The Kawasaki and Jonathan Rea partnership

As we know Jonathan Rea has won six consecutive World Titles in World Superbikes and must wait until the 2021 season to achieve his 100th career World Superbike race win after crashing in the final event of the 2020 season.

Jonathan Rea Estoril WSBK. Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK

That is a pretty impressive achievement in any sport but in order to achieve this any driver or rider cannot achieve this on their own, they need to be part of a team that that works together as one with the drive and ambition that they will win races and they will win driver’s and constructor’s championships and of course you have to have a combination of the right team and the right bike in order to achieve any of this.

Did you know that not only has Jonathan Rea won six consecutive rider’s World Titles in World Superbikes but that Kawasaki have won six consecutive constructors World Titles in World Superbikes too?

To me, this says that both Jonathan Rea and Kawasaki have worked together and together they have achieved these amazing achievements but what is Kawasaki’s history in bike racing?

Kawasaki have a long history of motorbike racing which goes back to 1961 when they entered an All Japan Motocross race on a racing bike based on the Kawasaki B7, they started competing the following year and at the first race meeting of the MFJ Hyogo Prefectural Motocross Race in 1963, the top six positions were filled by Kawasaki B8 riders.

Jonathan Rea the Estoril 2020 Press conference Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK

The famous Kawasaki racing colour of lime green was developed in 1968, previous to this Kawasaki race bikes had been painted red. At the Daytona 200 in 1969 all the A7RS and A1RAS factory race bikes were in the official lime green colour and have been to this day.

In 1973 the KX was born. The KX was the result of the formation of a new development department set up in 1972 charged with creating a motocross racer. Sales started in 1973 and the development of the KX series continues to this day.

1973 also saw Gary Nixon take the AMA Superbike title in the AMA Road Racing Championship having won three races on a H2R which was a two-stroke three-cylinder bike which was given the nickname “Green Meanie” by it’s racing rivals.

From 1978 to 1982 GP250 and GP350 World Grand Prix racing was pretty much dominated by Kawasaki on KR250’s and KR350’s which were ridden by Kork Ballington and Anton Mang. Between the two classes the riders took an impressive eight world championships and Kawasaki won the manufacturers title in the GP250 class four years in a row. A truly impressive achievement.

Success continued in the AMA Superbike championship when back to back titles were won in 1981 and 1982 with Eddie Lawson on the KZ1000J and KZ1000S1 respectively and the following year on the new GPZ750 after a change in the regulations, which was ridden by Wayne Rainey. The Kawasaki was the dominant bike and earned Kawasaki it’s third consecutive title.

During the same period Kawasaki also dominated the Endurance World Championship with their KR1000 endurance racer with the French endurance team, Kawasaki France Performance. In 1981 and 1982 the Kawasaki riders took all the top positions and 1983 saw Kawasaki sweep the podium at the Le Mans 24 hours. Kawasaki had won the manufacturers title for three years running and were beginning to make a habit of winning consecutive titles!

Jeff Ward, former AMA Motocross 125 and AMA Motocross and Supercross 250 champion, took back to back class titles on a KX500 thus becoming the first rider in AMA history to win four different crowns.

Kawasaki stopped participating in works entries from 1983 to 1988 but they entered the Endurance World Championship in 1988 and came back with a bang dominating the field for three consecutive years winning the title on the ZXR-7 which was the new TT-F1 racing machine in 1991, 1992 and 1993. Kawasaki also entered the Suzuka 8 Hours race in 1993 with Scott Russell and Aaron Slight giving Kawasaki their first win in this race.

The AMA Superbike Championship was won again in 1992 by Kawasaki with Scott Russell riding a ZXR750 which had been prepped by Rob Muzzy and the following year saw the pair take the Superbike World Championship by storm on a ZXR750R and take their first World Superbike victory when they won the title in their first year of competing.

Kawasaki were certainly taking the bike racing world by storm showing that when they entered whichever realm of championship, they were the team to beat.

