Jonathan Rea: Six reasons NI rider could make it six World Superbike titles in a row

Jonathan Rea
Rea and his Kawasaki ZX-10R have proved a formidable combination over the past five seasons

Northern Ireland's Jonathan Rea has been on a one-man mission to rewrite the World Superbike history books in recent years, dominating the global series by winning an unprecedented five consecutive championship titles.

Among his other record-breaking achievements are new benchmarks for race wins, points both overall and in a single season, podium finishes and fastest laps.

As the 33-year-old begins his bid for a sixth world crown in a row at Phillip Island this weekend, BBC Sport NI examines some reasons for optimism that the Kawasaki rider will come out top of the pile again and be celebrating another success in 2020.

Continuity

Rea and Kawasaki have proved to be a perfect fit for each other over the last five years, with the County Antrim man racking up 73 victories since linking up with the Japanese manufacturer in 2015.

The defending champion is already talking of extending his association with Kawasaki by signing a new deal when his current contract expires after this season.

Rea will again have regular crew chief, former rider Pere Riba, by his side as he begins his challenge to extend his sequence of world crowns.

In his own words: "I'm really happy at Kawasaki, it suits the way I work. I have a great support network around me an my mechanics are incredible.

"When things aren't going well, instead of feeling the pressure of why we aren't winning, they are really pushing me up and helping me. That helps you in the tough times.

"I feel like after 2020 we could be in a position to do another one-plus-one or a two-year contract."

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It's almost like being at the NW200 - Rea on Phillip Island opener

Desire

Despite all the success he has enjoyed in recent years, Rea's hunger for more glory is undiminished and his appetite to create more history voracious.

In his own words: "I was talking about retirement two years ago because I just didn't know what to do. But I can't see retirement now. You wouldn't believe how motivated I am.

"Every year presents a new challenge - last year it proved to be Alvaro Bautista on the new Ducati, this year it will probably be something different. You've got to be prepared but I feel in a good place.

"Last year we had almost accepted that it wasn't going to be our year but that knockout punch never came. We kept waking up every morning believing we could maybe turn it around. Slowly but surely things fell into place. We never gave up.

"I'm putting in even more work in the gym away from the track and I analyse races 10 times more now than I did before to cover all my bases.

"My motivation comes more from a fear of not winning than trying to win another one."

Jonathan Rea
Rea has spent much of the last five seasons looking back at his rivals

Experience

Rea is beginning his 12th full year in the series and with five titles under his belt, plus 17 race victories in both of the last two seasons, 88 race wins overall and 168 podiums, the Northern Irishman has all the pedigree you could wish for going into a new campaign.

There are a lot of established riders on the grid but Rea's circuit knowledge is unrivalled, with a track record of winning at pretty much all of them.

The likes of Portimao, Qatar, which moves to become the second round of the season, Argentina, Assen, Imola and Misano have been particularly happy hunting grounds for the Ulsterman.

He has experience of winning from the front and pulling away from the pack, but last year produced an astonishing comeback to overhaul a 61-point deficit to finish ahead of early pacesetter Bautista with two rounds to spare.

In his own words: "The first third of last season when I was trailing Alvaro was challenging mentally but it has made me a stronger rider.

"I have won the championship from the front and now I have also come from behind. I'm also in the best team so it's up to me to put it all together.

"I feel like I've got everything mapped out, I'm in a good position and I'm going to work really hard to make it six.

"Last year I was super excited at the start of the season but had the wind knocked out of my sails a little bit.

"Of course I would love to leave Phillip Island with three race wins but it's a 39-race championship and it's more important that I leave Australia healthy and with a platform for the rest of the year."

Consistency

A hallmark of Rea's success in recent seasons has been his ability to reel off wins week after week and collect significant points round after round to an extent none of his opponents can come close to equalling.

In his own words: "More than ever, consistency is going to be a vital asset in 2020. I'll take things race by race, try and stay consistent and healthy and be there at the end of the championship.

"Everyone starts from zero in Australia and it's a 13-round championship so I will just do the best I can every weekend.

"I know that on our good days we are going to win races and if I can't do that I will settle for good points scoring. I'll switch off from the emotion of it from the beginning and see what happens."

The opposition

With his rivals' regular view of Rea being one of coming from behind and playing catch-up, the ex-British Superbike and World Supersport rider has built up a significant psychological edge over his opponents.

Among his main challengers this year should be his new team-mate Alex Lowes, Chaz Davies, who remains with Ducati, plus Bautista and Leon Haslam, who have been tasked with spearheading Honda's full factory return to the series.

Michael van der Mark remains with Pata Yamaha and he is joined by exciting 23-year-old Toprak Razgatlioglu, tipped by many as a future world champion.

Toprak Razgatlioglu and Jonathan Rea
Turkish rider Toprak Razgatlioglu is expected to be one of Rea's main challengers in 2020

The Turkish rider emphasised his credentials as an emerging force by taking at least one rostrum finish at every round from round five to 12 in 2019 - including two triumphs from 16th place on the grid at the French round at Magny-Cours.

With a factory machine at his disposal this time out expect Razgatlioglu to further enhance his burgeoning reputation.

The wildcard in the pack - in terms of being an unknown quantity in WSB - is the talented reigning British Superbike champion Scott Redding, who adds to the already prominent Great Britain representation in the paddock.

The colourful ex-Moto GP rider picks up the Ducati ride vacated by Bautista and will not be lacking in confidence. While he has experience of racing on some circuits on the calendar but not others, he proved in BSB that he has a capacity to learn new tracks quickly.

In his own words: "I think we start as favourites but every year throws up a curveball. We never saw that what happened at the start of last year with Alvaro was going to happen.

"I'll just continue to focus on myself and on my own form and after the first four or five rounds everyone will find their place. I'll not worry about everyone else."

Support from home

Now resident again in Northern Ireland, Rea receives overwhelming support from his native country at rounds of the series across the globe, with fans and flags evident at almost every round, backing which he is very appreciate of.

In his own words: "I'm so grateful for that support and the fact that so many others are enjoying and feeling part of my success.

"In tough times at the start of last season I had so many people wishing me well and the receptions I have received when coming home after winning my titles has been incredible.

"Seeing all the flags trackside at every race and people around parc ferme - it means so much. Just to have that backing and see what it means to people."

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