An MBE, BBC Sports Personality acclaim and - of course - a record-setting three WorldSBK titles in a row: 2017 gave Jonathan Rea plenty to write home about. The Brit is now widely acknowledged as one of the fastest and most skilful motorcycle racers across the globe. The 2018 FIM WorldSBK series is fast looming into view with the first round of thirteen taking place around the immensely quick curves of Phillip Island in Australia at the end of February. Rea and his Kawasaki Racing Team have already negotiated tests and technical rule changes to get the Ninja ZX-10RR into fettle for another charge for the crown; the final steps of preparation take place this month.
Behind the success and the weight of numbers that Rea and Kawasaki have accumulated in three years (a mighty streak of 39 wins from 78 races including 70 podium finishes) is another story. How did a sensitive and brilliant athlete go from being a shining light of WorldSBK to its ultimate master and ‘bar-setter’? The nest of that glory was constructed with a few mobile phones and fostered in the small but proficient confines of the Kawasaki pit box.
“There was a secret meeting in 2014 - that actually took place at Jerez - where I sneaked off and signed my Kawasaki contract in a hotel room, it looked like a right dodgy deal. I just rode off into the night on my scooter,” Rea smiles. “I signed my letter of intent and from that moment Pere [Riba, Rea’s Kawasaki Crew Chief] created a WhatsApp group. He welcomed me to the team and introduced my two mechanics at that time, Uri and Arturo. From that moment we have been in daily contact. Without that beginning it might have taken a lot longer to build that relationship. I don’t think we realised what we were going to achieve in those early days.”