experience.

Maybe now is the time I might be accepted. I certainly feel like I am riding the best I ever have and I have a lot to give as well. We will see.

Some people say that BSB is much better than WSB. Some even that it is a higher level of racing?

There is no comparison. BSB is a national championship. It is a high level championship and there are some really high level riders there, but it is not a world championship.

I feel that the best British riders right now are in World Superbike, aside from someone like Cal, who is obviously doing a good job in MotoGP.

From an entertainment point of view, if you want to go and watch 20 races per day and see lots of British riders doing well, and see a great entertainment package, then you go to Oulton Park and watch a Bank Holiday weekend of BSB racing. If you want to come and watch some of the best British riders in the world, then book your ticket to Donington WSB and come see that. 

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