Jonathan Rea spoilt WSBK for me

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I hate to say it, but my love for World Superbikes hasn’t got any stronger in recent years. And I know I’m not the only one. I put it down to one thing; the fact that Jonathan Rea just seems to be consistently that little bit better than the opposition. Or sometimes, a lot better. Don’t get me wrong, there’s sometimes decent racing in WSBK, but it’s seldom for the lead. It’s a real shame. And whilst winning six out of six World Championships in a row is an incredible achievement, and one that Jonathan Rea and Kawasaki ought to be jolly proud of, I feel like it just goes to show that the pairing is in a bit of a league of its own. Which isn’t a good thing if you’re a World Superbike fan.

But what’s the difference between Jonathan Rea dominating in WSBK and Marc Marquez dominating in MotoGP? I know MM93 hasn’t done so since 2019, but only because he’s raspberry rippled himself; he still won five out of the last six MotoGP Championships. Well, the difference is really very simple, MotoGP is the absolute pinnacle of the sport. The Peak. The upper apex. The zenith, so to speak. Which means World Superbikes is not.

Let me explain what I’m getting at by way of an analogy. Imagine you had a shit-hot darts player going from pub to pub throwing triple 20 after triple 20. He makes everybody else look daft and is easily good enough to be chucking arrows around next to the likes of Phil Taylor and Eric Bristow down at the Ally Pally in front of hundreds of pissed-up, novelty hat wearing darts fans. You’d tell the lad to step up to the Premier League, wouldn’t you? Never mind chasing MBE’s and ruining everyone else’s fun; get yourself up there with the big boys and let’s see what you can really do… if you’re so brilliant.

Marc Marquez has been pretty dominant in GPs, but there’s nowhere else for him to go. The same can’t really be said about Jonathan Rea.

Please don’t mistake my ‘venting’ for slagging Mr Rea off. I like the bloke, and I consider what he has done to be nothing short of remarkable. He’s an incredible rider, and definitely one of the best in the world. But he’s only ‘one of’ the best in the world, and until I see him win a MotoGP race, I’m afraid that’s all he’ll ever be.

So, what’s stopping him moving on up? Contracts? Yes, it’s fair to say that whilst he’s contracted to Kawasaki who, if memory serves me, haven’t had a bike on the MotoGP grid since 2009 (I just checked, memory does serve me), he’s not going to get a look in. But he didn’t have to re-sign his contract with Kawasaki at the end of 2018, if he’d of fancied a change. And you can bet your bottom dollar that there would have been other offers on the table. Maybe not for a factory team, but he’d have got a ride in GPs if he’d have wanted one.

Is it that he’s not fast enough? Well he was certainly fast enough in 2012 when he stood in for an injured Casey Stoner at Aragon on the Repsol Honda; he only went and finished in 7th, one place in front of a certain Valentino Rossi. Yes, the pace has improved in GPs since then, but I don’t think for a second he would embarrass himself amongst the MotoGP contemporaries.

Is it because he’s too settled in WSBK, and with Kawasaki? I think so, yes. I think he knows how to get the very best from a ZX-10RR, he works well with his team and most importantly, he knows how to win World Superbike races. He’s in his comfort zone. And whilst I don’t think for a nano-second that the job of any professional sportsman (or sportswoman) is easy, it seems to me (and I’m sure plenty of others) that the lad isn’t pushing himself, striving to get to the next level of his sport; the way a true sportsperson should.

But maybe that’s exactly it. Maybe this ‘Professional Sportsman’ is more ‘professional’ than he is ‘sportsman’. Maybe it’s got to the point where it’s just a job, and he’s going to milk the Kawasaki cash-cow for all it’s worth. He’s a family man after all, so you can’t blame him for wanting to provide for his wife and kids. I know he likes to get his family involved with as much travel as possible, so that they can be with him when he’s racing, and changing jobs would certainly have the potential to upset that applecart; more rounds, more travel, a different paddock and, crucially, a new employer. Plus many more ‘unknowns’ to have to deal with. And maybe that’s too much like hard work.

