Six-time WorldSBK king Jonathan Rea got his 2021 title defence off to the perfect start with his 100th class win today at Motorland Aragon.
In the early laps of the opening race, Rea led with team-mate Lowes in second, stretching a joint lead of one second on the chasing pack in just two laps.
That lead was extended to two seconds for Rea and he would have a calm and controlled ride all the way to the flag to take his famous win by almost four seconds.
“We reached 100 race wins today and it was done with a lot of hard work. Over the off season Kawasaki really dug in with a new bike and we were able to make a step,” said Rea.
“Also in the off season I worked really hard on myself and I know I improved in all areas. I was born with the dream of racing motorbikes, and going with my parents to ride around motocross tracks in 1993, ’94. The history is mad. Getting the opportunity to come to the world championship, in 2008 in Supersport, and straight away after my rookie season going to Superbike.
“Taking my first race win at Misano in 2009 as a rookie and now with 100 wins… It’s mad! Each and every race win is special, and I have never been a statistics guy, but when I was closing in on 100 wins that was a big goal. It is such a cool number and a career landmark. I am very proud of it.
“We had been a little bit unlucky in the winter tests with bad weather but my team have left no stone unturned and turned up at every test we could. They reorganised and rescheduled things so huge thanks to all the staff.
“Not only the management but all the mechanics and their families for making this sacrifice. We have been away from home so long this off season, often for no laps, but we are in a good position now. To win the first race starts our championship off 25 points better than last year! That was a good way to start.”
He was praised via video link by some other famous names, like Giacomo Agostini and Valentino Rossi, other legends in other categories, but Rea is now in his own class in WorldSBK.
Rea even remembers the smaller class wins too. “I think with Supersport it’s 103 or 104. I think I had three or four Supersport wins maybe. Anyway, it’s nice names, but I’m focused on myself. I should shift the focus to tomorrow because today in the race, it felt really under control, to be honest. I was not having to go completely in the maximum.
“I was making a gap. But at the end of the race, I felt a lot slower than I did during the test here two weeks ago where I was able to stay in the 50s and low 51s. Today that pace… I wasn’t under pressure. I wasn’t forced to do the lap time, but I feel like we can definitely improve in these conditions. The grip level is not like it was two weeks ago, but maybe tomorrow with more rubber on the track now the track will be in better shape.”
With this 100 race wins level met, Rea was asked what next for him and his avaricious approach to racing? What is the next cool number?
“Number one in October, I hope. Seven. Lucky Seven. Of course, that’s the target, but there were seven race winners last year and I really feel this year is going to be really tough.”
Rea’s race won came after controversy about his new bike being held back to the old bike’s top rev figures. It seemed to make little difference, and with his team-mate Alex Lowes second, four seconds down after 18 laps, it has had no immediate effect, despite practicing all winter on a bike with a higher rev ceiling. Kawasaki are saying nothing and Rea had his diplomacy skills in full effect.
“I don’t want to make too many comments about what happened. I think it’s basically a contradiction of how two entities read the rules. I talked to you guys yesterday about it. It’s how it is. We had a Kawasaki one-two today. I do feel when you look in the speed traps, we’re never at the top of the speed traps. We’re seldom in the top half of the speed traps, to be honest, but we’re still able to make it work. My team are incredible. We’re able to make a real package. We just keep working with all these curveballs. We’ve had them before. We’ll keep working hard.”
Rea’s work ethic and desire to win was instilled in him early, and all the hard work put in by his family did not go unrecognised on Saturday at Motorland. He dedicated his latest win, his 100th, to… “My mum and my dad for encouraging my dream as a child. Now I have two kids, I understand the sacrifice they made. Every weekend we were at a motorcycle track, motocross in Northern Ireland. Of course I love my kids, but also I like to spend time away from bikes and football, but my parents sacrificed everything for me. So I want to dedicate that one to them.”