Jonathan Rea: Interview With the Still Hungry Cannibal

Jonathan Rea, the Cannibal, closed the Misano Adriatico round of the World Superbike Championship, the seventh round of the 2019 season, in a positive way. A weekend of races started by the reigning World Champion with 41 points behind the leader Alvaro Bautista, but after the weekend spent on the Riviera it was reduced to only 16 points from the Spaniard.

World Superbike champion in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, 75 career victories for the Northern Irish rider that coincide with the number 150 on the podium in 262 races played. We met Johnny on Sunday in the late afternoon at the Kawasaki hospitality and we “disturbed” him during a small moment of well-deserved relaxation, that’s what he told us…

Johnny first of all congratulations. How do you feel?

I am very happy especially for how I was able to deal with the combination of the two different conditions of the track, both were really at the limit. It’s always difficult to win in the wet, on Saturday it was very important to take home the win, unfortunately I made some mistakes during the Superpole Race and I lost some points, but winning also on Sunday in Race 2 was incredible. Ten years ago I won my first Superbike race right here in Misano, this circuit is a very special place for me. Unfortunately for Alvaro I took advantage of one of his mistakes and tried to manage my race in the best possible way because it was very hot. I had some good feedback, but I didn’t want to push myself beyond the limits, I wanted to be constant and study Toprak for better or for worse, until I knew when to pass it.

You’ve made up points on Bautista, the championship is still open…

The championship is never closed, until the mathematical certainty anything is possible, the championship is long anything can happen. I face it race after race and see what happens. Of course it’s hard to compete with Ducati right now because it’s very strong, but I’m trying to stay focused on myself and improve my bike every weekend to do better and better.

Why did you decide not to take to the track during the FP3, you didn’t feel comfortable?

I also felt very comfortable with wet tyres, but the forecast was for dry conditions for the Superpole Race and for this reason I preferred not to go on track. Generally, when you drive in the wet the pace, concentration and mentality are different, I wanted to keep my focus on driving in the dry to keep the right pace and go my way. It was a strategy I had decided to adopt, even Tom Sykes did it… A bet, unfortunately I made a mistake and I crashed, it went wrong, I only managed to get fifth by scrapping a few points.

At Misano, ten years ago, your first victory in WSBK, you are linked to this circuit, do you like it?

The circuit is not bad, but what fascinates me about this track is other: the atmosphere, the fans, the place where it is located. The track has its own character, it’s flat, I really like curve 11, the “curve”. I really like the Italian Superbike stages, especially Misano, plus next week I’ll be coming here on holiday…

Ichiro Yoda said that the Ducati V4 R is a MotoGP with Pirelli tyres, what do you think?

Well you can see it both live and on television, it’s a bike with great potential and a very powerful engine, sometimes it’s really difficult to compete. But we have to make the most of the moment and work hard on Kawasaki to keep it competitive while remaining focused.

Do you think the Japanese engineers will create a similar bike next year?

Well, I have no idea… We’ll see… (laughs)

You started in SBK in 2008, as the championship has evolved in recent years, especially with the move to the Dorna…

It’s hard to say because I have lived the championship with different teams and at different times. The championship itself has lived through several periods with ups and downs. Dorna was very attentive to the needs of Superbike and involved many manufacturers in the project such as Kawasaki, Ducati, BMW, Yamaha, Honda. He made the right decisions otherwise it would have been a disaster… In the past not everything worked, but now things are better, investments in this championship are back again, manufacturers are trying to produce better bikes to sell to fans, there is more interest on the part of television. On the other hand with Dorna there has also been a change in the organization and technical regulations, this is the biggest difference. See for example the introduction of the Superpole Race, important changes… But Dorna is a very intelligent company, she successfully manages MotoGP, has created a great product and I’m sure she will do the same with Superbike.

How is your relationship with your teammate Leon Haslam?

Great, really great, it couldn’t be better, Leon is a good guy and we’ve been great friends for a long time…

How was writing your autobiography?

It was very interesting to write down my emotions. My writer helped me to deal with my story in an authentic, real and honest way, managing to expose my character. I have received many positive comments… It’s nice to see the guys sharing and exchanging social messages quoting phrases from my book, I hope to be a source of inspiration for someone.

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