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

 

 

 

Jonathan Rea – The Art of Psychological Racing

As the great Julian Ryder once said about racing at the highest level: “Talent will get you onto the stage, but winning is a matter between the ears”.

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

It is quite possible that Jonathan Rea has modelled his WorldSBK career on that line, and then some.

In 2020, given all the uncertainty that has gone with it, this attribute was overlooked by TV broadcasters (and in the interests of outright entertainment of the viewers, perhaps rightly so). However, as the dust has now settled on the season, it is high time to salute this remarkable, and ruthless attribute in Jonathan Rea’s arsenal:

The ability to read and control the championship.

Whilst Rea’s detractors will often highlight his supposed lack of charisma, however they cannot criticise or belittle his ability to know exactly what is needed to be done on track in any given scenario.

Few have the ability and it is the preserve of only the greatest champions: think Mick Doohan, Valentino Rossi or Carl Fogarty in the motorbike world – Michael Schumacher and Alain Prost from Formula 1. Jonathan Rea is the same.

They do not “see red” when a rival overtakes them. They do not panic and adopt a “win it or bin it” attitude. They can even accept that some days they will not be spraying the champagne on the podium.

That last one may come as a surprise to some, but it is true.

Michael van der Mark, Jonathan Rea and Alex Lowes at Magny-Cours WSBK 2019. Image courtesy of Yamaha Racing

Immediate glory on the track, these few know, pales in comparison to lifting the championship trophy at the end of the season. Their place in the standings is the only thing that matters.  It consoles them, when a race weekend heads south. You can see it in their eyes and hear it in their voices when they give answers either on the grid or in the interviews in the build up to race day.  They are fixated on it. It’s the obsession which pushes them further than the others.

This ability has been showcased on multiple occasions throughout Rea’s career. Perhaps the most clear example came in 2019. Whilst all and sundry had written off his title chances, after Alvaro Bautista’s incredible run of 13 wins from the opening 16 races, Rea’s head never dropped. By ensuring that he constantly mopped up the next best places, he had put himself in prime position to catch Bautista as an when the Spaniard’s incredible run came to an end.

The patience and discipline shown in sticking to what needed to be done ensured that, despite Bautista’s early-season dominance, Rea was never more than a couple of victories away from taking the lead in the championship.  Once that happened, Rea hit the racers’ zenith. Such was the confidence in himself and his team, it was inevitable he’d hit his own ‘purple patch’

As has been the case for the past three seasons – Chaz Davies(left) is the only rider who can challenge Jonathan Rea (right) for the title.

In 2020, the championship battle required a different tactic. With the Kawasaki being more competitive at the start of the season, Rea was able to trade early-season victories with Scott Redding. Once his rival faltered and a gap in the standings had been established, Rea defaulted to prioritising scoring only as many points as he needed to keep Redding behind. He was content enough to let other riders go up the road, safe in the knowledge that his rival could not score sufficient points to make any meaningful inroads (if any at all) to his lead.

Described like that, it is a brutal suffocation of his rivals. Yet there is a fine art to it – and is very difficult to spot on track. Certainly to a casual observer. Rea has to always ensure that his rival (Redding in 2020, Tom Sykes in 2015) finished behind him.

You cannot afford to ride slow with this tactic, let’s make that clear.

If someone puts together a string of qualifying-style laps in an attempt to break away from the field, Rea uses his judgement to let them go. He has a target pace to ride to, with a small margin to increase pace should he need to recover places later in the race.

Many riders attempt to employ this tactic. Few succeed. Even fewer succeed year after year. As racing goes, this is psychological warfare: Grind down your opponent until he believes you are always that little bit better or faster than him. When a rival cracks – as Sykes and Redding did respectively – it looks sudden and spectacular as the defeated challenger loses heart and finds himself falling back through the field – or worse crashing out.

This kind of moment ensures that race result which ultimately seals the championship, but it has taken weeks, sometimes months to grind the opponent down to such a state.

Jonathan Rea Celebrating his six WSBK titles. Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK

You cannot pull that off overnight. Neither can you be taught it. A state of mind. You have to be utterly ruthless with your opponent – yet at the same time make it so subtle very few can spot what you’re doing until its too late.

Jonathan Rea – a true master of his art.

Ed Hocknull

Jonathan Rea’s Six Consecutive World Titles

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

Having been born with racing in his blood with his father, Johnny a former Road Racing Champion and Isle of Man Junior TT winner, his grandfather sponsoring Joey Dunlop and his great-grandfather being a regular competitor on the Ulster Grand Prix circuit, it was little wonder that Jonathan Rea went on to be one of the greatest road racers that we have seen. An amazing achievement from someone who wasn’t even sure if he wanted to go into road racing!!!

Having been riding for his entire road racing career for Honda Racing and for six of those years in World Superbikes, Jonathan Rea made the switch to Kawasaki Racing Team in 2015 and took the racing world by storm.