Kawasaki Motocross picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team

The first World Motocross title came for Kawasaki in 1995 when Stefan Everts on a KX250 dominated the championship with five victories. The following year saw Sebastien Tortelli, on a KX125, win the class championship stepping up the following year to the 250 class and taking the world title on the KX250.

In 2001 Kawasaki took it’s first world title in the AMA Supersport Championship with Andrew Pitt riding the green machine. In the same year Kawasaki cleaned up in Motocross with James Stewart on a KX450F taking the Supercross title; Ryan Villopoto took the Supercross Lites West title and Ben Townsley the Supercross Lites East title on the KX250F. WoW!

Ryan Villopoto, a multi-time Supercross Lites and Motocross Lites champion on KX250F’s, stepped up to the 450 class in 2009. After a couple of seasons perfecting the bike, success came in 2011 with the first of four back-to-back Supercross titles. Ryan Villopoto truly was in a class of his own in the motocross world aboard the green Kawasaki.

After a 20 year absence from the World Grand Prix road racing scene, Kawasaki returned in 2002 on Ninja ZX-RR machines competing in the MotoGP class and started to make steady progress in it’s classes over the next few years.

In the Superbike World Championship series upon a Ninja ZX-10R in 2012, Tom Sykes just missed out on the title by a small margin but completely made up for it the following year when he took the World Superbike title with 9 race victories and 18 podium finishes giving Kawasaki it’s first world championship in Superbikes in 20 years.

The 2012 Supersport World Championship was won by Kenan Sofuoglu on a Ninja ZX-6R and in 2015 he took five wins this season to take the title again followed by a successive title in 2016 with six wins. The world was taking notice of Kawasaki and the true potential the ZX-6R machines held.

Ana Carrasco (DS Kawasaki Junior Team) Is on the verge of creating history

In 2017 the Supersport 300 World Championship was established. In the 2018 season history was again made when Ana Carrasco became the first female rider to win a race on a Ninja 400 and then made history again later in the season when she took the title and became the first female rider to win a title in the history of the FIM world championship racing.

A truly outstanding achievement by both Ana and Kawasaki with Kawasaki once again paving the way forward in the motorbike racing world.

2019 saw Kawasaki claim it’s second consecutive title in this class with Manuel Gonzales at the helm when he became the youngest ever FIM Road Racing Champion. A fabulous achievement in what is considered an ultra-competitive class.

For the first time since 1993, Kawasaki Racing Team won the Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Road Race in 2019 on Ninja ZX-10RR’s in what was a closely fought battle with the top three teams all completing 216 laps. Alongside, Team SRC Kawasaki France finished in 12th place taking the title in the 2018-2019 Endurance World Championship. Kawasaki was showing the world their bikes were not only made for road racing but for long distance racing too.

Back in the Motocross scene, Eli Tomac took back to back titles in the 2017 and 2018 AMA Motocross Championships on a KX450F and the following year upon the new KX450 he took the title again with 11 wins and 19 podium finishes. Another third successive title for Kawasaki.

Jonathan Rea at Portamao 2020. Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK

We then come to the Jonathan Rea era of motorbike racing. Jonathan joined the Kawasaki Racing Team in 2015 competing in the World Superbike Championship and took the motorbike racing world by storm by winning the title in his first year with Kawasaki with 14 race wins and 23 podiums.

 

 

In 2016 Jonathan took his and Kawasaki’s successive World Title with 9 wins and 23 podiums; the triple world title was claimed in 2017 with 16 wins and 24 podiums and then in 2018 a fourth consecutive title was claimed by Jonathan and Kawasaki with 17 wins and 22 podiums.

Jonathan Rea Estoril WSBK 2020. Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK

Kawasaki and Jonathan had not finished re-writing history when in 2019 they had a record five consecutive rider’s and manufacturer’s titles and in 2020 history was re-written once again when an incredible sixth consecutive rider’s and manufacturer’s title was claimed by Kawasaki and Jonathan. Jonathan has continued to re-write history with most wins in a season, most points in a season and most podiums in a season.

A truly impressive achievement by both Kawasaki and Jonathan Rea.

Karen Bristow

 

 

 

Share the passion

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *