“Motorcycle racing is like surfing. You can’t force the wave to arrive. You have to wait for the right one. When it arrives, you just ride it, and all the pieces fall into place”. Jonathan Rea’s wave was joining the Kawasaki Racing Team in 2015, and since then the Irishman has scored five consecutive world titles, surpassing King Carl Fogarty's previous benchmark of four WSB, and smashing all the records in the series.
Jonathan Rea, the man of records. Having already established himself as one of motorcycling and Northern Ireland sport's all-time greats, Rea can surely go on to continue smashing the record books and create more history in 2020. As the WSBK season kicks off in Phillip Island on February 29th, the Kawasaki rider is ready to surf another winning wave.
"With the experience I have gained, I know what it works for me now, and we try our best to keep this run going. I know it’s not a never-ending fairy tale. "
Waves come and go. How difficult is it to keep the momentum?
Jonathan: “In this “wave philosophy”, the wave can come, but you have to be ready. You have to prepare yourself. Sometimes people’s wave come when they are not ready, and it doesn’t work. In 2014, at the end of my relationship with Honda, I was in a very special momentum of my career; I was ready to get the perfect bike, at the right time, with the right crew. That was awesome. My wave was the Kawasaki Racing Team and since I joined them in 2015, I have been in the hot seat for five years. But waves come and go, and you have to work hard on and off track to keep the momentum. With the experience I have gained, I know what it works for me now, and we try our best to keep this run going. I know it’s not a never-ending fairy tale. The dream has an end, but the idea is to delay this moment for as long as possible. I feel I can be competitive and fight for the championship for the next few years. This is our target.”
You are the reference in WSBK having scored the highest number of world titles, victories, and podium finishes. How does it feel to be the record man?
Jonathan: “Imagine that you are inside a bubble, and you never stand outside to look inside, trying to understand what you achieved. Numbers are nice, but you never pay attention to them. This is the reason why it’s easy to keep the motivation high. I’m still in this bubble, and I never really stopped and reflected on the past. I fully appreciate the achievements, but it’s a good job done. I’m completely focused on the next goal.”
A new season, a new challenge.
Jonathan: “In the wintertime everybody starts from zero, everybody is excited, everybody stakes his claim on the championship. I prefer to take a step at the time, trusting the process. I know I can count on a great team and a competitive machine. I have the confidence of having won five championships in different style; I won dominating, I won with a gap or, like last year, recovering from behind. Having experienced all these scenarios help me to be mentally prepared for the unexpected.”
"In the past I was impatient, and I wanted to make everything happen right the second. When you are a bit older, you understand that everything just falls into place."
Experience and time are your allies.
Jonathan: “In the past I was impatient, and I wanted to make everything happen right the second. When you are a bit older, you understand that everything just falls into place. You just have to be ready to surf the correct wave.”
“Dream. Believe. Achieve” is your mantra and the title of your autobiography.
Jonathan: “When I think about “dream”, I see myself as a 6-year-old kid on a Motocross bike who wants to be a World Champion, but he doesn't know how to get there. The word “believe” brings me back to the frightening accident I had aged 17 in 2004. It was almost a career-ender. I was lying in hospital broken with doctors telling me I would never race again because my leg injury was too serious. I never gave up and inside me I was trusting I was going to overcome this injury. Each time the doctors told me I couldn’t, I kept believing in my dream, and I had new motivation. I was back on the bike in eight months, thanks to my family and my coach. Achievement coincides with clinching my first world title in 2015. It was the reward for all the hard job done from my side and my family since I was 7-year-old, and I was traveling around Ireland and England racing bike with the goal of being successful.”
What is next in your bucket list?
Jonathan: “When I won my first title, I was satisfied, but not satiated. I love racing, working with my team, traveling the world with my family. The target is still the same: keep on winning. I’m not a number guy, but if I look at the stats, it would be nice to clinch the magic number of 100 wins this season. From a racing point of view, I surpassed all my expectations, but I want to keep on winning and learning.”
What did you learn from the 2019 season?
