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"I had to sell myself a lot..." WorldSBK legend Jonathan Rea on convincing Kawasaki to sign him

Gold & Goose

Jonathan Rea has recalled the effort he went to in order to convince Kawasaki to sign him for the 2015 WorldSBK Championship - the first of his six consecutive title-winning campaigns with the manufacturer - saying he immediately jumped in a hire car and drove to Spain upon discovering a deal was a possibility. 

Rea had been competing in WorldSBK with Honda for six seasons with mixed success before arriving at Kawasaki, which in 2014 was debating over whether to retain its line-up of Tom Sykes and Loris Baz.

Indeed, though Rea was generally considered one of the top competitors in WorldSBK, the true extent of his abilities would be clouded by a Honda package that fluctuated in competitiveness across the calendar relative to Kawasaki - title-winners in 2013 with Sykes - and 2012/2014 champions Aprilia.


As such, Rea was eager to move on come the end of the 2014 season and with Baz negotiating a deal to move to MotoGP for 2015, the Ulsterman made his pitch to KRT boss Guim Roda by turning up at their Barcelona base to convince him.

“I can’t remember the exact phone call or time I was meant to sign for Kawasaki,” he says in ‘Unrepeatable’, the WorldSBK documentary detailing his time with Kawasaki. 

“But I remember speaking to my manager and saying: “Chuck, do not mess this contract up, no matter the money or conditions, make it happen…”

“Both riders - Sykes and Baz - had some deadlines on their renewals, and I kept calling Guim asking ‘did they sign…? No?’. OK, I said ‘right I’m coming to the workshop’. It was August, so he said ‘but it’s a holiday, everybody’s gone’ but I said I was coming, coming tomorrow, said I was going to hire a car and have lunch.

Expanding further, Rea reveals he felt he had to put a lot of effort into convincing KRT to give him a shot.

“He managed a lunch with  me and Pere, I looked in his eyes and told him to give me this opportunity and I wouldn’t let him down.

“I felt I had to sell myself quite a lot to Guim and to Kawasaki in the beginning. But the nice part was, once I was inside the black and green, I was treated like a son. That was a really nice feeling for me.”


“It was relief, validation, euphoria... it was everything!"

Eventually signing to join Sykes in the team, Rea says his first few laps on the ZX-10R at Aragon during the winter period made him realise quickly he’d made the right move.

“My first test was in Aragon and, honestly, I knew in Aragon that I could win with this bike. The first laps with the Ninja ZX-10RR, I thought, no problem. Learn the bike, find the feeling and it is going to be good. I was really encouraged in those first laps.”

Speaking to BSN when reminiscing about his proudest moments with Kawasaki, Rea - who’d go on to win an extraordinary 104 races during his nine season stint with the manufacturer - says it was the first of those at Phillip Island in 2015 that he holds closest to his heart.


“It was that first win with Kawasaki in Australia,” he replied when asked by BSN what his most treasured memory will be.

“Because I came from Honda as a guy who had potential and was nearly there, joining Tom Sykes who was a champion. 

“Riding at Phillip Island, the bike was supposedly never very good there but I went out and won. 

“It was relief, validation, euphoria... it was everything. What that story started, was something that I could never write.”

Having now brought his Kawasaki tenure to an end, Rea will embark on a fresh challenge with Yamaha for the 2024 and 2025 WorldSBK seasons.

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