I don’t know if we’ll ever see Jonathan Rae on a MotoGP bike again but I hope we do. I’d love to see him on a GP podium and I genuinely believe that, on the right bike, it’s possible. But more than that, I want him to prove me wrong. I want him to show me, and the rest of the world, that he’s a true sportsman, and that bike racing isn’t just his ‘job’; earn your seat on the ‘Sports Personality of the Year’ table. Get out of your comfort zone and strive to be the very best in the world. Not just the best on a Superbike.


25 Responses

  1. And even if it doesn’t work out, it’s not like he couldn’t get back on a superbike. He’s good, we know he’s good but is he the best?

  2. Completely agree! Rea needs to move on and up and actually challenge himself and show his worth amongst the Moto GP paddock

  3. I agree. The only bloke to challenge him is Scotty, and we all know his story. Bautista had a HUGE oppurtunity to dethrone JR, but he just straight up ruined it…

  4. Really insightful this, I really think he’s a top level motogp rider if he was given the chance and way ahead of Crutchlow. And when you have that level of ability and you are riding in a ‘lower’ class you are going to dominate….and it becomes predictable and boring. This is a harsh sport you are putting your neck on the line and these boys should be rewarded for it as per what JR is currently having now. He wont walk into a top level GP ride but I bet he’s been offered rides before for no or little money. And its then you think I’m on XXXXX with Kawasaki and am I going to risk everything where it has the potential to go wrong….Guaranteed if he went to GP’s he will experience some crashes to find the limit, what if one of those crashes ends his career……Its a shame but I dont think he’ll ever go to GP’s now but honestly he could have been our best chance of a title contender over in GP’s.

  5. I know what you mean. As you say, an incredible rider to achieve what he has. But there’s something missing from world superbike. With all the English names in there I should be chomping at the bit at the thought of it been on. But it takes third fiddle every time to moto gp and BSB. And I think iv sussed it, there are no bad guys. No yin and yang. Everyone now is so corporate, you need a hate figure ( too strong a word but Don’t know how else to put it ) to appreciate the good guy’s. There’s always been traditionally a few figures, and they’d be different ones for most people. That you could think no I don’t want him to win. But now every one seems, well just bland ?

  6. Unfortunately….. he’s just too old to join the GP paddock, that’s why he’s still in WSBK. Every team in the GP paddock is looking for the next MM, FQ etc etc, not looking across to “lesser” championships.

  7. I have to disagree with the right honorable gentleman from the North. Yes, JR’s continued presence in WSBK has made it a bit dull, but fair play to the fella, he’s pretty good. Good enough to go to MoroGP at age 34? Possibly, but looking at it from his point of view, why?
    I think his reign in WSBK will come under increased competition, we all know how hard it is to maintain a winning streak in this game, sooner or later something will give and there will be a challenge. Bautista and Ducati showed that a couple of years ago before Alvaro hit his own problems. So, I’ll keep watching, admiring his domination, but hoping for a contender to try and push him off the top.

  8. My issue is I reckon half the field wouldn’t win a BSB championship. Which makes it hard to say it’s a “world championship” like Hickman who’s an average BSB rider managed to finish top ten in it?? And I’m not looking at lap times like a total anorak saying ohhhh but they’re .00003 faster, Rea is an unbelievable talent but I feel the chance to move would of been 3 years ago possibly even sooner, the sad fact is whenever he retires that future champion has only won it because he’s not there

  9. The multi day format really spoilt it for me, but to be honest, nothing they’ll do to it will beat the glory days of Foggy, Troy Bayliss, Chilli etc. I was there ar Brands Hatch in the mid 1990’s with the rest of 67000 people. That sort of atmosphere doesn’t happen very often. Then there was Assen. Foggy owned that track. Some very special memories!

