Rea feels "indebted" to Kawasaki after signing new WSBK deal

Jonathan Rea says feeling “indebted” to Kawasaki for helping him realise his childhood dream is partly what compelled him to sign a new two-year deal to remain with the Japanese manufacturer in the World Superbike Championship.

Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki Racing Team WSBK

Rea was already a regular race winner during his first five seasons in WSBK with Honda, but it was the move to Kawasaki at the start of 2015 that put him on the list of the all-time motorcycle racing greats.

From the outset of the partnership, Rea became the dominant force in WSBK, winning a record six titles on the trot and over 100 races to establish himself as the most successful rider in the history of the production-based class.

Yamaha’s Toprak Razgatlioglu managed to end the Ulsterman’s title-winning streak last year, but Rea remains one of the championship’s leading runners and is currently locked in a close battle with the Turkish rider and Ducati’s Alvaro Bautista in pursuit of a seventh world championship.

Before the start of the summer break, Rea signed a new deal with Kawasaki that will keep him in WSBK through the end of the 2024 season, extending his tenure with the marque to at least 10 years.

Although there were some whispers about a possible departure from Kawasaki, the 36-year-old says he was always keen on continuing his success story with the team, with his title loss to Razgatlioglu further motivating him to regain the crown.

“I can't forget that my childhood dream when I was five years old on a motocross bike was to be world champion,” Rea said during the Most weekend. 

“I looked at [motocross star] Jeremy McGrath and Kawasaki gave me that opportunity in 2015, so I feel indebted to them. We have a really nice story together. 

“When you come from a winning mentality… okay, last year we lost to Toprak, another great champion, high [level] rider, it fired me up to keep going, to keep pushing. 

“I'm excited about the challenge of not just next year, but also the remaining races [of 2022].”

Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki Racing Team WSBK

Jonathan Rea, Kawasaki Racing Team WSBK

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Rea explained that contract talks with Kawasaki were straightforward, but he did seek information about its future development plans having felt at times that it has fallen behind its rivals Yamaha and Ducati in the development race.

“There wasn't much negotiation,” he said. “The biggest thinking was I didn't want to talk about my future in the off-season. 

“I [also] wanted to understand Kawasaki's long-term plans well with '23 and '24 coming because we have to improve the bike and the championship needs so much commitment.

“After that it was quite automatic, quite easy because there's not much negotiation by people, financial demands or anything. 

“It's just okay, ‘how the future is going to be? Am I still motivated? “My family still has everything good?’ ‘Okay, let's sign’. It's an incredible team, an incredible bunch of people.”

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