The first domino in the WorldSBK Silly Season has fallen. Jonathan Rea has signed on with Kawasaki for two more years, and will remain on a ZX-10R until at least the end of 2020.
Rea's signing with Kawasaki did not come as much of a surprise, after his failure to secure a ride in the MotoGP paddock. Rea had been linked with the Repsol Honda ride in MotoGP, though he was never the highest priority for HRC, and had spoken to other factory-backed teams as well. But MotoGP teams prefer to fish from the pool they know, taking riders from Moto2 rather than considering the talent in WorldSBK.
With Rea signed, other riders and teams in the WorldSBK paddock should start to finish up their negotiations. There are substantial rumors that Tom Sykes could leave Kawasaki, making room for a possible switch by Michael van der Mark. Chaz Davies is likely to continue at Ducati, though he too has expressed an interest in seeking out a good ride in MotoGP. The prospect of the Ducati Panigale V4 is tempting both to Davies, and to other riders in the paddock chasing the second seat in the team, if Marco Melandri either decides or is forced to leave.
Below is the press release from Kawasaki announcing the signing:
Rea And KRT Join Forces Again
Jonathan Rea has signed a new contract with Kawasaki to remain in the WorldSBK championship as an official KRT rider for two more years. This is an agreement that seals the commitment of both the three-time World Champion and the most successful WorldSBK manufacturer of recent years to each other - and to WorldSBK racing.
Rea had several options for 2019 and beyond but has elected to stay loyal to Kawasaki and the WorldSBK championship paddock he has ridden in since 2008. Rea has secured three consecutive World Championships since he joined the Akashi based manufacturer in 2015.
Rea and Kawasaki has been a winning partnership since their first season together, with Rea becoming the most successful WorldSBK rider ever, in terms of race wins, at the most recent event in Brno.
Jonathan’s legendary self-belief is mirrored by his confidence in the future of both Kawasaki’s WorldSBK racing efforts and the increasing profile of WorldSBK racing.
Over the past three-and-a-half seasons Jonathan has enjoyed a wins-per-race ratio of just under 50% since he joined Kawasaki. He is already the most successful Kawasaki WorldSBK rider in history, with his 45 victories taken on either the Ninja ZX-10R or Ninja ZX-10RR.
Re-signing Rea underlines Kawasaki’s commitment to be an integral part of the WorldSBK Championship itself and its desire to continue its development of ever-improving machines for both the marketplace and WorldSBK racing use.
Jonathan Rea, stated: “I am more than happy to continue in these next two seasons with the Kawasaki Racing Team. Since the end of last season we have already started to talk about continuing our partnership, so it’s nice to finalise everything now, so that we can concentrate on the remaining races of 2018. From the moment I arrived at the end of 2014 I was welcomed into the Kawasaki family and since then we have achieved success beyond our wildest dreams. Here is where I want to stay. Of course it feels natural to keep writing this incredible story together, and I want to thank everyone in the Kawasaki Racing Team for believing in me and for this opportunity. Together we will work harder than ever to keep the ZX-10RR at the front of WorldSBK in the future. I have the best team of people around me to ensure that we can continue fighting for the World Championship.”
Steve Guttridge, Kawasaki Race Planning Manager, stated: “Signing Jonathan originally was so cool. The foundation for his dominance was built up very quickly. JR deciding to say with KRT after three World Championships and breaking records is actually even cooler. All those strong relationships can remain in place. It is the same goals and motivations that we share with JR, and the dedicated KRT crew, engineers and team staff. To continue making history together with Kawasaki inside WorldSBK.”
Guim Roda, KRT Team Manager, stated: “We can celebrate that Johnny decides to stay two more years in Kawasaki and running in WorldSBK. It is important that he has decided that WorldSBK is the place that still makes him motivated. I’m sure many fans would like to see him running with the top guys in MotoGP, but we can ask the guys from MotoGP to come here to see the battle too. The level Rea has now is so high and this only will make the level of other riders and manufacturers in WorldSBK increase. All will be forced to give their maximum to beat Johnny, so we all must be happy and motivated. Of course, we all will continue working to improve the package so I’m sure the show will continue. Other riders and manufacturers will need to work hard if wants to have the honour of being a WorldSBK Champion. The show must go on.”