Newly-crowned WorldSBK champion speaks about title win.
Kawasaki Racing Team’s Jonathan Rea clinched the 2015 WorldSBK championship at Jerez on Sunday, winning the first 12 of 20 races before claiming the title with two rounds to spare in Spain. With an unbroken podium run up until race one on Sunday, Rea has been the class of the season on board the ZX-10R.
What does it feel like, personally, to have a year like this, especially after having been in the championship for such a long time?
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 and 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.
How special has this season been after all that earlier frustration?
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.
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?
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 percent 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.
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?
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 ‘lime-lighty’ 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.