In the 2015 World Superbikes Championship season there were 26 races of which Jonathan won the first race at Philip Island and there started an incredible run for the Irishman of 23 podiums, 14 of them of which were on the top step and 7 on the 2nd step. Jonathan amassed an incredible 548 points this season, just a few short of the all time record and he bagged his first World Superbike Championship three rounds early at Jerez in Spain. A very impressive start with the Kawasaki team.

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

In 2016 there were 26 races of which Jonathan won 9 of them with 9 second place finishes and 5 third places, a total of 23 podiums and at the end of the season which went down to the wire and was decided in the last race of the season at Qata, he was crowned World Champion again and now joined a select group of double World Champions: Carl Fogarty, Troy Baylis, Max Biaggi, James Toseland, Troy Corser, Colin Edwards, Doug Polen and Fred Merkel.

Jonathan is now one of only four World Champions who have had back to back championships, he joins this illustrious group of riders alongside Fred Merkel, Doug Polen and Carl Fogarty.

Again in 2017 there were 26 races of which Jonathan won an impressive 16 of them with an incredible 24 podiums in total. During this year Jonathan had the largest points finish in the history of the championship breaking Colin Edwards 2002 record and was crowned triple world champion. Jonathan was now in a very select group of triple World Champions alongside Carl Fogarty and Troy Baylis. Jonathan being the only rider to have had three consecutive world titles.

Jonathan Rea celebrating at the Estoril GP WSBK 2020. Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK

2018 sees the World Superbikes series hold 25 races, an incredible 17 of which were won by Jonathan equalling the most number of wins in a season previously set by Doug Pollen in 1992. Having been on the podium 22 times this season, Jonathan earned his fourth world title. The only other person in World Superbike history to have won four titles is Carl Fogarty. A truly incredible achievement for both riders. Jonathan, again, being the only rider to have had four consecutive world titles.

Jonathan wasn’t finished yet. In 2019 there was a record 37 races that season. Having got off to a slow season points wise due to the arrival of Ducati’s new rider, Alvaro Bautista, who dominated the first four rounds of the season, Jonathan went on to win 17 races this season and was on the podium an incredible 34 times with 16 second place finishes and one third place. A truly outstanding achievement and one which earned him his fifth World Championship by the time they got to Magny Cours.

Jonathan is the only rider in the history of the Championship to have achieved five world titles and indeed five consecutive world titles, and he was now truly in a class of his own.

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

During this year, Jonathan also took part in the Suzuka 8 Hour event for Kawasaki with teammates Leon Haslam and Toprak Razgatlioglu.

In a dramatic ending to the race, Jonathan, who was riding the final leg of the race, slid off after another bike had deposited fluid on the track with just two minutes of time left in the event and the race was red flagged. As the Kawasaki team did not make it back to the paddock within the stipulated five minute window, it lead to Yamaha’s team of Alex Lowes, Michael van der Mark and Katsuyuki Nakasuga being declared winners.

Kawasaki appealed the decision as official data showed Jonathan’s team were leading by 18.720 seconds from Yamaha. The appeal was upheld and the trio were finally declared the winners.

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

Yet still there was more to come from the Northern Irish rider. Although 2020 has been a somewhat unprecedented year for all motorsport, having started the season at Philip Island at the beginning of March where we saw Jonathan crash out of Race 1 and win Race 2, there was then a long break before racing finally got underway again in Spain at the end of July/beginning of August.

In the remaining 23 races of the season, Jonathan won 10 of those with a total of 17 podiums and rode straight into the record books with his sixth consecutive World Championship at the season ending Estoril with two races to spare. Again the only rider in the history of the Championship to have achieved this. A truly awe inspiring achievement.

Jonathan has also set all time records for race wins, points, podiums and fastest laps. In 2018 Jonathan took his 60th career win at Brno surpassing the record of Carl Fogarty.

Jonathan Rea Celebrating his six WSBK titles. Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK

Having crashed in the final race of the 2020 season, Jonathan will have to wait until the 2021 season to achieve his 100th career World Superbike win.

Jonathan is arguably one of the most talented young racers in any class of competition today.

Karen Bristow

What makes Jonathan Rea a success – from the fans

When Jonathan Rea took the 2020 World Superbike Championship for the sixth time it made him the most successful World Superbike Rider in the history of the series. He is also credited with the highest number of race wins in the Championship.

Before moving to Superbikes, Rea was runner up in World Supersport in 2008 on the Ten Kate Honda and previously took the HM Plant Honda to be runner up in the 2007 BSB Championship.

In 2012, Rea made two MotoGP appearances replacing the injured Casey Stoner. He finished both inside the top ten – 8th in Misano and 7th at Aragon before making his return to World Superbikes.

