SIX OF THE BEST
Having eclipsed Superbike legend Carl Fogarty’s total of four WSBK titles when he raced to his fifth crown last season, Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) re-wrote the record books once again in 2020 by making it six consecutive championships – although early on it looked as though this could finally be the year that his vice-like grip was forced from the champion’s trophy.
After the thirty-three-year-old crashed out of the opening race at Australia’s Phillip Island in March, his rivals – having queued up behind him for the last five years – sensed a very rare opportunity to end his relentless reign.
Rea, however, has not become the greatest rider in Superbike history by succumbing to pressure – no matter how intense – and following an enforced lay-off due to COVID-19 he was back on the pace at round two at Jerez in Spain at the beginning of August before moving into the series lead one week later with a devastating double win in Portugal.
More race wins followed in successive Spanish rounds at Aragon, Teruel and Barcelona and these – combined with the points from his Superpole wins at the first four rounds – gave Rea a virtually unassailable fifty-nine-point lead over Britain’s Scott Redding (Ducati) following round seven at Magny-Cours in France.
At the final round at Estoril in Portugal in mid-October, Rea knew that a record sixth-straight title was his for the taking and he duly took care of business to retain the crown by fifty-five points from Redding with Chaz Davies (Ducati) completing an all-British medal table a further thirty-two points behind.
FIM Superbike World Champion – 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015
FIVE STAR SEASON FOR REA
British rider Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) made more history in 2019, becoming the first ever five-time FIM Superbike World Champion after a remarkable turnaround that saw him concede victory in the first eleven races to rookie Spanish rival Alvaro Bautista (Ducati). With the addition of a new Superpole ‘sprint’ race to this year’s schedule, Bautista caused shockwaves at the opening four rounds of the season, taking three straight trebles at Phillip Island, Buriram and Aragon, before adding a double at Assen when the Superpole race was cancelled due to adverse weather.
Crucially, Rea finished second in all but one of those races and when Bautista’s form hit a period of confidence-sapping inconsistency – including crashes from leading positions at Jerez and Misano – the Northern Irishman was in the perfect position to capitalise. From being sixty-one points behind following the Superpole race at Jerez, Rea took six wins and six second places from the next thirteen races to move to within touching distance of the title at Magny Cours.
Even after such a topsy-turvy season, few could have predicted the drama that was to follow in France, where Bautista struggled to get to grips with another new track to him. In race one, Toprak Razgatlioglu (Kawasaki) scored an historic first win for Turkey in the 800th World Superbike race and also won the Superpole race, before crashing in race two and taking Bautista with him. Once again, Rea was ideally placed to capitalise and a majestic twelfth win of the season secured a record-breaking fifth crown.
FOUR OF A KIND FOR JONATHAN
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) became the first rider ever to secure four consecutive FIM World Superbike Championship titles after another dominant season that also saw him set a new record for most wins. A 61st career victory at Brno took that particular record from Carl Fogarty, who is the only other rider to boast four WSBK titles, having done so in 1994, 1995, 1998 and 1999. With a freshly-signed new two-year deal with Kawasaki also in his pocket, Rea looks certain to surpass Fogarty and raise the bar still further as the most successful Superbike rider of all time.
The 2018 season seemed sure to be his biggest challenge yet, with new regulations introduced to create more parity throughout the class. Despite a tough opening round at Phillip Island, which saw him hindered by illness and a pre-season finger injury, Rea took a first win at round two in Thailand and rarely looked back despite the constant threat of his long-time rival Chaz Davies (Ducati). A series of race 1 wins followed as Rea struggled slightly to overcome the reverse grid format for race 2, with Davies taking two victories and Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) one, until a first double of the season finally arrived at Imola.
After then conceding the double to Michael Van der Mark (Yamaha) at Donington Park and race 2 to Alex Lowes (Yamaha) at Brno, Rea stepped up a gear at the US round. A perfect weekend at Laguna Seca produced the first of four consecutive doubles - including Misano, Portimao and Magny Cours - that gave extra meaning to the memorable ‘Four of a Kind’ poker-style celebrations that marked his title triumph at the French circuit.
HISTORIC 'THREE-PEAT' SUCCESS FOR REA
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) made FIM Superbike World Championship history in 2017, becoming the first rider ever to win three consecutive titles thanks to another dominant season on the ZX-10R machine. Kicking off his second title defence at Phillip Island, Rea made himself at home with a stunning pole position and double victory. The same result at round two in Thailand gave him a commanding thirty-point lead as the series returned to Europe, with Chaz Davies (Ducati) looking to ignite his season at Motorland Aragon, where he took the double in 2016.
However, a race one crash proved costly to the Welshman, who bounced back with a win in race 2 only to falter again at Assen, where Rea responded with a third double. Davies again recovered to score a memorable double of his own at Imola but even a DNF due to a tyre problem in race 1 at Donington Park was not enough to derail the unerringly consistent Rea, who resumed an otherwise perfect podium record with the victory in race 2.
Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) put together some strong mid-season form, including two wins, to overhaul Davies as his team-mate's closest rival but a nasty finger injury effectively put paid to his challenge at Portimao, where another double from Rea put him within touching distance of a title he wrapped up with his most dominant victory of the season, the 49th of his career, in race 1 at Magny Cours.
Finishing the season with four straight wins at Jerez and Qatar, Rea recorded a new all-time points record in World Superbikes, beating Colin Edwards' total from 2002 by four points.
REA LEADS THE WAY TO BACK-TO-BACK TITLES
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) followed up his success in the 2015 FIM Superbike World Championship with a resounding title defence in 2016, becoming the first rider to win back-to-back titles in the series since Carl Fogarty (Ducati) in 1998 and 1999. Despite rolling out a new ZX-10R for the opening round at Phillip Island, Rea stormed to a double win that set an early benchmark for any pretenders to his throne, although his team-mate Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) found some mid-season form that kept the pressure high.
Back-to-back DNFs for Rea in Race 2 at Laguna Seca and Race 1 at Lausitzring were the prelude to the key moment of the season – a wet second race at the German track that saw Rea send another emphatic message to Sykes with a masterful ride to victory in treacherous conditions. The second half of the season witnessed an incredible run of form for Chaz Davies (Ducati), who took seven wins from the final eight races, but even that wasn't enough to dislodge either Rea or Sykes, who secured a one-two in the riders' standings at the final round in Qatar to add to the Manufacturers' Championship for Kawasaki. Rea, meanwhile, is the first rider ever to win two FIM Superbike World Championship titles for the Japanese factory.