Five-time World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea described his latest title success as the ‘toughest of my life’ after the Northern Ireland rider triumphed against the odds.
Victory in race two at Magny-Cours in France on Sunday - his 12th of the season - guaranteed the title after Alvaro Bautista was ruled out of contention, with the Ducati rider unable to avoid crashing when Toprak Razgatlioglu made a mistake in front of him.
Rea said: “I’m so, so happy because it was probably the toughest season of my life, both from a mechanical point of view, a mental point of view, and we managed to keep with it.
“We kept believing in the project, I kept believing in myself and we never gave up. When things were looking like they were never going to happen, all those second places at the beginning of the year are what won the championship.
“I never thought about the championship and we had zero communication about what would happen if I won!,” he added.
“I want to thank everybody, from my family – Tarsh and my boys: they’re not here, which shows how much we didn’t think it was on today; I wish they were here right now for the moment.
“I want to thank all my team and all the backroom staff at Kawasaki. We knew this was going to be a tough job but we stuck with it and delivered the championship – I can’t believe it.”
Rea had to play second fiddle to new challenger Bautista at the beginning of the season, who took the championship by storm with 11 straight wins on the all-new Panigale V4-R.
The Spaniard made the move to World Superbikes from MotoGP and dominated during the first half of the season to open an advantage of 61 points.
However, Rea refused to throw in the towel and a steady stream of podium finishes behind Bautista ensured he remained in touch.
The 32-year-old did the double at Imola in May, finally breaking Bautista’s stranglehold on the title race.
It marking a turning point in the season as the pendulum gradually began to swing back in his favour.
Bautista made a series of unforced errors and Rea took full advantage, embarking on a winning run of his own as he eradicated the 34-year-old’s 61-point lead to take over at the top following a treble at his home round at Donington Park in July.
Two more wins followed at Laguna Seca in the USA as Rea increased his lead going into the summer break.
He turned the screw further with a double at Portimao in Portugal when the championship resumed at the beginning of September, and although it seemed as though Rea would have to wait until the penultimate round in Argentina in October for his crowning moment, he got the job done early at Magny-Cours following Bautista’s demise.
It was the third time Rea wrapped up the world title at Magny-Cours, with the Ulsterman also celebrating championship glory in France in 2017 and 2018.
He has now surpassed Carl Fogarty’s record of four World Superbike titles and now stands alone as the most successful rider in the series’ history.