So what is it that has helped the 33 year old from just outside Larne to be so successful? We asked our social media followers their thoughts, and there were clear themes – dedication, commitment, riding style and race craft as well as a supportive team and family.

@Simon46storm called out dedication, commitment and being surrounded by a supportive team.

@vickster1984 also suggested the support of a team who understand you as a person and are willing to learn and grow with you, has played a part.

Earlier this year, Rea said himself ‘I’m really happy at Kawasaki, it suits the way I work. I have a great support network around me, and 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”

 

Jonathan Rea is set to break all the records in WorldSBK history.

As well as the team, @LJHammond1 attributed Rea’s success to being fast and smooth, and conserving his tyres. He tweeted: ‘Fast, smooth, conserves his tyres (Sykes often out-qualified him and remained in contention until the closing laps when his tyres went off but Rea’s didn’t), wins most of his races and usually finishes when he can’t win (unlike Davies who often crashed from a winning position)’.

It is true – Rea can set a pace that affords him a comfortable lead yet crucially conserves the tyres, and undoubtedly this has been a strong contributor to his consistency. That said he is not averse to baring his teeth and showing aggression, the second race at Aragon in September this year (2020) was a case in point.

As well as the team, we cannot overlook the role family plays. @FifiSimbaBSD says “I think having children grounds you…..children don’t care how many races you have won when they want to play…” Family truly is important to Rea – two years ago, after clinching his fourth WSBK title he dedicated the win to them and said “My family sacrifice a lot to be here, trailing after me, supporting my dream, but I’m really proud to have them with me. They ground me in such a great way. It means a lot.”

With her tweet, @RSnugglebutt talks about his love for what he does, and how at the end of 2019 he said he would enjoy winning for as long as it lasts – he certainly has a great attitude, and it’s really apparent he has the love for the job as much as ever.

@MarkLawrence77 says it is down to hard work and along with @DoubleMRacing, reckons Rea should have gone to MotoGP (the latter also said he could still have been winning and adds ‘might as well set your World Championships in stone, keep winning so you are unbeatable with World Champs’).

Jonathan Rea 2020. Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK

So what is next for the man who grew up in Ballyclare? Well, in June he renewed his contract on a multi season deal, so surely achieving a century of career victories must be in his sights (he’s currently on 99), and a seventh title in 2021 would bring him to the same number of consecutive titles achieved by Giacomo Agostini between 1966 and 1972. We are eagerly anticipating the start of the 2021 season to see how he does.

Thank you to everyone who responded to our question, but my favourite response to the question of what makes Jonathan Rea so successful has to be the one from @Paulmur22095740 who quite simply said… “Him!”

Laura Sawyer

A little bit of Jonathan Rea history

Jonathan Rea at the 2020 Philip Island Test. Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK

Jonathan Rea, it seems, was born with racing in his blood. His father, Johnny is a former Road Racing Champion and Isle of Man Junior TT winner, his grandfather sponsored Joey Dunlop and his great-grandfather was a regular competitor on the Ulster Grand Prix circuit. It was little wonder then that Jonathan was only 2 ½ years old when he first sat on a bike barely able to reach the handlebars!

By the time he was six, Jonathan was racing in motocross and was runner up in 1997 in the British 60cc Motocross before moving up the classes, very successfully too.

So why did Jonathan make the switch to road racing in 1997 then?

Well during a tea break one day with his mechanic, they spotted an ad in a magazine asking for a young rider for the 125 class with Red Bull. Far from being enthusiastic about the idea himself, it was Jonathan’s mechanic who persuaded him to apply insisting that he would be really good at road racing. Jonathan put a few words and a resume together and sent it off.

Still not a hundred per cent sure that he wanted to go into road racing, Jonathan went to Ron Haslam’s Race School at Donington Park where he rode a CB500 in effort to start to understand a road bike and ascertain whether or not road racing was for him.

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

Incredibly, out of hundreds of applications, Jonathan was one of only 20 picked and he spent the day at Rockingham. Five were then selected, Jonathan being one of them, for another try out at Cartagena in Spain where Jonathan was successful and joined Red Bull Rookies along with two other riders.

It wasn’t long before it could be seen that making the switch to road racing was a good move by Jonathan. A British Superbike ride on a factory Honda Fireblade was set up by Red Bull in 2005 in which Jonathan took pole and despite missing two races, finished 16th in the series. The following year Jonathan finished 4th in the BSB Championship in what was only his second year of road racing.

In 2007 Jonathan rode for the Harris factory team where he had his first podium victory at Mondello Park and finished 2nd in the BSB Championship. Jonathan’s motocross mechanic was definitely right to persuade Jonathan to send off that application, he obviously saw something in him.

Also during 2007, Jonathan competed in and won with his teammate, Ryuichi Kiyonari, a three hour endurance race and the pair were subsequently entered into the Suzuka 8 hour race on a Honda factory bike.

