“It's going to take time to sink in,” was the immediate reaction of Jonathan Rea upon winning his second WorldSBK title. The Northern Irishman has led the standings all year but despite this it has not been an easy title victory.
Rea has faced some challenges with his Kawasaki ZX10R throughout the 13 round championship. A spate of false neutrals-including three at Donington and also one in Germany-robbed Rea of confidence and points at crucial junctures of the year. As a result the champion said that his second title means more than 12 months ago.
“Honestly it is more special than last year,” said Rea. “In different ways this one means different things. Last year the championship was as a result of some amazing rhythm throughout the year. It wasn’t an easy season but the championship happened naturally. This year was different and we really had to work hard for it. I had to really win this championship.”
Rea's title success had an air of inevitability to it in recent weeks but until the chequered flag in the desert he refused to take anything for granted.
“The championship is 26 races and 13 race weekends and it is very easy to get lost with it but we've done an incredible job all season. In the last few races we have been able to manage a gap which was really comfortable. Now the job is done and the target from the beginning of the season is achieved I am just so happy and thankful to everybody in my team.”
While Rea's coronation was taking place he was trying to give chase to Chaz Davies but the pace and consistency of the Ducati rider was such that Rea needed to dig deep to even challenge the red machine. Knowing that if Davies won the race his title success would be confirmed Rea was willing to push hard in the race and challenge Davies.
“I felt okay in the beginning of the race and I was risking it because I knew Chaz would win the race if I didn't push,” he said. “It didn't matter if I ended up in the gravel because chances were we were going to be champions anyway so I threw caution to the wind. The Ducati was too fast on the straights and I couldn't stay there, only just about hang in there and Chaz was riding so good so congratulations to him. He had so much edge grip compared to be and I had to stop the bike and pick it up more to use the flat part of the tyre. We will have to play the long game tomorrow and hopefully hatch a plan!”
While Rea wasn't able to clinch his title with a win he was clearly emotional as he summed up his feelings of the season and his bike by saying:
“I feel so much confidence from this year. This 2016 Kawasaki ZX-10R is like my son! It’s the first year with the new bike and I am so proud to give Kawasaki the World Championship with a new bike. This success gives me incredible confidence for next year because I am sure the bike with a year of data will get better and better. Winning with a new bike bodes well for next season!”
The official start of the 2017 season may be just under four months away but the campaign begins in earnest tomorrow in Qatar with Race 2. Chaz Davies took a dominant race victory in Race 1 ahead of Rea and the Welshman laid down a marker of his speed and consistency once again. The Ducati rider has won six of the last seven races and is looking to end the year with another double victory-his third in a row. On the basis of the weekend so far Rea is the only man capable of challenging Davies and with the title defended Rea will be free to concentrate solely on winning the final race of the season.
Gathering the background information for long articles such as these is an expensive and time-consuming operation. If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting MotoMatters.com. You can help by either taking out a subscription, buying the beautiful MotoMatters.com 2016 racing calendar, by making a donation, or by contributing via our GoFundMe page.