Rea ‘surprised’ with three WorldSBK title wins
02 Nov 2017 - 1:16
By Rizwan Rehmat / The Peninsula
Popular Kwasaki rider Jonathan Rea yesterday said he is ‘surprised’ how well he has done over the last three WorldSBK seasons.
The 30-year-old from Northern Ireland had made the WorldSBK Championship battles a one-way street in recent years, winning championship titles in 2015, 2016 and again in 2017.
“I am surprised to be honest,” soft-spoken Rea said yesterday when asked to comment on his title wins in the last three years. “It’s a dream come true.
“I think when you are living in the moment, it is hard to take stock of the situation. I think maybe in 10 years I can look back and understand what I have achieved,” he added.
Excerpts from a detail chat with the WorldSBK star at the Ritz-Carlton Doha.
Q: Jonathon, welcome to Doha. What are you expectations this week?
A: I really love the Losail race which is unique because it is a night race. Going away from Europe (for races) is always nice. Over here we stay in a hotel as opposed to a motor home. The circuit is really nice. And to ride in the dark is a different feeling. I enjoy it. I know that I have won the Championship in France a few weeks ago. I can really enjoy this race now. I am here with my family - my wife and two kids. It really is like a holiday race for me. I really love the layout of the track. The ones who designed the track have done a good job, I must say. I have been coming here since 2007.
Q: This is the only circuit you haven’t won a race at. What do you have to say about that?
A: It is true that I have not won a race here in my superbike career. It would be nice to win here (smiles). I don’t know why I have not won here. The bike is quite strong here. The target is to win my first race in Qatar. Last year I was really strong but I don’t know how I couldn’t win. This time our bike is strong and I think we could do it this week. Hopefully we will do a good job.
Q: So you feel totally relaxed this week?
A: I won in France three weeks ago and last week, I did a double win in Spain so it is less pressure. This week I can really enjoy the race and not think about the point situation. It is difficult to be thinking of the Championship status and looking at the points. I have to be strong when I am not strong. I can be 100 percent this week. If I make a mistake or crash, even then there is no problem. This is how I attacked at Jerez (last week) and it was really nice.
Q: What brings the best out of you during a race week?
A: Good question. I really don’t know. In the last three seasons of the superbike, I saw that the first 2-3 races of the calendar (in 2015, 16 and 17), it set things up for me. So after three years in each year I had a small gap (over other riders) in the Championship. Over the last three seasons, I have been the most consistent guy. Of course there have been other guys too who have done well. Some riders have made more mistakes and some had injuries but for me it has been the consistency. I think building a good lead at the start (of the last three seasons) had helped. I think there will be more pressure from the next season. The last three years have been a dream because bike and the team and me have worked really good. I am sure next year it could be somebody else who could step up and dominate. I am ready to face them again.
Q: How long have you been with Kawasaki?
A: I signed with Kawasaki at the end of 2014. The deal ends next season. It’s incredible to be with them. It is a Japanese company but based in Barcelona and Spain. They are a very experienced team. They have been racing for many years. They really look after me as an individual. They have invested in me. They also look after me as an athlete to improve myself. It is a perfect team, to be honest.
Q: What are your long-term plans as a rider?
A: No idea, to be honest. WorldSBK has give me an incredible time since 2009. I am only thinking about the next season. It would be nice to go back to MotoGP with a top bike. But I have no interest to go with a satellite bike or a private bike because with a right bike I can do a really good job. Unfortunately Kawasaki are only competing in WorldSBK. But I feel at home with them. They give me a great opportunity. I really feel valued there. I am sure all the teams understand the situation we are in. I am one of the top riders in the world. I know 90 percent of riders in MotoGP and WorldSBK are out of contract in 2018. So during the middle of the season, there was a lot of talking between teams and managers and the riders. Until then no-one knows. It is too early say what will happen. I am still happy where I am. That winning feeling is great. I have a winning bike. And the feeling of winning is incredible no matter what championship you are in. The winning feeling makes you want more and more.
Q: Are you surprised how well you have done the last three years?
A: I am surprised to be honest. Last race I equalled the statistics of Troy Bayliss who was one of my all-time heroes. And for me he was a legend. He was a hero and when somebody put my name in the same bracket, I was surprised. It’s a dream come true. I think when you are living in the moment, it is hard to take stock of the situation. I think maybe in 10 years I can look back and understand what I have achieved. I am really happy that I am the last guys that is going around the circuit with my family. We do it all together. It is really difficult. If anyone has kids will know how difficult it is. But it is really rewarding. When you win it is not just for yourself, it is for your family. These are the best moments of my life and to share this with my life is nice. This is something I can look back with pride. I ride with an amazing team but I also I have a home team.
Q: So Jonathan is not just a good rider but a great family man as well, yes?
A: It is a question for my wife (smiles). I think so. I used to travel with my dad who was also a road racer. That is more street racing. It is normal for me.
Q: You are a nominee for the BBC Personality of the Year award. How do you feel?
A: It’s strange because in the UK motorcycling is not the top sport. It’s football, cricket tennis, so it would be really nice to be recognised outside my sport with all the heroes. It’s not life changing. It would not change my life if it doesn’t happen. But it would certainly be nice to be in the room with others like Chris Froome and Lewis Hamilton. I have already been invited to go, but I don’t know whether I will be nominated. I have never met Hamilton. I have met other F1 drivers. I follow him on instagram and he looks super busy. I am surprised he has time to race!