Later in 2007 Jonathan signed a three year deal with Ten Kate Honda riding in the Supersport World Championship for the 2008 season and then progressing onto the Superbike World Championship in 2009 and 2010 having turned down a ride with the factory Xerox Ducati WSBK team and the option of riding for HM Plant Honda and Rizla Suzuki in the British Superbike Championship.

It wasn’t long before Jonathan had his first win in WSSP which came at Brno followed by two further wins at Brands Hatch and Vallelunga. Of the twelve races he competed in during this year, Jonathan had six podium finishes, three wins, one second place and two thirds.

At the end of the 2008 season Jonathan switched to the Hannspree Ten Kate Honda WSBK team therefore making his WSBK debut at Portimao in the final round of the 2008 Championship.

In 2009 Jonathan had two third place podiums before his first WSBK win at Misano. A further win in Germany and then one second place and five third place finishes meant that Jonathan finished fifth overall in the Championship, second best rookie of the season behind Ben Spies (who won the WSBK Championship).

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

The 2010 season ended slightly better with Jonathan finishing fourth overall having had ten podium finishes, four of which were wins, five second place finishes and one third.

Of 18 races in the 2011 season, Jonathan only managed a podium five times, two of which were wins and three second place finishes and ended the season down in 9th overall but the following season he finished fifth overall with six podiums. The 2013 season was not good again when he finished in 9th overall again with only one win during the season but two second places and one third.

In what would be his final year with Ten Kate Racing in 2014, Jonathan was on the podium nine times having had four wins, one second place and four third places finishes and finished 3rd overall – his best result in WSBK to date.

Jonathan made a brief appearance in MotoGP when in 2012 he had his debut for the Repsol Honda Team replacing an injured Casey Stoner in two races at San Marino where he finished 8th and Aragon where he finished 7th.

Having been riding a Honda for his entire road racing career, in what would turn out to be a career changing move, Jonathan moved to the Kawasaki Racing Team in 2015 with Tom Sykes as his teammate. In his first year with the Kawasaki team, we saw Jonathan dominate the season with an impressive twenty-three podiums, fourteen of which were wins, seven second place and two third place and his first WSBK Championship. WoW!

Jonathan Rea 2020. Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK

The rest, as they say, is history – Jonathan went on to win the WSBK Championships in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. The first person to have won six consecutive WSBK Championships.

Jonathan has gone on to break records in WSBK with most wins in a season, most points in a season and most podiums in a season.

A truly awe inspiring achievement from someone who wasn’t sure if he even wanted to go into road racing!!!

Karen Bristow

Celebrating disabled drivers

In any sport it’s an incredible feat to be able to compete whilst having a physical disability. Motorsport is one of those sports where the differences between a driver without a physical impairment and drivers who do, can be highlighted in some areas but can be completely unnoticeable if you weren’t aware of a driver’s disability beforehand.

To mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we decided to talk about a few drivers who are breaking down barriers in racing for those with disabilities.

Alex Zanardi

Having competed in F1 for many years, Alex was competing in the CART World Series at the Lausitzring in 2001. Exiting the pits 12 laps from the end of the race, he lost grip on cold tyres and slid into oncoming traffic, where he was hit by another car at over 200mph. He survived despite losing nearly 75% of his blood volume, but lost both his legs in the crash.

With the use of hand controls Alex went on to race again in the World Touring Car Championship, Blancpain Sprint Series, Spa 24 Hours, Daytona 24 Hours, and also made a one-off appearance in DTM in 2018 at Misano. However he made a real name for himself by competing in the Paralympics.

Alex won a handcycling gold and a relay silver in the London 2012 Paralympics (both events taking place at Brands Hatch) and another gold and silver in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympics, as well as plenty of other accolades in the Para-cycling World Championships.

Unfortunately Alex was involved in a para-cycling road race accident in June of this year, when he lost control of his handbike on a hill and hit an oncoming truck. He suffered severe facial and cranial trauma, and was placed into a medically induced coma.

We all know from the ordeals he’s had to go through that if anyone can overcome this, it’ll be Alex Zanardi. A true hero to disabled people all around the world.

Billy Monger

After great success in karting, Billy Monger was competing at Donington in British F4 in 2017. In race three he collided with a slow moving car and his legs were buried in the wreckage. He was extracted and airlifted to hospital, but unfortunately had to have his legs amputated.

But this didn’t break Billy Whizz’s spirit. With the help of hand controls, Billy returned to single seaters in the 2018 British F3 championship, scoring four podiums and two pole positions to end the season sixth in the standings.

Billy moved up to EuroFormula the following year, where he achieved the seemingly impossible in a wet Pau Grand Prix. Making a clever call to pit for wets on the formation lap, Billy rose through the field to third then held his nerve in the tricky conditions to win after the two leaders collided.

