Jonathan Rea Interview: The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

Jonathan Rea has gotten the band back together in his attempt to win an unprecedented fifth WorldSBK title in 2019

You’re the man to beat until someone beats you, and Jonathan Rea is doing all he can to make sure his time at the top continues. While the four-time WorldSBK champion might reset his points at the start of every season, he doesn’t reset the core group of people around him. Crew chief Pere Riba, electronics specialist Davide Gentile, and mechanics Uri Pallares and Arturo Perez are all back together for a fifth season.

The goal remains the same for Rea in 2019: winning. But after rewriting the record books where does the motivation come from for the Northern Irishman? At the start of his Kawasaki tenure the motivation was clear – win a first title. Since than it’s been about staying on top and then the fear of losing was a force last year. For 2019 Rea seems relaxed and the motivation seems to be coming from a less cluttered life.

“My motivation hasn’t really changed,” said Rea. “I want to stay at the top. At one point last year I did panic that maybe my time was running out, but this year I feel like I can ride into the wave again and keep it going. When I found the right feeling with the bike last year I felt invincible. It wouldn’t have mattered if you brought a MotoGP bike to the track with the best rider in the world. I felt like I’d go out there and win.

“It’s been more relaxing this winter and that’s made a huge difference for me. Last year I was flying all over the place and that takes a lot of your mental energy. I was in Asia and sort of did a world tour. When I arrived at the first round I got super sick on the race weekend. It was an effect of being so busy. The summer was also very busy so it was a tough year. I moved back to Belfast and that’s made a difference. We usually go to Australia for the winter and I was actually worried that I might just hit a big, black hole of depression because I’d miss the good weather! It’s been surprising though how much I’ve enjoyed the off-season.”

Internal strife

While Rea hasn’t missed the good weather in Australia he also won’t miss the atmosphere that had festered inside the KRT squad in recent years. With Tom Sykes having moved, on the tension that was clearly omnipresent has been removed. Rea seems ready to move on to the next stage of his career.

“We never had a working relationship. When I arrived at all I felt like I had to earn my place in the team, and that was the case even after winning a world championship. Tom is just a very different guy and there was zero relationship between him and Spies. Zero between him and Baz. Zero between him and Lascorz. It was the same with me. I don’t feel like it’s me that changed the dynamics inside Kawasaki.

“When I came to the team, all my ideas were quashed because my way wasn’t seen as the right way. He was the development rider but even after four years he was finding limitations every year. I had a clear target of where I wanted to go. If I said ‘left,’ he said ‘right.’ If I said ‘black,’ he said ‘white.’ With Leon we’re trying to develop the bike together, because there’s a lot of guys we need to beat so we need to make this bike as good as we can. You have to forget about how the bike felt last year because this is what we have now.”

Coming home

What he has now is an all-new homologation of the Kawasaki ZX10-RR. The dominant bike on the grid has increased its rev limit for 2019, crucial for the current rev-capping regulations, and it has decreased the weight of certain components. It’s changed the bike, but has given Rea the feedback he wanted. In winter testing he’s felt good, and with a change in his training that has seen even more time than normal riding motocross, he feels confident and ready for the season to start.

“Since moving home I’ve been riding motocross at a track on the north coast and it’s been great. Just riding almost ever day made me really happy because motocross was always my childhood dream. I did my MX camp in Spain and I’ve had a new trainer, Johnny Davis, who used to be the head of sport, head of performance of Ulster Rugby. I’ve trained differently this year with a lot more weights compared to the past.

“On the bike I feel a little bit of an improvement. I tried to work a little bit on my nutrition too, because the winter is basically the only time you can do that properly, but I’m 32 and I have my habits! I don’t want people preaching to me what I should and shouldn't eat. I don’t want to get insecure about and start focusing on it too much. I’ve seen riders go down that route and weigh their food and there was a direct correlation with their results dropping off. If you’re confident the other stuff doesn’t matter, but if you're insecure it can affect you. If your results start to slide you can start taking it more seriously and not think about the bike because you’re worrying about food.”

Over the last few years Rea hasn’t had to worry about his performances on the bike falling off but his preparation for 2019 shows he’s doing all he can to make sure it doesn’t happen any time soon.

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