Jonathan: “It was maybe the most difficult season. At the beginning, it was easy to doubt myself, because Bautista and Ducati seemed so solid and without any weakness. All of a sudden, they started to make mistakes, and the bike was not so strong as I believed. I learned not to doubt myself, and also to challenge myself to the next level. I changed my style, being looser on the bike. I started using my body and the rear brake a lot more. I feel ready to put all these lessons in place and keep learning.”
Which are the factors you need to face to be champion again?
Jonathan: “In my favour I have the experience, a great team and the continuity of a good crew and a competitive bike. The negative points maybe the expectations, and the fact that being the reference for so long creates a lot of motivation for the other riders to beat me. But all in all, I am very confident. We know we are in a good position and we need to be clever and continue working hard.”
Who can beat Jonathan Rea?
Jonathan: “I’m not unbeatable, like last year proved. But honestly, I’m not considering any other riders. I know there will be difficult challenges, there are a lot of riders changing manufacturers, new manufacturers are arriving. At this time of the year everybody is excited, but it’s the same every season. I’m in this game from a decade. I know that after four or five races everybody finds his place, and then it will be easier to understand the values in place.”
"I am a family guy. I really put my family first, and I’m loyal person, especially inside my team and with the people around me."
The season kicks off in Philip Island. How do you approach the first race and the championship?
Jonathan: “Phillip Island is a unique track. The race is in February when is summertime compared to Europe, so the atmosphere is very special. It’s a fast circuit that features several 4th and 5th gear corners. It’s different from the European style of riding. The biggest challenge is probably represented by the tyre consumption, so you cannot really draw conclusions from the Australian round. My goal is to score as many points as possible in Phillip Island, make no mistakes, and move forward. We will understand the real values in four or five races. The race is special for me also because it also feels like home. We have a house, my wife Tatia grew up here, so it’s nice to have family and friends around.”
Ruthless on track, the man next door in your daily life, who is Jonathan Rea?
Jonathan: “I am a family guy. I really put my family first, and I’m loyal person, especially inside my team and with the people around me. I feel I’m a good person. I’m committed to the sports that has given so much to me, and I’m involved in charity. Then, on track I have the champion mentality, and I want to win. Of course, I always to try to be respectful, but the final target is to win, and this means that sometimes you need to be aggressive on track or pissing people off.”
How do you train your muscles? And your brain?
Jonathan: “I train my brain riding Motocross. Motocross is brutal because you ride at a relatively high speed on a track that changes lap by lap. You tackle many risks and dangerous obstacles, and you have to keep on adapting, changing your riding style, being alert, making split second decisions, and always be ready for the unexpected. As for my body, I also use some sequence training, and in general a varied program to increase my strength in order to be very efficient. I love cycling, and I like to change program every day.”
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Jonathan: “Probably retired, maybe going to watch my kids playing football or racing motocross. I am not sure if I will be involved in racing, but I see myself riding my motocross bike, enjoying life with my family and friends. I know it’s difficult to decide to retire, but the last thing you want is to be forced to leave because of an injury, for lack of competitiveness or motivation. The dream of every champion is to quit when you are still at the apex.”
Have you thought about challenging yourself trying to win with a different manufacturer?
Jonathan: “My contract with Kawasaki expires at the end of the season, but I’m in a great team and I am confident to continue here. Of course, I will keep my eyes open, and see which opportunities will come.”
Kawasaki asked to do a wild card in MotoGP with you. Was this a lost occasion?
Jonathan: “I don’t really understand. It’s strange. I wouldn’t like to do a wild card in MotoGP with a Kawasaki. It could be funny, but it’s a joke. It would have been a production bike developed on Pirelli tyres, versus a prototype machine on protype tyres. It’s like comparing Formula One to World Touring Cars. The funny thing is that we are a production series, so WSBK and MotoGP are two different worlds; it’s oranges and apples.”
Some people say that your limit was not having left your comfort zone to become a protagonist in MotoGP. What do you answer?
Jonathan: “I’m very happy with the decisions I made. I won 5 world titles and the last thing I think when I go home is MotoGP. There was a point of my career I was sad I didn't have a competitive machine. In a perfect world, I would have loved racing in MotoGP, signing with a factory team, and prove my potential. I tried in the past, but there has never been a contract on the table.”