You’ll see Billy as part of Channel 4’s F1 coverage, and he’s expressed interest in joining the new Extreme E off-road electric series for next year. I certainly hope this happens as Monger is one of the most inspiring individuals you could ever know and he deserves to race.

Nathalie McGloin

McGloin is a British racing driver who is also a tetraplegic. She injured her spine in a road traffic accident as a teenager and has been competing in the Porsche Sprint Challenge against able bodied men. She’s the only disabled woman in the whole of the UK to hold a race and rally licence in the UK, and competes with radial hand controls that she pushes forward to brake and backward to accelerate, meaning she steers with one hand at all times!

Not only has she managed many podium finishes in the Porsche championship (including an outright victory at Silverstone in 2018), she’s also the President of the FIA Disability and Accessibility Commission. Definitely deserving of a place on this list.

Robert Kubica

Robert Kubica, Alfa Romeo (Florent Gooden, DPPI / Alfa Romeo Media)

Perhaps the most well known name on this list. He enjoyed huge success as the first Polish driver in F1, including his famous win with BMW Sauber in 2008. However all that changed in the lead up to the 2011 season.

After testing his new Renault F1 car, Robert entered an amateur rally event and collided with a guardrail, resulting in elbow, shoulder and leg fractures and partially severing his right forearm. He thankfully survived, but the injuries put him out of F1 for the foreseeable future.

Robert stuck to the rallying scene on his road to recovery and won the WRC-2 championship in 2013. But in 2017 he returned to F1 machinery with a Renault test, which ultimately led to a fairytale opportunity to return as a full time driver with Williams for 2019.

He scored their only point of the year at Hockenheim but wasn’t kept on for 2020. Nevertheless seeing Kubica back in F1 did feel right, and he has since took up a position as Alfa Romeo’s development driver while also competing in DTM this year, where he took a podium at Zolder.

Nic Hamilton

The first thing you’d think of is that he’s the brother of a certain seven-time F1 world champion. But the younger Hamilton has been making a name for himself for years.

Nic has had cerebal palsy since birth, resulting in physical impairments his whole life. But having initially gotten a taste for competition on video games (long before Esports was in the mainstream), he started competing in the BTCC-supporting Renault Clio Cup and then in European Touring Cars.

2019 however was when he finally got to where I feel he belonged, British Touring Cars. Seeing someone with cerebal palsy in the headline races on a terrestrial TV channel is incredibly uplifting to witness.

Frédéric Sausset

When on holiday in 2012, businessman and motorsport enthusiast Frédéric contracted a life-threatening infection from a scratch on his finger, which resulted in him becoming a quadruple amputee. However he didn’t let this prevent him from fulfilling his lifelong ambition of racing the 24 hours of Le Mans.

OAK Racing converted one of their LMP2 cars so Frédéric could drive it in the 2016 race. He used a special steering wheel which connected to a prosthetic on his right arm, and he had two thigh operated paddles built into his seat insert for the accelerator and brake.

The result was that Sausset and his teammates entered into the grueling round-the-clock race and finished it. A remarkable achievement and one that cannot even be imaginable for someone in his position, but he did it.

Caleb McDuff

Caleb McDuff (Photo courtesy of Ian McDuff)

Last but not least, Caleb McDuff is a 12-year old kart racer who is profoundly deaf. When he competes in karting, he can’t utilise his implants and so he races in total silence. Which, when you consider how reliant a lot of drivers are on the sound of their vehicle to race, is just incredible to think about.

Not only is Caleb able to compete in karting but he’s actually pretty good. Last year, he won the Super One National Karting Championship’s Honda Cadet category so he’s clearly capable of overcoming his impairments. I would very much hope he’s able to make the step up to cars in the future, whether that be single seaters or tin-tops.

Every single one of these people are so incredibly inspiring and serve as reminders that the human spirit is impenetrable. Whatever the cards you are dealt with in life, you can achieve whatever you set your mind to and we are bound by absolutely nothing. So happy International Day of Persons with Disabilities to you all!

F1 Throwback: Massa’s maiden triumph in Turkey

In its short tenure on the Formula 1 calendar, Turkey’s Istanbul Park circuit has helped create plenty of iconic moments. From Red Bull’s infamous clash in 2010 to the many incidents around the mighty Turn 8, it’s not hard to see why the Turkish Grand Prix is a fan-favourite return this year.

But for Felipe Massa, there’s one Istanbul Park moment that would surely spring to mind before any other—the end of the 2006 race, when he crossed the finish line to become a Formula 1 Grand Prix winner for the very first time.

Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

2006 was already set to be a big year for Massa. Having cut his teeth with Sauber, this was the year he was called up by Ferrari to replace countryman Rubens Barrichello as Michael Schumacher’s teammate.

Prior to Turkey, which was the 14th round of the 18-race season, Massa’s start to life at Ferrari had been mixed. His pace was clear by his four podiums, two fastest laps and qualifying results, but his scorecard was marred by spins and a first-lap collision with Christian Klien and Nico Rosberg in Melbourne.

