Jonathan, you raced to your ninth win of the 2017 season today and now have eight rounds of the FIM Superbike World Championship behind you. All in all, a good weekend here at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca?
Yeah, good stuff. It was an awesome weekend. The weather was nice and warm and we made some awesome changes for race day today that were good.
Yeah, to your way of seeing things, were Saturday and Sunday dramatically different? It was really warm on Saturday.
Yeah, I think the small drop in temperature really helped us today. We were able to get through the race today with a more consistent pace. Yesterday I thought we did a good job, but we were just off a bit in a couple of areas. My team and my crew mates made some really good changes overnight and today we were able to have a much more stable package for all 25 laps.
How do you like racing around the Laguna Seca circuit? Do you have to be aggressive on the bike to hustle it around this place?
Yeah, it’s got a nice flow, but the track is so technical that the harder you push, the slower you go because any little, small mistake really penalizes the lap time, so it’s really hard. If you just ride around consistently and be smooth, it’s not bad; but you also really have to force the issue without making mistakes, so it’s a really hard balance to blend because there is not a lot of run off area and the track is quite narrow in some points so it’s really important to hit all of the points. So, yeah, we managed to do that today and be quite consistent, but it is a track that doesn’t suffer fools. You have to be very switched on and not make any mistakes.
Would you consider Laguna Seca to be one of, if not the most unique circuits on the Superbike World Championship schedule?
It’s hard to say. It’s the most iconic because of the infamous Corkscrew. And also turn one is one of the most frightening corners of the championship. But for me Portimao in Portugal is really undulating and it’s something like a roller coaster ride and very fun to ride as well, but Laguna is like a mini Portimao with the undulations and all the up and down and what-not, but it’s probably the most challenging track on the calendar because of what I said before: I mean any small mistake really penalizes the lap time.
You’ve mentioned to me before that you really enjoy the vibe and atmosphere of Laguna Seca. You really like coming here, don’t you?
Yeah, it’s really nice coming here. I think the heart of Superbike beats in Italy, but a close second to that is the United States. I think the history here from guys like Doug Chandler and Fred Merkel and Colin Edwards have sort of paved the way and Superbike is still close to the heart of the American people. I think there is a sensibility here in the U.S. with the Superbike fans and they’re pretty unique. I mean I’m here inside my camper in the paddock and looking out through my blinds and the pits are still full of people after the race. It’s all really accessible for fans here and they get up close to the riders, which is quite unique. It’s really cool. It’s not just the track or the atmosphere here, there’s just something about just getting on the plane in London and really looking forward to getting here.
As far the season thus far, it started off very well with you winning seven of the first eight races. Your win total is now up to nine and you hold a commanding 59 point lead in the SBK World Championship. Just keep on trucking, huh?
Everything is going to plan. I mean we had a few mishaps. Chaz [Davies] crashed in front of me at Misano and took me down and then at Donington I had a problem with the tire and we had a huge crash and a DNF. Aside from that, everything has kind of been on schedule. We’ve been on the podium at every race we finished in, aside from the one race at Donington where we crashed. We’ll now have five weeks off where we can really reflect on the start of the year that we’ve had and come back refocused and refreshed for the last rounds of the series.
Do you like the big brake WorldSBK takes every summer? I mean you guys are about to take over a month off and won’t race again until you show up at the Lausitzring in Germany in late August.
Yeah, I do enjoy the break, to be honest. It’s maybe sometimes a little bit too long. Last year we did it and it felt way too long. This year it’s five weeks. With what we do, it’s pretty intense traveling and I try to manage it with my family as well as we try to take some time out and have a small holiday and what-not. I’m just looking forward to getting home and into my own bed for a few weeks and getting a little bit of a routine back with my training and not eating out every night and getting my kids into a good sleeping routine and then we’ll be ready to attack the last part of the year.
Yeah, I don’t want to curse you, but you have two World Championships and a third one is looking realistic.
Yeah, we’re on track. Last year I lost quite a lot of points in a short bit of time from some technical issues, so you can never be too far in front. We’re in a good position. I’d rather have the points’ gap than have to chase it down. Yeah, we’ll just keep focused with my team and try and do the best job that I can.
Tom Sykes, a great rider and also a former WorldSBK Champion, has won two races to your nine and is quite a ways behind you in the point fight for the ’17 title. You’ve been so dominant this season. Can all of this cause some friction within the Kawasaki Racing Team? Can you and Tom get along or do you just try and keep it all professional?
I mean we have to be professional. He’s the first guy I have to beat. We have the same material. I have my target to win the World Championship and he has the same, so it’s impossible to be close friends because you put so much sacrifice into winning. But we’ve got to be respectful because we work for Kawasaki and we try to do the best job for them as well, but we both have our own personal goals. It conflicts, of course. It’s impossible to be happy for a guy if he is beating me every weekend, but we try and keep it professional and give each other space we need.
I know you have another championship to try and win, but what’s in Jonathan Rea’s future? Any masterplan for the next year or two?
Right now I have another year left on the contract with Kawasaki with some options. I’m just taking things race by race. I’m trying not to think too far into the future and just concentrating on trying to win this year. We’ll worry about the future at the end of the season.
Would you ever want to give MotoGP another shot?
I mean the problem with MotoGP is that I felt like I deserved a really good bike in MotoGP for many years and I never had that chance. I’m with an incredible manufacturer here in Superbike and I’m really enjoying winning and enjoying working with all the staff. Going to the racetrack with the guys is really fun. I probably missed my shot at a really competitive bike, but never say never. I know I could go into the paddock with a good bike and do a really good job, but right now my heart is in Superbike and trying to win as many races and championships that I can here.