Rea on leaving Kawasaki: ‘I wish to be world champion again’

Jonathan Rea says leaving Kawasaki for Yamaha ‘felt so strange’ but that becoming a seven-time WorldSBK champion was behind his decision.
Jonathan Rea, Jerez WorldSBK Test, 31 October
Jonathan Rea, Jerez WorldSBK Test, 31 October

Although Rea’s success with Kawasaki continued in the form of race wins in 2022 and to a much lesser degree in 2023, the six-time champion elected to switch to Yamaha and replace Toprak Razgatlioglu.

Ducati have the strongest package on the grid, while it became clear last season that Yamaha was a clear second, even if Razgatlioglu made the difference at times. 

And speaking on the ‘Unrepeatable’ documentary which was centered around his success with Kawasaki before signing for Yamaha, Rea said the door to leaving Kawasaki was opened very early in the season: “I was quite clear with everybody from the start of the season that this might be my last year in WorldSBK. 

“Retirement was an option but when I started riding and understanding that I still had a lot of potential, I still loved going to the track, still felt competitive, I just needed something different, a spark.  

“As hard as it was, I was happy to take that decision and move forward. It felt so strange. Felt like you were cheating on your wife. But that’s racing, you have to move on. You have to evolve.”

Rea will be expected to lead Yamaha’s charge next season, and depending on how competitive BMW can be with Razgatlioglu, Rea may be Alvaro Bautista’s biggest threat.

Bautista is aiming to be a three-time world champion but Rea is hoping to make it seven, and joining Yamaha has made it more possible to achieve that feat, according to the Northern Irishman. 

“I wish to be world champion,” added Rea. “We talk about the first one being the most special but if I could repeat that goal then it could potentially overtake that first feeling.”

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