With rumours swirling of Ferrari considering a Schumacher/ Kimi Raikkonen partnership for 2007, what Massa needed was a definitive result to close out the season. And that was exactly what he set up on Saturday in Istanbul, when Massa took advantage of several errors by Schumacher to take his first pole position by three tenths over his teammate.

Given Schumacher’s tight championship battle with Fernando Alonso and Massa’s team role as the German’s rear gunner, Schumacher was still considered the favourite on race day. But come lights out, Massa soaked up the pressure as Schumacher and Alonso bore down on him into Turn 1, and was able to bolt clear by almost a second by the end of the first lap.

Behind the leading trio, Giancarlo Fisichella spun his Renault at the first corner as he backed out of a move on Alonso, causing a chain reaction incident in the midfield. Raikkonen, Scott Speed, Nick Heidfield and Ralf Schumacher were all caught up and joined Fisichella in pitting for repairs, while Midland’s Tiago Monteiro retired on the spot.

Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

On lap 13 the safety car was deployed when Vitantonio Liuzzi spun and stalled his Toro Rosso at the exit of Turn 1, and Massa pitted together with Schumacher, Alonso and Jenson Button. But while Massa kept his position at the front, Alonso managed to jump Schumacher for second as Ferrari’s attempt to double-stack their stops held Schumacher up in the pits.

When the race resumed, Massa took advantage of his teammate’s battle with Alonso to restore his lead. As Alonso drove defensively to hold off his title rival, Massa continued to get further and further away from the pair and closer to his first victory.

But on the final lap there seemed to be a cruel final twist waiting for Massa before the finish line. As Schumacher closed to within a few tenths of Alonso and began all but pushing the Renault along, Massa drastically backed off the pace to the tune of several seconds compared to his teammate.

The understanding was that if Schumacher managed to retake second from Alonso, Massa was obliged to let Schumacher by for maximum championship points—at this late stage in the season, Alonso had a ten-point lead in the standings so a win would have put Schumacher level with four rounds remaining.

However, despite Schumacher’s best efforts he simply ran out of opportunities to pass Alonso, meaning Massa was free to push on to the line and take the victory with five and a half seconds still in hand.

Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

Two weeks later at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, Ferrari announced that Schumacher would be leaving the team at the end of the year, and that Massa would stay on to partner Raikkonen. Massa closed out the 2006 season with two more pole positions, a second place at Japan, and a home win at Interlagos.

He would win twice again at Istanbul Park, in 2007 and 2008, and currently holds the record for the most wins at the circuit.

There are many moments that define Felipe Massa’s F1 career: the pain of losing the 2008 World Championship, the darkness of his 2009 crash in Budapest, and of course his emotional guard of honour after retiring from the 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix.

His maiden win is every bit as defining as what came after. A thoroughly deserving victory against two of the sport’s greatest drivers, Istanbul Park was a glimpse of the formidable talent Massa had to offer.

Who could be Haas 2021 drivers?

image courtesy of Haas F1 Team

In the lead up to this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix, it was announced that both Haas drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen would not be retained by the American outfit for 2021, which makes it Haas’ biggest shake-up since it first appeared on the F1 grid back in 2016. Grosjean has been with the team from the start, and Magnussen joined him for 2017. Aside from Mercedes with Hamilton and Bottas, Haas have been the only team with a consistent line-up for many years so this news is hugely telling as far as the future for the team.

There have been some indications as to who could end up at Haas, some more likely than others. So let’s run through some possible candidates.

Experienced sideliners

First up we have to immediately mention the likes of Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Pérez, both drivers are very well known quantities of the F1 paddock that are in danger of missing out.

Hülkenberg lost his Renault seat to Esteban Ocon and failed to secure a full-time drive for 2020, however has performed incredibly in his appearances with Racing Point when both drivers fell ill. One of those being Pérez, who has been let go from the team in favour of Sebastian Vettel when it is rebranded as Aston Martin.

Both drivers are of really high quality and shouldn’t have to beg for drives. But even Pérez who brings a lot of money from his native Mexico is struggling to find a seat at all, and may even end up at Williams alongside Nicholas Latifi and kicking out the also very highly rated George Russell.

But even being a great and proven driver isn’t enough these days, there needs to be more. For example..

Ferrari juniors

At the last Grand Prix, Ferrari academy drivers Mick Schumacher and Callum Ilott (who are both first and second in the FIA Formula 2 championship) were due to make FP1 appearances. Schumacher was due to drive with Alfa Romeo and Ilott was with Haas, however the foggy October sky around northern Germany put pay to that plan and instead they’ll be making their FP1 debut at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Despite being considered a Ferrari ‘B-Team’, Haas have never done what Alfa Romeo have done and run one of Ferrari’s academy drivers in one of their seats. They’ve had the likes of current Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc and Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi do FP1 runs for them, but with the plethora of young talent in Ferrari’s camp, this could very well change for next year.