  10. i’m not getting you here, so when van gerwin isn’t as dominant he should go back to playing darts in the pubs like redding, bautista and many other previous motogp riders that have “taken a step down” to wsbk. so is scott redding not good because he’s moved from motogp to bsb to wsbk? it’s two completely different championships for me, like rugby league and rugby union.

    1. Don’t be silly! WSB has always been secondary to Moto GP (and the old GP500s). Look how many good but not dominant riders have gone from the GP paddock into the Superbikes paddock and either run right at the front or completely dominated!

      Redding is still a good rider now he’s in WSB, but he’s racing against other good riders (I say this in relative terms – obviously they are all outstanding!) where as Moto GP is full of absolute superstars. Take any of the top ten from MotoGP and put them in WSB and they would win races straight away. Would they beat Rea over a season… that is the question, but that’s on Rea to move up and prove, not the other way around.

    2. Several of the field HAVE won a BSB title! Over the years Haslam, Redding, Lowes, Shakey, Camier, Brookes and others have gone to WSB after winning BSB and not exactly dominated have they? Lavilla went from being an ok WSB rider to absolutely dominating BSB in his 1st season I believe

      I agree about Rea though, his time to move to MotoGP has passed. He needed to just bite the bullet and move years ago.

    3. 100% agree, but it’s too late now. What factory MotoGP team is going to give him a shot at 34 years old when you have potential teen superstars like Acosta coming up?

  11. I think WSB isn’t entertaining enough as it is. I think Jonny would have gone into Moto Gp if he had been given a factory ride. The fact he’s british also goes against him for getting any decent factory teams as you have to be mainly Spanish to get them. Will we ever see another great british MotoGP rider i doubt they will ever get the chance. Why would you want to go and ride something that just isn’t competitive, have poor results, maybe injuries trying to push the bike too hard, then get sacked after a year. As in Sam Lowes, Redding did the right thing un stepping away from motoGp before it destroyed his career.
    I hope lowes and Dixon get a chance but then maybe they will stick in moto 2 and then go to WSB or BSB.

  12. It wouldn’t be so bad if he had a bit of personality but he just comes across like a yes man robot, I’ve seen people in accounting have more passion for what they do. Not saying he’s a bad guy and 6 titles is incredible but he just needs a bit more about him.

  13. Some great points raised and while I still love WSB, it definitely feels like it’s in a transition phase at the moment, not quite knowing where it stands.

    Jonny should have taken his MotoGP opportunity years ago, it’s as simple as that. Easy for me to say, obviously and I’m certainly not a Rea ‘hater’, I actually think he’s an incredible rider and could have achieved at least as much as Crutchlow or Toseland (but almost certainly more). The difference is, Crutchlow took a chance early while he was still young; yes he crashed his brains out a bit but a) he won races in a satellite team and b) he got a Factory Ducati ride and ended up on a factory Honda (albeit still within a satellite team not the Repsol team).

    I think Rea would have been up there. Would he have beaten prime Rossi, Marquez or Lorenzo? Not likely, but he’d have won races and would have been amongst the lads fighting for the title in Marquez’s absence last year!

  14. If only the other teams had a package that was better. Until they do, they’ll be 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc. It’s not for the winner to capitulate, it is for the challengers to win.

  15. Couldn’t agree more. Rea has zero charisma too, similar to MM.

    WSBK has been very boring after ’14 or so. Drama is missing from the paddock, everything is too refined and predictable.

  16. Dorna is the problem. In the early WSK years, teams could use different tire brands which happened to be a great equaliser. The way the new RPM Limits are implemented is what is destroying bike and tire development for superbikes in general. These limits should be applied after a win and not at the beginning of the season for the whole season. What have now is PC culture in WSBK, whereby Kawasaki is penalised from the go so everyone else can race them. Soon everybody will want a medal for participation.

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