With the dust settling on his title-winning celebrations in Jerez, Jonathan Rea has finally had time to reflect on the fact he’s joined an illustrious list of WSB champions – including fellow Brit Carl Fogarty.
ea explains; “It’s only just sinking in,” after arriving back into Northern Ireland following the Jerez WSB.
“I’ve had an amazing reception, especially on the news and other media. The last racing world champion we had was in 1986, which is a long time ago with Joey Dunlop and Brian Reid.”
Rea paid a fitting tribute to his past heroes by donning actual helmets worn by Dunlop and Reid as part of a perfectly choreographed celebratory cool down lap in Jerez after clinching the title in race one.
“Winning the championship with five races still to go showed the measure of the year that we’ve had – it’s been incredible. I’m just so happy to get it done because I’ve been working to this goal for a long, long time.”
Ironically Rea’s title-winning weekend proved to be the most difficult of his 2015 season. His two fourth places were the first time in the opening 12 races that he had finished off the podium.
“That was hard to get my head round because I won the title in the hardest race of the year. It was great to do the celebratory lap, but I was more worried about getting back to the garage to speak to my mechanics about getting my bike sorted for race two than I was about doing all the PR commitments!”
Rea has been in WSB full time since 2009. Even as a rookie he was fast, beating far more established and experienced team-mates Carlos Checa and Ryuichi Kiyonari. In fact Rea has never been beaten by a team-mate in seven years of WSB. But beating your teammate isn’t enough to secure your legacy unless you are Jorge Lorenzo or Valentino Rossi in MotoGP this year.
“I was always the nearly guy. Yeah I could win races, but guys like that don’t get remembered,” he says.
“I could have had a really good career winning races, but if I hadn’t won a championship I would’ve gone down in history as just another good motorcycle racer. But now I’m a world champion and there is only a select group of people in the world get to lift that trophy.”
That elite group of fellow WSB champions continues to grow into an ever more eclectic mix of greats. From Doug Polen to Fred Merkel, Scott Russell, Carl Fogarty, Colin Edwards, Troy Bayliss, Carlos Checa, Ben Spies and Max Biaggi to name a few.
“I remember when I first started road racing seeing Neil Hodgson lift the WSB trophy in 2003 and I was hooked. Neil has become a really close friend and he still has that aura around him that only world championships can give and it’s the same with James Toseland. I had those guys to follow and now I’m a world champion too it feels amazing. I don’t know what will happen in the future and I hope it doesn’t change me too much, but I’m sure I’ll be able to dine out on it for a few years (laughs).”
“I’ve got a world championship trophy in my house and that’s something I’ve always dreamed of. Now I need to focus on having more goals! Foggy texted me the other day saying well done and how he thought I’ve got a couple more titles in me, he said two more would be fine, just don’t make it three!”
More of the same in 2016?
There may be four races left to run in 2015, but the top WSB teams have already begun preparations for 2016. Suzuki have a new GSX-R, Yamaha are back with their formidable R1 and Ducati have shown that their Panigale is well and truly up to speed having won five races so far this season in the hands of Chaz Davies.
And Kawasaki have a new ZX-10R for freshly-crowned champ Jonathan Rea, who told MCN: “We’ve got a new bike for next year and we’ve already been testing some revised parts and that gives a lot more motivation. I’ve never been in a position when the season is still going, to start thinking about the next model coming.
“People ask me about my rivals, but I don’t worry about that because they are something that I cannot control. All I can do is go away and have a really good off-season and make sure I’m in the best possible shape. In all honesty I don’t think we have to change the plan we had from the last winter test and we need to work straight away on getting comfortable on the bike and then getting up to speed. And because of the people around me and the way I ride, I know we’ll be fighting for the world championship again.”