Not only do you have Schumacher and Ilott, but also last year’s FIA F3 champion Robert Shwartzman who comes with strong backing, however he seems less likely and a second season in F2 wouldn’t do any harm.

With the financial strains put on many teams due to the pandemic, it would make sense for the team to take on a Ferrari junior in exchange for getting their Ferrari power units cheaper. However speaking of financial incentive, that leads me on to the name that is floating around like a stubborn rubber dinghy.

Another kid with a rich dad

No list of possible drivers for smaller F1 teams would be complete without at least one rich kid who has more money than talent. The one in question here is Nikita Mazepin, son of $7.1 billion net-worth Dmitry Mazepin, who won’t stop trying to buy his son an F1 team. His name has been mentioned in conversations for buying out the likes of Force India, Renault, Williams and now Haas.

Mazepin has had a pretty underwhelming career, although he is fighting for victories in his second season of F2 and finished runner-up to the late Anthoine Hubert in the 2018 GP3 season. He was also runner-up in the FIA World Karting Championship in 2014 to current McLaren F1 driver Lando Norris, so I must give him credit where it’s due.

However like current Williams driver Nicholas Latifi, it’s obvious that his father’s money would be more of a reason than his ability as to why Haas would hire him. In this day and age, it’s a necessary evil if it means Haas can keep afloat and there are certainly many drivers who have much less ability they could have picked.

With that being said though, Mazepin is up there with the likes of Dan Ticktum and Santino Ferrucci in terms of polarising and distasteful character. He once punched Callum Ilott and only got a one race ban for it after claiming the Brit held him up in practice at the Hungaroring for an F3 race. He’s also come under fire for threatening to out a current F1 driver as gay, which when you consider the possible implications due to F1’s reliance on money from very homophobic countries, just makes me despise this Russian.

One thing is for sure though should this happen, the Drive To Survive episodes that we will inevitably see with a bad tempered team boss and spoilt son of a Russian oligarch, they’ll be entertaining to watch.

So who could it be?

Immediately, Mazepin seems all but certain, as unfortunate as it is. The extra injection of cash could be imperative for Haas as this could very well serve as a rebuilding phase for the team. Puzzlingly though, the extra money from Sergio Pérez’s backers may not be accepted, which considering a combination of an inexperienced driver like Mazepin with a seasoned veteran and both bringing in money sounds very ideal.

At the moment, it’s all rather up in the air. Haas may end up going with a Ferrari junior on one side of the garage and Mazepin on the other, which could end up backfiring since both drivers are hugely inexperienced and we remember how Williams struggled in 2018 with the money coming from both Lance Stroll’s and Sergey Sirotkin’s backers but both being very inexperienced.

If I was a betting man, that’s who I’d go for right now, Mazepin and a Ferrari academy driver.

But let’s take a moment to acknowledge their current drivers. Romain Grosjean is an anomaly, having had ounces of pace but lacked that refinement to keep him from keeping it on the straight and narrow but over time instead of ironing out those rough edges, he’s lost that spark and arguably shouldn’t have been picked over Nico Hülkenberg for 2020.

As for Kevin Magnussen, from scoring a podium on his debut to becoming the F1 bad boy and driving way too aggressively on occasion, and like Grosjean did show plenty of promise. However that whittled out and now I would be very surprised if either of them managed to find a drive in F1 for next season.

What’s next for them? Well Grosjean has expressed interest in spearheading Peugeot’s Le Mans Hypercar program as well as flirting with the idea of both Formula E and DTM, whilst Magnussen could be linked with a move to IndyCar although I would hope if he does, his defense style is quickly dealt with on ovals..

Logitech G World Rallycross Of Catalunya – Preview

image courtesy of WRC

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya plays host to the seventh and eighth rounds of the FIA World Rallycross Championship. This is the sixth event of the year to be held behind closed doors and only 295 event personnel have been permitted entry, if they produce a negative PCR test result before entering the venue.

 

Championship leader Johan Kristoffersson has taken three wins this year in rounds one, three and five and the double world champion is looking strong as he is currently 17 points ahead of his nearest rival, Mattias Ekström.

 

Ekström, the 2016 world champion, has won rounds two and six in this COVID impacted season and has only missed out on being in the final on one occasion. This has led KYB Team JC to first in the team’s standings going into this round. His performances have been supported by his teammate Robin Larsson, who achieved his first podium in the second round in Latvia. He currently sits fifth in the individual standings.

 

Niclas Gronhölm has achieved one win at his home event in Finland and this has helped him into third place in the standings. GRX Taneco also have Timur Timerzyarnov who came third in his one final appearance. They currently sit in third place behind Team Hansen in the team’s championship standings.

