Kawasaki Racing Team rider Jonathan Rea reflects on a busy two weeks after clinching a record third World Superbike crown in Magny Cours...
I had a few PR events to do in Paris before the weekend so we decided to get a plane over with my family before going down to Nevers for Magny Cours. It didn’t quite work out like that! We had the plane that Cal had brought back from the Aragon GP and I think he sabotaged it because it was leaking oil everywhere! We had to wait for another plane so ended up being super late for my PR events, so that was super stressful.
Once we arrived at the circuit I was a lot more chilled. The team had made a big effort to throw my little boy Jake a fourth birthday party, so we chilled out and enjoyed that.
The forecast for the weekend was pretty inconsistent. Friday was dry, so we made the most of that and we were comfortably fastest, so I was really excited for a dry race.
Unfortunately, we woke up to rain thumping off the motorhome roof on Saturday. That was a strange feeling, we were so comfortable in the dry it was annoying to have to start from zero again! I haven’t actually ridden in the wet at all this year, so I was a bit nervous but as soon as I rode the bike I remembered how good it felt in the wet before.
FP3 was good, but we changed the bike and the gearing a lot for Superpole and I crashed on my first timed lap. I was lucky the bike wasn’t majorly damaged so I could get it back to the garage, where the boys not only straightened out my handlebars and foot pegs but also reverted back to previous settings – a different wheelbase, gearing and rear shock all in about four minutes! On my first flying lap I went pole, so that worked!
It was hard to judge on the grid whether it was going to dry fast or not so we went with the safe option of wets and I put my head down from lap one. I beat my record of the biggest lead on the first lap, I had over two seconds. It’s hard to keep your rhythm in those conditions. I’ve crashed with a big lead in the wet before and you feel like such a dick for doing it, but the worst thing you can do in those conditions is roll off and start to control the gap as then you lose concentration and mistakes can happen.
I didn’t actually think about the championship until I crossed the line and saw my pit board which said something nice from the team. It was probably the most relaxed I’ve ever been! When I was trying to box off the first title in Jerez and then with it going down to the last round of the year in Qatar last year I was quite stressed! I was quietly confident but in the race, it was just about getting it done.
After the race things were fairly busy! After the press conference and podium ceremonies we had our own championship winning press conference and the paddock show. Fortunately, I was able to squeeze a session in with my physio as I’d aggravated an old shoulder injury in the Superpole crash. Then the team hosted a small party to celebrate what we’d done, nothing too big as of course it was back to business on Sunday.
The second race was a strange one, we started in the dry but it was drizzling. That didn’t really matter in the end as my race lasted about one and a half laps! Tom threw a huge pass on Eugene and ran wide and Eugene tried to cut it back and gave it a handful of throttle and ended up on the floor, but his bike slid towards me and hit me pretty hard. I ended up losing my foot peg and brake lever so I couldn’t continue and I’d hurt my foot too so ended up sitting the rest of the race out.
It’s been a whirlwind since then. I flew back from Magny Cours straight into Belfast with my family. There were hundreds of people and the media at the airport waiting for us, that was really nice. It’s the kind of thing you see in documentaries about top sports stars and I don’t think of myself in that way. I’m just doing a hobby at the weekends! It was humbling.
I do enjoy it, but it is very hard to embrace it at times. I struggle a bit with the kind of hero-worship and attention from fans because when I’ve got a job to do, instead of absorbing it like I maybe should I shy away from it a bit and keep my head down.
We went back to the Culloden Hotel, where I was staying in in Belfast, and all the Northern Ireland football players were staying there and they came into see me on the Sunday night. There seems to be that camaraderie in Northern Ireland, I’ve had top football stars, Carl Frampton the boxer and others message me, which is a nice feeling.
My local council threw me a homecoming party on the Monday night. I remember arriving and there were a few hundred people were outside, I thought I was early but when we went inside I realised that was just the people who couldn’t get in the hall!
The rest of the week was mainly interviews, radio and TV and other media activities and then we capped the week off at the Northern Ireland vs Germany football match at a packed Windsor Park. I went out on the pitch and got a huge reception from the crowd. It was amazing, aside from the 3-1 defeat over Germany!
After all that, it was very nice to get back to the Isle of man and sleep in my own bed! I’ve a couple of days off, but then I’m on the Nolan Show on BBC Northern Ireland tomorrow and then heading to Las Vegas this weekend for the Monster Energy Supercross, but I can’t complain. It’s been a real nice couple of weeks.
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