 

Finishing in first and second place in the event here last year, Team Hansen will be hoping for a similar result this weekend. Current world champion Timmy Hansen sits in fourth place in the standings with two third places and a visit to the final in all but one round. Kevin Hansen lies in sixth place in the standings with his best result of the season coming in round six at Latvia with a third place.

 

Timo Scheider of ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport has had his best start to a World RX season by making it to three finals and sits in eighth place in the standings. Team owner René Münnich will not be contesting this round and hands over his car to Mandie August who is only the second ever female to start a World RX event.

 

Monster Energy GCK RX Cartel had a more successful weekend in Latvia by both drivers making it to the semi-finals. Norwegian Andreas Bakkerud has improved to seventh in the standings and Liam Doran sits in thirteenth place.

 

GCK Bilstein driver Anton Marklund has been suffering multiple technical difficulties but has worked through these to sit in tenth place.

 

GCK UNKORRUPTED have withdrawn from this event stating that their cars are not race ready and this was the safest decision for their drivers. This means that Guerlain Chicherit and Rokas Baciuška will not be participating in rounds seven and eight.

 

Joining the permanent competitors this weekend is Tamas Karai in the Audi S1 RX, who also competed in Finland finishing in thirteenth and sixteenth place in rounds three and four respectively. Oliver Bennett returns to World RX action in his Mini Cooper for the first time this year. Patrick Guillerme joins the event in his Hyundai i20 and Enzo Ide will be making his first start of the year in his Audi S1 RX.

 

The rallycross track is situated around turns 10 to 15 of the Formula 1 circuit and is 1135m long. 60% of the track is asphalt and the remaining 40% is gravel. The safety of the track has been improved this year by introducing a steel guard rail where the rallycross turn three, a long right hander, is replacing a previously used tyre wall.

 

The event starts a 1030 local time on Saturday and 0930 on Sunday and if the previous events are anything to go by, this will be a spectacular event to watch.

Russian GP: Hamilton takes pole in an intense qualifying

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Lewis Hamilton took his 5th straight pole of the season at Sochi on saturday afternoon to put himself in an excellent position in his bid to equal Schumacher’s record tomorrow (91 wins). The pole position looked set to evade him today after the fiasco in Q2 almost saw him miss out on Q3.

Hamilton failed to register a time in Q2 as he crossed track limits during the first run of Q2 and this meant that the 6 time world champion had only one run under his belt to put a time on the charts. However, a Sebastian Vettel crash during the second run of Q2 brought out a red flag with exactly 2 minutes and 15 seconds to go and Hamilton barely made it to the finish line before the flag fell, setting a lap time good enough to go into Q3.

It is not Valtteri Bottas, but Max Verstappen on the front row this time as the Dutchman put in an amazing lap in the second run of Q3 to go 2nd. Bottas who started the weekend well could not make it onto the front row after hitting the sausage kerb in turn 2 and losing momentum going into the rest of the lap.

Sergio Perez put in a great effort despite not having upgrades on his Racing Point and qualified on the second row alongside Bottas while his teammate Stroll could not make it out of Q2 after getting his lap time deleted in the first run and suffering a temperature issue towards the end of Q2.

Ricciardo’s fine form during the weekend continued after his efforts in qualifying will see him start at 5th on the 3rd row next to Carlos Sainz in the McLaren. The 4th row will be a repeat of the colours in the 3rd row but with Ocon in Renault at 7th and Norris in the McLaren at 8th.  Gasly in the Alpha Tauri is set to line up at 9th next to Albon in the RedVull who will be hoping for a much better race than the qualifying today.

Both the Ferraris crashed out of Q2, one literally of Sebastian Vettel at turn 4 after hitting the kerb and one of Charles Leclerc narrowly missing out and all set to start at P11 as the advantage from the minor upgrades they have got this weekend also seems to be minor. Danil Kvyat is set to line up next to Leclerc at 12th and will look to score some good points in his home race, especially after his car seems to be showing a decent race pace.

George Russell in the Williams made it into Q2 for the sixth time this season  and will line up at 14th after yet another good effort in Q3 but his teammate Latifi will have to be content with 19th. It is going to be a Ferrari powered bottom 6 except Latifi after both the Haas cars and the Alfa Romeos are all in the bottom 5.

Kimi Raikkonen went spinning in the second run of Q1 which will mean that he is set to start 20th on the grid and his teammate Giovinazzi will start 17th. Grosjean and Magnussen in their respective Haas cars are set to start 16th and 18th with Grosjean surprisingly offering some positive feedback at the end of Q1.

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

With Hamilton set to start on the soft tyres thanks to the Q2 drama and with Max Verstappen just next to him, it might not be a straightforward drive to win number 91 for the English driver. It is also worth remembering that Bottas’ last victory at Sochi came from 3rd on the grid, which is where he will line up tomorrow, with a tyre advantage. It is all set to play for, in the Russian Grand Prix.